Air-Cooled Porsches Take To The Sand And The Seaside At Petro-Surf On The German Island Of Sylt
Photography by Markus Haub & Susana de Val
For the parts of the alternative Porsche scene with a penchant for surfing, the Petro-Surf get-together on the island of Sylt was a perfect if not slightly cloudy weekend. Bringing together 356s, 914s, air-cooled 911s, a few boards, and a whole bunch of likeminded people for three days of seaside shenanigans, Petro-Surf is bound to get bigger each year—which is not to say it was lacking anything this past August.
Carefully (or not) maintained patina, freshly restored to OEM specs, or modified in any number of ways (from engine swaps to a temporary surfboard fin affixed to the rear glass), the vehicular part of the group was a strong representation of the more laid back but still deeply passionate Porsche scene. Canceled last year for the same reason that just about everything else was, Petro-Surf couldn’t be stopped in 2021, so we packed the frunk of our 911 and headed to the northernmost part of Germany, the island of Sylt off the western coast of the German-Danish border.
Ken Hake und Angelo Schmitt are the organizers responsible for the festival, which marked its third iteration on the island. If you come looking for an uptight judging panel and a bunch of Porsche snobs, it’s best to turn around before you get any sand in your treads. What Petro-Surf is all about is what life should be all about: enjoying the company of others and trying to have a fun time. A simple idea, but one that doesn’t manifest enough.
The laid-back but still busy weekend started with a BBQ and a DJ set on Friday evening at “Porsche auf Sylt”, the chic showroom of the Zuffenhausen-based manufacturer on the island. The following day, some of the participants met up for a “Drive Challenge“ at the “Sturmhaube” parking area right by the beach, but the center of festivities was the old port of Munkmarsch, which we temporarily invaded with our cars, from the main lots to the end of the pier.
Later that afternoon, we took a drive across the island for some sightseeing—some of it at speed—chased the light between the banks of clouds, and generally had a fun time exploring a new place. We returned to the harbor a few hours later under the same skies, which made us feel even further separated from the rest of the world during the course of the weekend, the effect of all this ceaseless grey was like being in a cocoon and having a view into the infinite all at once.
The highlight of the final day of Petro-Surf was a ferry trip to Rømø, Denmark. There we drove to the nearby beach where we were greeted by a massive expanse of sand that spread into the horizon in all directions. It was like we’d been dropped off on another planet. After a short respite and refreshment, the first cars took to the beaches to play in the sand, which prompted others to join in until we’d become something like a Mad Max scene made out of 911s, kicking up sand and chasing each other and nothing at all, just for the sheer fun of it.
A bit later in the day, we headed further north to Lakolk Beach, an even bigger pile of sand than before, but much more colorful despite the skies still being tuned to grey. We arrived to find orcas and jellyfish floating above us in amongst hundreds of other kites being flown that Sunday.
It seemed that each part of the itinerary led us to a stranger place, but we welcomed it all, and reveled in the ability to explore this surreality with friends new and old. The cars looked fantastic out of their usual elements, and as we journeyed across the beaches toward the same-color sea and sky, it really did feel as if we’d reached the end of the world.
On the return trip on the ferry back to Sylt, sitting on the upper decks in beach chairs and looking towards the setting sun, we had the feeling of complete satisfaction. To ask for more than that is impossible. If only every weekend could be so detached from the week.