Surf, eat and camp: Marlon Lipke and the Marco Polo.
Start in Lisbon.
A car park somewhere at Lisbon airport: blue sky. The sun is shining. The engine of the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo is running – we get in and close the door. Marlon Lipke is sitting next to us. Blond, suntanned and fit. Marlon is not only going to be our travel guide for this two-day surf and road trip along the Portuguese coast: he is Germany’s best national surfer. He could not put on airs any more than he could spend a day without his surfboard: he welcomes us with a smile and a handshake. We glance at the hectic activity in the car park. There are three more Marco Polo vehicles parked next to ours. On board there are a few bloggers* reporting on the event, and also the French surfing photographer Alex Laurel. Laurel is one of the best surfing photographers in the world. There is probably no wave, no professional surfer and no surf spot on this blue planet he has not looked at through the lens of his camera.
“The German boy from Portugal”.
The journey takes us north from Lisbon towards Peniche. While we are heading for our first destination – two world-famous surf spots – we take a look at Marlon Lipke’s exciting career to date: he was born virtually on the beach. His parents, who came from Germany, were running a surf camp in the south of Portugal at the time. And so it was inevitable – Marlon first stood on a surfboard when he was only three. At age 23 he had already won the German Surfing Championship five times, and the Junior European Championship. At age 25, Lipke’s personal dream came true: he became the first German to qualify for the legendary World Tour, the Formula 1 of surfing, and he surfed with the world’s 33 best surfers all around the world and competed for the crown. No German surfer before Marlon ever got as far as he did.
Yearning for the sea.
We pass the rugged cliffs of the coast. Marlon is already looking eagerly at the windy Atlantic. “We surfers travel around so much that we’ve now become a bit fussy where comfort is concerned. But the Marco Polo really offers everything, even for the most discerning travellers. In it you can drive easily along the coast all day, switch off from ordinary life and just soak up the beauty of the outdoors”.
Eager anticipation of the surfing session increases. Marlon too seems to grow happier with each kilometre we get closer to the surf spots in Ribeira d’Ilhas and Coxos in the World Surfing Reserve at Ericeira.
We pass the town sign at the beginning of Ribeira d’Ilhas in Ericeira surfing reserve, one of the best surfing locations in Europe. A few minutes later: time to get out of the Marco Polo and into the sea! Here, Marlon’s first surf session is already well under way when we reach the rocky coast. He catches a two-metre wave and surfs through its tube at full speed, then does a lightning turn. He calmly glides on the surging masses of water, back towards the beach. A drone flies overhead above him and takes spectacular photos. Looking at it from the beach, it looks as easy as child’s play – but it isn’t. The waters around Ericeira can be really tricky: treacherous currents, high waves and underwater rocks are all challenges for surfers. At the end of this wonderful day we can enjoy a glamping event together, including a top chef and fine food. Glamping is short for glamorous camping. We finish off our first day by the sea with numerous Portuguese specialities, grilled fish and a glass of fine white wine.
Surfing with a professional.
On the second day, things get serious for us – the barometer of eager anticipation rises rapidly: there is a surfing lesson with Marlon next! The professional surfer turns out to be a patient, excellent coach, and shows us all about the secret art of surfing: what is the right way to stand? What do you do with your arms? How do you hold your upper body? How do you paddle? When is the right moment to glide? Half an hour later, we know about the fine tuning and we stomp towards the Atlantic armed with a surfboard and a wetsuit. For some of the participants it is the first time they have ever stood on a surfboard. But there is no hint of any frustration out here on the water, and after half an hour there are the first successes. We manage to catch a wave too, and we glide slowly but surely towards the beach. What a wonderful feeling. To sum up: surfing is not as easy as driving a car, but you can just as easily get addicted to it. You want to do it again straight away.
Two hours after we have ridden the waves, we are in Pico da Mota, an exquisite beach north-east of Peniche. The four Marco Polos are parked in formation on the beach. Whilst Marlon surfs the last waves of the day in front of this spectacular backdrop, we are given another first-class opportunity to take unique photos. On the way back to Lisbon, even Marlon begins to enthuse: “The more time I’ve spent in the Marco Polo the fonder I’ve become of it, and in the end I don’t want to give it back. It’s really a luxurious vehicle; I’ve never known anything like it”.
“And you can get the table and chairs out quickly, you’ve got a shower by the van – and as quickly as you get everything out, you can pack it away again and you have a normal car you can travel in. It was great, amazing, I really liked it”. We can only agree, and in our minds we are already planning the next surfing expedition. Where to? No idea – but the Marco Polo is coming with us. That’s for sure!