The all-new Varsity trip that’s making waves

Julia Stanyard 29 February 2016

The 2015 Varsity ski trip can be remembered for a lot of things, not least a mountain-top paint party, a headline set from Tinie Tempah, and an awful lot of après-ski. If you went (or wish you went), have you ever thought that one week of alcohol-fuelled Oxford-and-Cambridge-exclusive revelry just isn’t enough? If you have, then here’s some good news, because this is the year of the inaugural, never-before-seen Varsity Surf trip. I caught up with Anthony Rubinstein, vice-president of the ski trip and co-founder of Varsity Surf, to find out why he’s decided to swap the snowboard for the surfboard.

For some people, just running one week-long event involving about 3000 students would be quite enough, let alone the hassle of setting one up from scratch. But according to Ant, the idea of the surf trip (which has been in the pipeline since June) came from the realisation that “the general niche of student summer surf festival is not really a thing that exists”. While most universities have held ski trips for years, “none of them seem to have a summer holiday. And I don’t know why not, it seems to be an absolute niche that should be filled… you have Benicàssim and all the festivals in Croatia, the hard-core ones, but you don’t really have a really relaxed, chilled-out student surf festival.”

Since first looking into the idea over the summer, the surf trip has now grown into something fully-fledged. As Ant describes, all the team need to do now is “get some headliners booked, then we’ll have ourselves our own little beach festival, and it should be really fun”. The overall aim is, of course, to make the trip into as big an annual institution as the ski trip.

However, all of this didn’t come about without a lot of hard graft along the way. “We did a couple of trips in the summer to work out where we’re going to go, checked out some different resorts… We had to do some necessary beach testing. I find with testing out a beach well, you can really only find the feel after a couple of hours of lying on it. It’s quite a tedious and laborious process” Tough life. But in all seriousness, while the long tradition of the ski trip means that much of the detail is pre-formulated – “with stuff like accommodation and ski hire and all the little tedious bits you just go through the letter” – starting something from scratch means that the surf trip is all “completely fresh” and the team are, as Ant seems quite pleased to say “making up the rulebook as we go along”.

The general plan is for Varsity Surf to run along similar lines to the ski trip. In fact, Ant actually sums it up as “just applying the same formula to a beach, in the summer”, which will hopefully appeal to students who aren’t avid skiers. There’ll be surf lessons available for those who want or need them, but there’s also a lot more in store: “we’re going to have an apres-surf, just like apres-ski, and we’re going to have a bar and a stage along the beach… it’ll kick off at four and go on till sunset”. Other plans include beach rugby and football cuppers – “basically any sport you can play on a beach and have fun with” – and the first ever official Varsity beach volleyball match: “they have volleyball varsity but they don’t have beach volleyball. 

“We’re also going to try, one of the other plans we’re thinking about putting together, is to try and stage the official Varsity beach rugby match between Oxford and Cambridge. So you’ve got the winter one which is broadcast on national TV and watched by so many people, and we’re going to try and do the same thing, but on a beach.” I can’t help but wonder whether Jamie Roberts would like to put in an appearance.

So if the end-of-term grind is wearing you down, you’ve got a mountain of essays still to do and all you want is to go home and sleep (it can’t just be me), then cheer up: it looks like there’s something a bit more summery just around the corner.