Valentijn (Swell Founder) Getting Stuck in The Outback

Valentijn is an oceanographer, MBA and surf explorer. He founded Swell Navigator when he lived in Melbourne, where he came up with a new way to provide much more localised and customisable surf predictions.

Surfing started in Florida

My dad worked in Florida, so I spent my summers in the US when I was young. My parents were friends with a family that owned a small local restaurant. Their son took me to Flagler Beach one day to try out surfing and I was instantly hooked.

Why I love it

Surfing calms me down. Actually, the ocean calms me down. I can’t chill next to a pool for three minutes, but I could sit on a rock and look at the ocean for hours on end.

Now that surfing is part of my life, it takes me all around the world. That’s also why I love it. It makes you go off the beaten path, and go on adventures with your buddies.

Stranded in the outback

One of the craziest adventures was with four surfers on a roadtrip through Australia. We were driving north of Perth and spotted a break two kilometers from where we were. We had to drive through straight-up outback to get there. A crappy Toyota van from 1983 can handle that, right? It turned out, it cannot. After one kilometer we were stuck in a mud stream.

We tried getting out but ended up digging ourselves in deeper. At one point it got dark, but we could still see the awesome swell come in. So we walked the other kilometer for a sunset session. Back at the car we drank the rest of our wine and fell asleep.

The next morning we realised how stuck we were. It was 35 degrees celsius and we had no water, so we had to move fast. We split up into a ‘dig-out-the-van-team’ and a ‘find-water-quickly-team’. I was part of the latter. The water team walked back up to the highway and hitched a ride to the nearest petrol station. Someone called the owner of the land we got stuck on. We got as much water as we could carry and hopped in the back of the land-owner's pick-up truck. Back at the looked point where we had spotted the break, the guy suddenly stopped driving and took out his hunting rifle. He peered through the scope to take a closer look at our van and said: 'You have 24 hours, then your car is mine. This is my property, what is on my property is mine'. We were instructed to leave the car and hitch back to the van with our ten liter water supply. Thanks for the help.

We dug for hours and guided the car back to the road with wood and whatever else we could find. It was incredibly tough, but we made it out in time. A crazy 48 hours.

Surfing through Dutch winters

In the winter of 2011 we made the papers because we kept surfing in spite of a snow storm. It was a little crazy, but the conditions were awesome that day: 1.5-2 meter waves, with a light offshore breeze - something you don't see that often in the North Sea. While we were at the beach the snow got worse and worse. Eventually we had to get out when our feet got white. It was a great session.

Starting Swell Navigator

From the time I did an internship at the Dutch Weather Institute (KNMI), I felt surf predictions weren’t what they could be. I didn't know yet what they lacked, exactly. But that became much clearer to me when I lived in Melbourne for a year. I had to drive 1.5 hours for a surf, but within that 1.5 hours you have over 30 spots to choose from around the bay. Where do you go? 1.5 hours one way, means 3 hours to the other side if you made the wrong decision. With the apps we could get at the time, it took us half an hour to figure out where to go. We needed more personalized and more local forecasting. That’s when I started designing Swell Navigator. With Swell, figuring out where to go would have taken me a minute.

Now that I live in Amsterdam again, good surf predictions are becoming even more important to me. The conditions change a lot here, so you never know when to head out. It's not easy balancing life and surfing as it is. You can't just pack up and head to the beach expecting the waves to be firing.

That's why I'm so excited about Swell Navigator - I think we can get many more surfers all over the world to never miss out on a good day. With Swell Navigator, you get to customize all the data you want on the spots you know. That way, you know exactly when to head out. And you also get data on spots you don't know yet, so you can go on exploring adventures in the outback if you feel up to it.