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“Look Steph, I fit in your board bag! Guess you’re bringing me along.” - Ruby
Traveling with surfboards is exhausting, nerve-wracking, unglamorous, and yet, SO worth it. When surfing an unfamiliar wave, I find that using my own equipment just feels so much more comfortable. You never know what kind of rental options you’re going to have in remote locations, so it’s always best to come prepared!
Of course, bringing along the boards comes with risks of damage, crazy excess baggage fees, and the worst case scenario – a surfboard bag disappearing somewhere over the Bermuda Triangle / during a layover / when a corrupt airport worker wants to make a few buckaroos. While accidents are sometimes inevitable, it is totally possible to prepare your boards for a safe journey through the skies.
The most important factor in surfboard packing is of course the travel bag. Without a good bag, your board is toast. Luckily, we’ve got tons of options these days, and bags are lighter and safer than ever before! I’ve tried a bunch of different brands and styles, but my Pro-Lite Wheeled Coffin Bag has been the best one yet! It fits up to 4 boards (but 2-3 is ideal), has all the extra pockets you’d ever need, handy-dandy wheels, nifty divider thingies, and more!
However, just tossing your boards in the bag and wishing for the best won’t get you too far. After years of trial and error, I’ve discovered a couple secret weapons (err.. no weapons at airports. Let’s call them tricks instead.) that help your precious chunks of foam and fiberglass arrive safely at their destinations. I’ve been going the Home Depot route for my past few trips, stocking up on bubble wrap and foam PVC pipe protector. The PVC protector goes around the rails, and the bubble wrap goes pretty much anywhere else it fits inside the bag. Seriously, there’s no such thing as too much bubble wrap. It’s also never a bad idea to get some masking tape (I go for the green kind because it leaves less residue) as well, just to ensure that none of your padding shifts around too much in-flight.
I also have these old Styrofoam nose / tail protector pads, but I am super excited to try out this awesome cardboard egg carton-y looking stuff that my shaper gave to me! They use it on boards’ rails when shipping cross-country (or further), so I’m hoping it is extra protective! The best part is, they can be re-used again and again! With the PVC protector, I always feel bad if I have to throw it out after a couple uses, so this is an awesome sustainable alternative. Fingers crossed it does the trick!
In my board bag, I always, always include solarez and stickers in case of board dings, and a first-aid kit for human dings! I also bring travel straps for taxis – my Dakine straps have come in handy more times than I can count! Wax is a must, and wax-remover is a bonus. Sometimes, the more surfy stuff you can bring, the better, just because you can give it to locals that may not have a convenient surf shop nearby! Maybe, if you’re lucky, they’ll show you their secret spots!
Last but not least, it doesn’t hurt to stick some FRAGILE and TOP-LOAD ONLY stickers on your bag. Even if the workers hauling your board across the tarmac don’t listen, it will give you a little more peace of mind. I’ve even considered buying a sticker that says “I HEART BAGGAGE HANDLERS!”
I’ve seen some pretty gnarly carnage on boards that were as well-packed as possible, so all these tips can be taken with a grain of salt, but I hope they help you with your next surfboard travel endeavor!