Demand for modified vans as the nation paddleboards upstream

Surf Bl

Autumn may be upon us, but that’s not going to stop thousands of UK water sports enthusiasts (experienced and new) from heading to the rivers, coasts and waterways in the coming weeks to get their adrenaline rush.

Almost 4m UK adults took part in activities such as surfing, paddle-boarding, canoeing and kayaking during 2019. Since then, paddle-board sales have skyrocketed during lockdown as house-bound enthusiasts prepared for their long-awaited return to the wet stuff. And with staycations very much in vogue this year, domestic water-sports holidays are proving quite the lure for families looking to shake things up with an activity-based vacation.

But to really understand water sports, you have to look beyond the stats.

For some, water sports are – and have always been – a way of life. Author Bill Finnegan describes surfing as a compulsion, in equal parts joy and terror. Beyond these ‘surf life’ devotees, there’s also a wider audience of people taking to the waves for their wellbeing, from mindfulness to physical health. This ‘blue health’ movement has captured the popular imagination and is leading new audiences to don their wet-suits for the first time. The rise in surfing uptake, for example, is not being driven by fanatical Australians, but by teenage girls and women over 65.


‘Surf life’ and ‘van life’ go hand-in-hand

We’ve seen this water-sports trend reflected in the modified van and motorhome quotes requested by brokers in recent months. From surfers with souped up modified Volkswagens to families buying comfortable ‘day vans’ for regular summer outings, the market is going from strength to strength.

Our Senior Enthusiast Underwriter, Alan Bradbury shares,

“The biggest growth area we’re recognising is with customers aged between 30-55, for whom the van is their second or third household vehicle, used on day trips or overnight camping stays and rarely going beyond 10,000 miles annually. These vans – typically around 3-10 years old and valued between £15,000-£25,000 – are most popular in coastal areas such as Devon, Cornwall and Wales, though we do see some demand from customers prepared to travel further afield in their quest for water.”

While day vans are ideal as functional recreational vehicles capable of housing 5+ family members alongside a raft of water-sports equipment, this isn’t stopping owners from exploring all manner of modifications to make their van stand out from the crowd. Volkswagens are leading the way; in 2020 we’ve seen particularly high demand for policies covering modified T5 and T6 model Volkswagens.

The list of performance-related Volkswagen mods is endless: larger alloys, lowered suspension, side-steps/bars, tinted windows, LED lighting, awnings/canopies, bodykits, etc. Then there are functional modifications such as gas stoves, fridges or pull-out beds. Some drivers may even invest in a pop-top roof similar to a motorhome. All of which makes for an amazing and unique vehicle, along with a financial outlay that often greatly exceeds the price of the van itself!


Is it a van or a motorhome?

From an insurance perspective, it’s important not to get day vans confused with motorhomes. Campers, even when heavily modified, are still technically vans. In contrast, motorhomes are subject to exacting DVLA definitions and licensing requirements – providing cover for them isn’t something that every insurer feels comfortable taking on. We make it our business to understand the nuances of both vehicle types, and we’ve created separate products designed to ensure that every unique modified van and motorhome is given exactly the right type and level of cover it requires.


Looking for inspiration?

For water-sports enthusiasts looking to make the most of the UK coastline while the weather holds, check out this amazing curated list of surfing spots. And, once it gets easier to travel around Europe again, there’s a huge range of continental surfing paradises for customers to explore, safe in the knowledge that our van and motorhome policies provide up to 60 days’ annual European cover.


If you're looking for a Modified motor insurance quote, contact our team today on 0345 600 3890 or email modandimportquotes@ers.com

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