How vanlife helps Mick Rodgers support a life shaped by surf

Mick Rodgers is not your typical 28-year-old surfer. For one, his footwork on a longboard is flawless and inspiring. Secondly, he works in the San Diego factory for Bing Surfboards. Thirdly, he lives full time in his van.

Mick Rodgers and his 1996 Ford Econoline. Photo: Courtesy of Soren Heil

His 1996 Ford Econoline perma-pop top is not some fancy, decked-out rig with all the bells and whistles. It’s a traveling bed on wheels that houses his surfboards and allows him to maximize time in the ocean.

“It’s really the perfect set-up because with the pop top I can fit my longboards up there, up to four boards,” Rodgers told GrindTV. “I’ve always been a truck guy growing up. This is my first van, but I’ve been missing out that whole time because vans are just the most convenient vehicle you could ever have.”

The decision to live the #vanlife lifestyle is documented in a recent short film by Soren Heil, “Joyride”.

Rodgers is originally from the Palos Verdes area in Los Angeles, but made the move down to San Diego for college and decided to stay.

After college, “It was right around the time Bing Surfboards moved their factory from L.A. to San Diego, so it worked out around that time I started riding for them and working at the factory.”

Having bounced around places in the North County area for a while, Rodgers was struggling with the cost of living as a surfer who thrived on traveling and someone who wasn’t earning the most money working in a surfboard factory.

We told you Mick Rodgers had skills on a log. Photo: Screenshot from “Joyride”

“Living coastal is definitely not the cheapest -- I’m not racking in the veggies working at a surfboard factory,” Rodgers said. “So doing that for a couple years and travel was getting to the point of pinching pennies, and trips were coming up but rent would be too. Paying for stuff while I wasn’t there was definitely starting to weigh on me.”

That all changed when Rodgers had a friend from England living in a van in the backyard of a property where he was living.

“I had my buddy out from England living with us for six months and he actually found a van on Craigslist that he was living out of in our backyard. His trip was kind of coming to an end, he had to get rid of the van and I saw what he was doing and thought I’d have a crack at it. So I bought the van, sold my truck, moved out and started living in the van a little over two years ago.”

Mick at the Bing Surfboard factory, hard at work. Photo: Courtesy of Soren Heil

The decision for Rodgers to make the switch was eased by the fact that the guys at Bing were more than happy to provide him with a home base he could park at each evening: the factory parking lot. With one of the biggest stressors that vanlifers deal with on a daily basis solved, Rodgers said the decision was made that much easier.

“It was more about pulling the trigger and asking myself if I was really going to do it. I had to get rid of the majority of my stuff, because there’s only so much you can put in a van -- I didn’t want to be one of those hoarder types. [I] got rid of all the non-essentials and did it. I gave away all my clothes to the goodwill, gave away all my knick-knacks that you carry around from rental to rental, got it down to barebones of clothes and boards.”

Mick and his van. Photo: Courtesy of Soren Heil

And Rodgers hasn’t looked back since, admitting that he’s seen very little downside to the lifestyle. It’s allowed him to save on the biggest expense he would stress about each month: rent. It’s also allowed him the ability to travel at the drop of a hat, whether it’s to New Zealand (which he did earlier this year) or just for jaunts up the coast in the van to catch waves somewhere else.

“It’s showed me the benefits of simpler living and the lack of stress from it,” Rodgers told GrindTV. “That's really been the big one: realizing how little you need to be happy.

“There’s also functioning without a real home base, it was a weird beginning. But as you go you just continue to get used to having everything you own wherever you go. That's a cool feeling, to pick up and go and take roots wherever you please.”

You can follow along with Mick’s adventures on Instagram @mrrodgers_neighborhood.

More about vanlife from GrindTV

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How one #vanlifer customized his rig in just 30 days

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