BIRTH - 2006 - SMASHED TRAVEL
Everything needs to be born, including your parents and even travel companies. Stoke was conceived in a dungeon, on a hill, in a house, in San Sebastian. It was the year 2006, as our lord’s crow falls, and one Stuey Jones and Toby Paramor sat on the floor, for lack of furniture, among the mould, for lack of ventilation, and conceived of a better way to spend summer than sitting on mouldy unventilated dungeon-floors drinking cheap cask wine, albeit in a stunning city.
They dreamed of Basque beaches across Spain and France, of camp grounds and cliff-top sunsets, and sunset cocktails, and sunset sessions, of pine forests and the open air – in short, of a better locale to drink cheap cask wine.
Alas this was the first board meeting, in the first boardroom, and with it Smashed Travel was born, and out of this messy birth breached a Surfari covering Spain and France, and an excuse for Stu and Toby to continue surfing and partying up and down the coast.
Our two pioneers printed black and white, hand-drawn flyers and handed them out on pub crawls, and then convinced backpackers to join them in their crudely spray painted VW van, loaded to the high heavens with surfboards, up and down the coast, in and out of all kinds of mischief.
Boy oh boy, didn’t the various law authorities delight in pulling us over whenever they could.
GROWTH SPURTS - 2009 - STOKE TRAVEL
From these humble beginnings the brand grew, changing from Smashed to Stoke (try convincing your parents to fork out for a Smashed Travel tour), and we expanded rapidly. Our marketing plan was to simply Do whatever we feel like doing, go wherever we want to go, tell as many people as we can about it and hope that they turn up. The more that turn up, the bigger the party.
From this stroke of marketing genius the prospectus grew. First it was the Running of the Bulls, which was run out of a van parked on the side of the road (ask a Stokie about the Finnish hitchhiker and the 100gms of hash we didn’t know he was carrying until it was too late). Then the Rolling Circus, also run out of the van, from San Sebastian to Madrid, Barcelona and Paris, Bruges, Amsterdam, Berlin and Munich, aka the European guide on how to almost starve to death but still look cool. After the circus we set up at Oktoberfest, with a grand total of 100 Stokies (we now get well into the thousands), attracting the heckles of all the other, at that time more established, travel mobs, and the list just kept (keeps!) on growing.
AFRICAN WINTERS - 2010
The realisation that four months of summer a year aren’t enough to keep us fed for 12, we moved to Morocco for the winter months, partly to surf, somewhat to “dry out” (booze is hard to come by down there), totally to be immersed in a different culture. The Moroccan Surf House in Taghazout was born and continues to service winter refugees to this day. P.s. we totally found a beer source.
BARCELONA BABIES - 2011
Needing a more permanent base we move to the funnest city in the known universe, Barcelona. From there we eked out an existence when we weren’t running amok in summer, or surfing in Morocco. Times were tough in parts, Stokies were known to live off donated kebab bottoms and perform bar tricks for half-drunk beers, but we survived.
From there Barcelona has become our base. We now donate the half-eaten kebabs to more needy travellers and fully drink our own beers, but the spirit of survival that helped us get through those long European winters haven’t been forgotten. In fact, just ask us about them, we’ll be happy to regale you in fine detail about just how tough we did it while we were getting set up.
ALL GROWN UP - 2011
After a while more and more backpackers and students were joining in on our madness, and things got a little serious. We consulted lawyers and other people with shoes and determined it was time to get legal. Offices were sought, staff hired who actually knew things, and Stoke Travel became an official, although oftentimes not for profit (unintentionally), business.
THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS BAD PRESS - 2012
Realising that he’s not going away anytime soon, Toby and Stu take on long-time Surfari manager, Wade Gravy, on as a partner. The plan is to create media the likes of which backpacker travel has never seen. Advertisements are created, and banned; provocation ensues with gratuitous honesty. At that time we figured that backpackers just wanted to have fun, to party and make out with each other, and see sights but not as a part of a checklist. Nothing’s really changed….
WICKEDLY STOKED - 2012
A chance meeting with Denis Geary, the dreadlocked CEO of Wicked Campers Europe, results in a diabolical partnership that sees Wicked use Stoke for their festival needs and Stoke using Wicked for their notoriety and professionalism. The garish and provocative Wicked fleet joins Stoke and the party doubles, as does our pulling power at Europe’s festivals. This partnership really gets things cranking.
THE STOKE BAR - 2013
It seemed like a no-brainer – get a bar, thereby fulfilling our fantasies, and using it to make big bucks, and act as a HQ for our travel operations. Turns out it was a bit of a no-brainer, as Stoke’s productivity hit an all-time low during this époque – who would have thought that we’d drink our own bar dry?
Since those halcyon days Stoke has only gone from strength to strength, achieving annual growth of over 50% between 2011-2014. We’ve now expanded to some 24 destinations and counting Europe wide, as well as forays into Morocco, as mentioned, and Brazil.
Canadian mega-travel-group, I Love Travel, join with Stoke and with them bring much needed experience and professionalism, blowing Stoke’s latest yearly numbers to over 16,500 guests, who between them put away some 90,000L of beer. And we’re only just beginning.
For the first time since our inception, Stoke really turned its attention to London and made moves that would appeal to the antipodean expat community in the big city. We launched the London Big Day Out, a day, a big one, of sports and music, partying and nostalgic comfort food from Australia and New Zealand. For those who’ve known Stoke for a while, the choice to host a sporting day would seem a little strange, but you should know that we’re the work hard/play hard type and we made sure that all the exercise was washed away with cheap drinks, bad dancing and even worse decisions.
And in order to get in with the London dandy set we started taking groups of frocked (and pissed) up lovers of horses, gambling and champagne to the Royal Ascot race meet, where we made sure to completely ruin our fancy outfits with ridiculous shenanigans.
Rounding out our London domination, we commandeered a train and sent it into Scotland to get buck wild with Edinburgh for its Hogmanay New Year’s Eve celebration, an evening of fine conversation, haggis, loose street parties and stranger pashing. With the addition of Hogmanay our London foray was an overwhelming success, and now we have a dedicated team working out of London, for travellers of all stripes who find themselves ensconced in Old Blighty.
GLAMPING AND GREECE
Admitting that while our regular camping is amazing (seriously, who offers more than us, for the tiny price?), we came to the conclusion that some travellers have a little bit of extra money saved up and want to treat themselves from time to time. Enter our very popular (sold out!) glamping option at most destinations. Better beds, with cozy bedding, more space, electricity and mirrors, so you’re all charged up, refreshed and as hot as can be.
2017 was the year that saw us host more guests than ever before, 20,000 travellers including 7,500 at Oktoberfest alone. We’re doing double the trips, we’ve reinvented The Running Of The Bulls by concentrating more on the party (cultural and crazy) and less on the bullrun, hosting bands and food trucks at the El Molino campsite by the river with our Stoked in the Park festival; Ibiza Beach Camp was sold out for the entire summer, the San Sebastian Surf Camp settled in wonderfully into its new hillside farmhouse (also sold out!), and our Barcelona team had a gangbusters summer on the boats and in the city.
It became the right time to give back to travellers in need, so we started up our Charitably Stoked division that works to raise money so we can support the refugees struggling to survive on Europe’s borders. This year we raised funds through our drinking cups’ voluntary donation system, and flew with the crew after Oktoberfest to Chios, Greece, to see the situation firsthand, donate the money we’d raised to charities working in the area (while soaking up the Aegean sun and our share of ouzo).
The next step in Stoke’s history involves you, so come along and etch your name into our epic, ever evolving life story. Come on, it’s about time you became a Stokie.