How to Strap Your Paddle Board to Your Car

Transporting your SUP on the roof of your car

One of the most frequently asked questions our customer service team gets is, “How do I strap my paddle board to the roof of my car?” Strapping your SUP to your car’s roof may seem difficult at first, but once you have all the appropriate gear, this task will be a breeze.

To make your life easier, we’ve created a simple step-by-step guide on everything you need to know about transporting your paddle board to and from the water.

How to strap paddle board to car

Important: This guide is mainly for those who own hard paddle boards (epoxy), not inflatable SUPs. However, you can strap your inflatable board to your car’s roof (when inflated) by following the same steps below.

There are two ways to strap your paddle board to your car and/or SUV:

  • How to strap your SUP to your car with a roof rack system
  • How to strap your SUP to your car without a rack system

How to strap your SUP to your car with a roof rack system

When we say, ‘roof rack system’ we are talking about metal racks designed by companies like Thule & Yakima that typically don’t come standard with your car. A brand new set of roof racks ranges from $150-$300. You will need hard racks if you plan on taking your board on all walks of adventures — long road trips or immense highway travel.

Note: transporting your SUP without a roof rack system will not work/be safe if you plan on traveling far distances on the highway with your board.

To transport your paddle board, you will need:

  • Roof rack system installed on your car
  • Soft surf pads and two tie-down straps (longer pads are recommended because SUPs are wider than surfboards)
  • A towel or two to prevent damage if you plan on stacking two SUPs on your roof

Follow these steps

1. Open Velcro on soft pads and secure tightly around both bars.

How to strap paddle board to car

2. Lay paddle board face down (fins up) with the fin toward the windshield.

How to strap paddle board to car

3. Loop a strap under the crossbar and run both ends (buckle & tail end) across the top of your board to the other side (be careful with the buckle end because it could damage your board).

How to strap paddle board to car

How to strap paddle board to car

4. On the other side of your car, loop the tail end under and around the crossbar.

How to strap paddle board to car

5. Insert the tail end into the buckle (always insert the strap through the bottom of the buckle) and tighten. Once tightened all the way, the buckle should be positioned between your paddleboard and your car’s roof.

*WARNING* When strapping soft top SUPs to the roof, you could possibly see indentation on the rails of your board from the straps. To alleviate, get a board bag/sock or slide cardboard or EVA foam between your board and the straps.

How to strap paddle board to car

6. Twist the tightened strap so it doesn’t lay flat against the top of your board to avoid tedious buzzing noises when driving.

How to strap paddle board to car

7. Lastly, open the door to your car, drop the rest of your strap’s slack inside, and shut the door on both so they aren’t flying all over the place while you are driving.

8. Repeat steps 3-6 for the second strap.

How to strap paddle board to car

How to strap a SUP to a car without racks

For those who don’t have a hard rack system, there is a way to strap your SUP to your roof without hard racks. You can purchase soft racks at local surf shops that will work just fine for your paddle board. However, this method is only good if you plan on transporting your SUP locally — this means driving 10 minutes through your town/city to your local paddle spot. Minor highway travel is OK (5-10 min), but don’t push the boundaries of driving far distances at high speeds with just soft racks. You don’t want to put your boards and other cars at risk of damage/injury.

Soft racks will fit anything from a small sudan to a larger SUV. However, soft racks will not work well with 2-door cars or minivans.

These are the special soft racks you will need

Follow these steps

  1. Open all your car doors.
  2. Lay the soft racks across the top of your car so that the bottom straps will hang off at both sides of your vehicle.
  3. Space both pads across the roof of your car (a few inches from the back windshield and few inches from the front windshield).

Note — If the soft racks are spaced too far apart, your boards can easily slip out. If they are too close together, your boards will not be stable when driving.

  1. Once you have the rack spacing dialed, take the two bottom straps from the soft racks, thread them through the open doors, and fasten them together on the inside of your car.
  2. Lay the paddle board face down (fins up) with the paddle board fin toward the windshield.
  3. Tighten the top straps.
  4. Grab the two hanging top straps at the front and back pads, pull them over the boards, and tighten them.

Posted in Gear Guides, Travel, Paddle Board Lifestyle
Douglas Robichaud - Doug is a content writer at ISLE Surf & SUP who has been surfing and paddle boarding for over 10 years. With a degree in English/Journalism, Doug has been an outdoor adventure content writer for over four years. Since joining the ISLE team, he has become a paddle board expert in all topics ranging from products, basic tutorials, tips and tricks, SUP safety, and new trends.