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The freedom I know

Every spring and fall a father and his three sons drive from Cologne to southern France to go surfing. Most recently in a Sharan. We present a personalized travel report.

There he stands, wide-eyed, gazing at the ocean. As he feels the spray he remembers all the times he has come to this dune in the past. As a child, as a man, as a father. He has been coming here for 30 years, twice a year, once in spring and once in fall. He especially likes the fall, when the wind sweeps in from the land, fresh with the scent of pine forests. He loves this atmosphere. If he could, he would flash-freeze it, take it home and live off it until it draws him back once again. When off again, he sets out on the ten-hour trip, most recently in his new Sharan. Driving more than 1,200 kilometers through the night from Cologne to Hossegor on the Côte d’Argent, about a 40-minute drive north of Biarritz. Just to stand on this dune in the mornings and, with his three sons, to wax surfboards, squeeze into neoprene suits and paddle out to the line-up and catch the perfect wave. Freedom.

How time flies, he thinks, as he describes what it was like to visit Hossegor for the first time in the 1980s. For decades he was a Volkswagen microbus fan – the first time he came in a T2, then in a T3, T4 and T5 with his family. “I’m pleased that I’ve been able to carry on the tradition this long with my sons,” he says. With the help of the T5 his eldest son even managed to make it onto the German national surfing team. The bus was a training camp on wheels, from which he could prepare for the world championships in the fall and over Easter. Always here, behind this dune or the hidden sand banks to the north, lined by dense pine forests and long unpaved roads. At the end of days spent in the sea, they would sit around a campfire on folding chairs while beans and spaghetti simmered in a pot over the glowing coals. The good old days have acquired even more of a sheen in their memories over the years. Even though they all know and agree that the new Sharan has made their vacations a good bit better still.

A lot of space thanks to EasyFold

Thanks to EasyFold, four sets of surfing gear fit easily into the Sharan

The Sharan is a true all-rounder, he says. By which he means it is incomparably more compact and agile than the bus he used to drive, while still offering an astonishing amount of space for everyone and everything. And in different constellations as needed. He and his sons find the EasyFold seating system especially useful every day in Hossegor. Folding the two back rows down into the floor increases total cargo space to 2,430 liters in a snap, which is more than enough for four sets of surfing equipment. The all-wheel drive has saved them on various occasions from getting stuck in the sandy terrain of the Atlantic coast. And for the four men with all their surfing gear, being able to open the two sliding doors simply by pressing a button on the B column is quite a useful thing.

Coastal waves have given Biarritz the nickname “Europe’s California”

Cologne – Bordeaux – Biarritz. He knows every roundabout along the route, every rest stop and speed trap. He knows where the best coffee and chocolatines can be found. You might say he could drive the route in his sleep – but it’s a relief to know there’s the Driver Alert System and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). His new Sharan seems to glide almost noiselessly over the asphalt. Instead of the old rumbling of the microbus, there is just a barely discernible swoosh as the night sky flies by at 130 km/h above the now fully glazed roof.

Let’s hear it for comfort – a short break in the Sharan 2.0 TDI SCR 4MOTION

The drive was long this time too – but he hardly feels as beat as he used to. “Let’s hear it for comfort!” he exclaims. Or does that sound a little too boring? Too “grown up” for his sons and their thirst for adventure? No matter, a good GPS for impromptu changes in plan along the way is something he now very much appreciates. Aside from the fact that Volkswagen’s online Guide & Inform system has led him around numerous traffic jams and through densely wooded stretches to solitary sand banks, where he has maneuvered the all-wheel-drive van with an off-road vehicle heart into many a secluded corner – and out again.

Saltwater days – sunset at the beach in Hossegor

The first day rushes by like the towering waves the autumn storms send to the Atlantic coast. The days to come will be marked by the same rhythm. Mornings on this dune, waxing the boards, squeezing into neoprene suits and heading off into the breakers. At some point they’ll have to stop. On the way home they’ll enjoy the best coffee and chocolatines along the route once more. They’ll arrive in Cologne and stay there awhile, until they feel the call again to set off for this coast, every year for the rest of their lives.