There are times in life when it suddenly becomes blindingly obvious how important van insurance is – like when you’re hanging upside down from your seatbelt as your vehicle skids to a halt on its roof…

That was the way a surfing holiday in France once came to an abrupt end for me. Along with my mate Tony I’d been driving down the shore of the Ile de Ré off France’s Atlantic coast in search of waves when we decided to turn down the narrow streets of the village of Saint-Marie-de-Ré on the offchance of finding some surf action.

Just before reaching the beach we sped over a crossroads after failing to see the tiny ‘Stop’ sign at the junction – at exactly the same time as a Renault Twingo arrived at speed from our left, which was the driver’s prerogative since he had right of way.

The inevitable happened – we were shunted from the side, flipped over like a burger and ended up sliding along the road upside down. Remarkably neither myself nor Tony was hurt – as we came to a halt we both asked “Are you ok?” to which the response was “Yes”, and then, from Tony “Oh no! My boards are on the roof!” (Mine were inside the van).

“Not any more they aren’t” I replied.

But Tony didn’t have time to grieve for his dead surfboards just yet as we now had the intricate task of extricating ourselves from the vehicle. When you’re being suspended upside down in mid-air by your seat belt the inevitable happens when you unfasten it – you land on your head.

It couldn’t be avoided though, especially as by now a small crowd of locals had gathered and were thrusting hands and arms inside the van to help us clamber out through the open windows.

When we eventually emerged we saw that my once pristine van was now battered and bent on every single body panel, whilst Tony’s surfboards lay crushed beneath it. And once we’d double checked that we really were ok – not even a bruise – I made thanks for the van insurance policy I’d taken out.

Turning your vehicle upside down in the UK is bad enough, but when you’re overseas there’s a whole heap of additional issues to consider. Fortunately I was covered which meant I could get home without spending a small fortune.

And it’s also taught me to take it easy when rushing to the beach to ride a few waves – after all, it’s much better to wipeout in the surf than on the road…



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