Traveling with a surfboard made easy in 6 simple steps
Last Updated: 24 May 2019
Traveling with your surfboard can be a real-life nightmare. Here’s how to avoid the drama of flying with a board and save yourself a little cash at the same time.
Surfboards, unlike skateboards or even snowboards, are notoriously unwieldy things to travel with. They’re bulky, they’re heavy and worst of all… they’re breakable. Getting off a 13-hour flight and waiting to pick up your board from oversized baggage, only to see it come out looking like a folded deckchair, can bring a tear to the eye of anyone who calls themselves a surfer.
Do I need to travel with a surfboard?
The good news is there are steps you can take to make traveling with your surfboard an absolute pleasure. But before we begin, we do feel it’s important to tell you that traveling with a surfboard may not be necessary for a lot of people. If you’re planning a surf trip overseas and are still a beginner, why not just hire a surfboard at your destination?
Better yet, organize a stay with Rapture and we’ll provide you with a good quality surfboard at no extra charge. For everyone else though who wouldn’t part with their fiberglass pride and joy for all the free airline miles in the world, read on and check out how to make traveling with your surfboard easy in 6 simple steps.
Step 1: Fly with a surfboard-friendly airline
We dream of a time when every airline welcomes surfers with open arms and treats our surfboards like newborn babies. Until that day comes though, you’ve got to choose wisely. The main reason being that while some airlines are great, the vast majority of them are pretty terrible.
Pick an airline such as Qantas in Australia, Aer Lingus in Ireland, Emirates in the UAE or Iberia Airlines in Spain and have your board flow either for free or for only a small amount more. Pick pretty much any other airline and you can expect to pay a premium to fly with your surfboard. We’re talking amounts up to and over €100 just for one. Daylight robbery if you ask us.
What’s more, most airlines won’t pony up the cash for any damages incurred during the flight. This means mysterious dings, cracks and even the blatant creasing or snapping of your surfboard is on you, buddy. Remember this next time you’re thinking of traveling with your surfboard because no amount of cursing or emphatic hand gestures will help you in this situation.
Step 2: Try to pack one well-rounded surfboard
In a world where we always want more, more, more, isn’t it refreshing to know that there are surfboards out there that can do it all? This means that for your average surfer, you can get away with taking only one surfboard on your next trip.
Multiple surfboards are perfectly suitable if you’re trekking into the wilds of Indonesia and plan on charging triple overhead Nias and living off rice and fish for 3 months. It’s also fine if you plan on offloading a couple of boards as you travel to fund the next leg of your trip. If you don’t perform any better or worse on surfboards with slight variations in dimensions or literage however, save yourself the hassle.
Take one well-rounded surfboard that’ll perform in the predominant range of conditions you’ll most likely be surfing in. That means not too long and not too short, with dimensions that offer the perfect balance between function and fun. Doing this won’t just save you cash on additional airline fees, it’ll also make lugging your boardbag around airports and between destinations infinitely easier.
Step 3: Choose the right boardbag
A surfer’s boardbag comes in all manner of shapes, sizes and materials. So you don’t feel overwhelmed by this, we’re going to let you in on a couple of key features that make traveling with your surfboard way, way easier.
First of all, you want a boardbag that fits your boards. Too big and it’ll be clumsy to handle, too small and you won’t be able to fit your board… no prizes for guessing that one. Secondly, don’t be afraid to splurge a little. A better quality boardbag is worth the money if it’s going to keep a €600 plus surfboard safe and secure. Finally, opt for a boardbag that has wheels. Compared to the wheelless option, they are the best thing since sliced bread.
In addition to these points, you’ll also want to a boardbag that you can fit your wetsuit and or surf equipment in. This way you can free up valuable space in your backpack or suitcase for the essentials. A surfboard sock is also worth adding to your boardbag for day trips. It’s better than taking your entire boardbag with you everywhere you go, and you can even use it as a sleeping bag if you’re desperate.
Step 4: Strip your wax
An unwaxed surfboard has the potential to make the inside of your boardbag look like the world’s grossest cheese sandwich. So why then when traveling with a surfboard to an overseas destination don’t some people remove their wax before packing?
We’re not exactly sure, but you’d be surprised just how many people forgo this simple step. It’s like they want to have wax caked all over their wetsuit and throughout the inside of their boardbag. Come on people… stripping it off isn’t hard. All that’s needed is about 10 minutes of your time, some hot water and a wax comb. It’s not, as they say, rocket science.
Chances are you’re flying to a surfing destination that requires a different wax than whatever’s already been applied to your board anyway, so save yourself the mess and chisel your foot glue before packing. It could prove the difference between an awesome start to your surf trip and one that’s spend hunched over your boardbag trying to pluck away at countless fibers caked in small nuggets of dry wax. Not a whole lot of fun by even the most liberal standards.
Step 5: Use bubble wrap, pipe foam and electrical tape to secure it
One of the most annoying things about traveling with your surfboard is their tendency to look like they’ve been left out in a hail storm after a couple of flights. With cracks, dings and depressions that seemingly appear out of nowhere, turning what was once a pure white board an unhealthy pallor of mustard yellow.
You may think this is just an inevitable consequence of traveling with your surfboard. Something that’s guaranteed to happen no matter how much you beg the lady at the check-in desk to take special care of your sled. But what if we were to tell you there’s a way you can protect your surfboard from the rigors of airline travel? Well, you can. With only bubble wrap, pipe foam and electrical tape no less.
To do so, you’ll need to cut a horizontal slit in the pipe foam and slip it over your rails. Then, wrap your entire board in a couple of layers of bubble wrap. Feel free to put a towel over the nose or tails for added protection. Afterward, secure everything in place with electrical tape and give yourself a pat on the back. Your board looks like Tutankahmun if he was mummified by a blind man, but at least it’s finally ready to be packed.
Step 6: Pack it, weigh it and get ready to begin traveling with your surfboard
Now for the fun part. Place your surfboard in your boardbag paying close attention that it fits snugly without pressing too firmly against the sides. Once you’re happy it fits, lay your wetsuit, towel and any clothing you’re packing over the deck.
Then, strap your board to the bag using the straps inside the boardbag. This prevents everything from shuffling around while it’s being tossed from conveyor belt to tarmac to cargo hold by indifferent baggage handlers. After its safely fastened, slip in the fins, extra leg rope and any other surfboard equipment around the free space of the boardbag.
If your board and all of the other items coexist peacefully within your boardbag then it’s time to zip it up. Before you head for the airport and start traveling with your surfboard though, make sure to weigh it. By doing so you’ll know if everything meets weight restrictions and whether or not your jealous best friend has tried to stow themselves away in an attempt to hitch a free ride.