Matt Gough shows off the moving truck he’s renovated into a surf camp on wheels. Photo: Matt Gough
Matt Gough shouldn’t be alive. Two years ago, while BASE jumping off a cliff in Lake Garda, Italy, Gough’s parachute opened backward, slamming him into the rock face he was jumping off of and plummeting him 1,000 feet to the ground at speeds of more than 40 mph.

Miraculously he survived, sustaining only minor injuries to his knees and ankles, and recorded the entire debacle on the GoPro on his helmet. The video of his accident went viral, gaining 2 million views in less than 48 hours online.

“I knew the risks,” Gough told WeAreSurfers  in an interview. “I had been BASE jumping for three years and done over 200-odd jumps in my time. You aren’t going to do that forever and not stub a toe. If you try to go forever, you’re going to die. I accepted the risks, and death happened to be one of them.”

Gough spent a few weeks recovering from his injuries in his hometown of Devon, England. He said he planned to hop in his van and drive right back to Italy as soon as he recovered from the skydiving accident. He had been skydiving for the better part of a decade; he didn’t know what else to do.
“As I was packing up my van to drive back to Italy, I saw in my parents’ eyes that they didn’t think they would be seeing their son again,” said Gough. “That’s when I decided to retire from BASE jumping. I took the licensing fees I got from doing television interviews about the crash and bought a new van and surfboard.”

Gough spent the next three years traveling throughout Morocco and Portugal, chasing the best breaks. He had never devoted that much time to surfing, and being able to experience his progression firsthand got him hooked. To make ends meet, he worked at surf hostels and took various labor jobs in the UK. But the rest of the time he was living out of his van, following the surf. It was during this time that he came up with the idea that he hopes will revolutionize the surf-camp industry: the Wagon Surf Camp.

“I’ve worked as a surfer at surf camps and I’ve been at surf hostels,” said Gough. “But when I wake up at the beach in my van and I can be the first person in the water and chase the swell, nothing is better than that. The holiday surf places aren’t getting the good breaks, and they aren’t replicating the true surf culture.”

So Gough decided to start the Wagon Surf Camp, an idea he describes as matching the true surf lifestyle with the luxury of holiday surf camps. Gough bought an old moving truck and is repurposing it as a surf hostel on wheels. The truck will be able to hold up to six surfers and 20 surfboards, and will come equipped with a full kitchen, a bathroom, a television and a patio that will extend out of the back of the truck to give surfers views of the ocean when the wagon is parked on the beach.

Gough is currently renovating the truck by himself, and after recently finishing its paint job he said he’s roughly 70 percent done with the project. He has started an Indiegogo campaign to help spread the word of his venture and help pay for some of the fixes the truck needs, and he said that he hopes to begin operations in mid-September in Portugal.

Gough will travel to Morocco come December and spend the rest of the winter season finding the best swells. He already has groups lining up to rent out the wagon for the first winter season, and said he hopes to turn the Wagon Surf Camp into a full-time venture.

“In the U.K. and France, the waves are always crowded and you can’t park anywhere near the shore with your wagon,” said Gough. “It’s not like that in Morocco or Portugal. We’ll be catching perfect sets without having to compete for waves.”

Gough credits his decision to quit his nine-to-five office job five years ago to chase his passion BASE jumping while living out of his van as what ultimately inspired him to start the camp.

“Everything I’ve done, I’ve done it to have fun. Working nine to five only allowed me two days a week to have fun, and I couldn’t do that,” said Gough. “Then, through whatever string of events, I ended up here. So my advice to people would be to quit doing the nine-to-five that is taking you away from doing your passion, and chase the dream. If you’re kind to others, I think it will come back to you tenfold.”

In regards to BASE jumping, Gough said he has no plans to return to it. He claims the thrill he gets from chasing surf has replaced the thrill he got from jumping, and that he hopes to help others experience it.

“The first time I got barreled, to me, was more thrilling than my first BASE jump,” said Gough. “To feel like you’re part of a wave is something amazing. It’s this huge thrill that’s also calming. My hope is to help others experience that thrill.”