It’s a glorious summer morning in South Wales and MF is sharing the sunshine with a bleary-eyed squadron of stags, several of whom are sporting a bleak thousand-yard stare.
In fairness to the party, though – despite the pale, pinched faces and the fuzzy, sleepless eyes – they’re girding themselves for the day ahead with a commendable amount of gusto.
Chat alternates between retellings of the previous night’s drinking feats and the supposed effectiveness of hangover cures. Somebody offers up an oyster mixed with a raw egg and tabasco sauce – unsurprisingly, nobody seems to go for it.
If we happened to be sitting in a bar, you could guess what happens next. Seeking to rid themselves of their hangovers, the group would start drinking early, consigning themselves to another long day of boozing, before returning home, their bodies oozing toxins, their wallets considerably lighter.
Instead, in just a few minutes, this bunch are getting the best hangover cure imaginable: frolicking in the surf of the Atlantic, trying to catch their first waves on unsteady surfboards. With each successive pop up onto the board and subsequent dunk into the water, heads clear, minds sharpen and a few of those beer calories are burned away.
Whether it be a morning surfing session, an all-day gorge scramble or even a few days of kayaking and wild camping, exerting your body can be the perfect counterpoint to necking beers. And that’s the premise behind the increasingly popular adventure stag.
Although Britons spend approximately £5 billion per year on trips and nights out celebrating that ‘last night of freedom’, health and fitness activities don’t even make the top five list of activities.
Statistically, though, over 50 per cent of men attending stag weekends admit to worrying about the negative effects of binge drinking, so it’s no surprise that the modern bachelor ensemble may look to work off the negative effects of excess via a range of physically demanding activities. As such, the adventure stag is quietly growing in popularity, with up to a quarter of all bachelor parties now including some sort of sporty or adventure-based element.
“I’ve probably been on 15 stags,” says Londoner Jasper Smith, as he hefts his surfboard out of the water, “and of all of them, I think there’s only one I went on where we didn’t do a decent activity. Things are definitely moving away from the traditional go-karting and paintballing. Anything outdoorsy to split up the boozing is welcome, especially as you tend to eat rubbish and drink heavily on these weekends. It’s perfect for blowing the cobwebs away.”
It’s a sentiment that’s beginning to catch on. Nigel Jones runs Adventure Wales, which specialises in bespoke outdoor activity days. Stag weekends, he notes, are steadily becoming an increasingly larger part of their business. As adventure stags grow in popularity, the range of activities has become increasingly extreme, too – all the better for gleefully recounting over a beer when the dust has settled.
“You don’t tend to see many stags getting together and wanting to play a game of football,” says Jones. “It always tends to have a maverick silliness to it, such as diving off cliffs.”
Embrace the inner child
It’s true that there’s something joyfully regressive about a stag weekend. It’s a chance for guys to briefly divest themselves of the responsibilities of life and live a wild, carefree existence – like Lord of the Flies, but with Jägerbombs.
“One of the things I’ve noticed about the kind of activities we run, and other companies too,” says Jones, “is that it’s all the sort of stuff that you used to do as a kid. Jumping in rivers or the sea, running along rocks, it’s all these things you wanted to do when you were younger, but weren’t always allowed to. Axe throwing has become really popular, too. It’s every boy’s dream and now it’s something you can do on a stag weekend.”
Out on the ocean, the stags have cunningly joined their boards together to form a sort of Thunderdome pontoon. Two at a time, they climb aboard the makeshift arena, before trying to spear each other back into the water. Loud whoops and cheers roll across the water as hangovers steadily fade away.
5 Of The Best UK Adventure Stag Weekends
Porthcawl, South Wales, adventurewales.co.uk
Gorge scrambling, surfing, coastal cliff jumping, white-water rafting – the brilliant Adventure Wales does it all.
Lake District, England, keswickadventures.co.uk
The vast Lake District plays host to ghyll scrambling, canyoning, kayaking, the UK’s only jet boarding experience and more.
Perthsire, Scotland, naelimits.co.uk
If you’re looking for the best adventure stag experience Scotland has to offer, look no further than Nae Limits. With 16 different adventure activities to try, including canyoning and adventure tubing, there’s plenty of opportunities for adventure.
South West, England, extremewest.co.uk
Extreme West puts together bespoke packages that you can tailor to your desired location if you’re looking for some adventure anywhere in the South West. Their wide range of experience providers means there’s a wealth of activities to choose from.
Snowdonia, North Wales, adventureparcsnowdonia.com
Check out Adventure Parc for some north Walian adventure. Caving, ziplines and a surf generator are just a few experiences you can be part of.