Traveling with Paddle Boards
We totally understand. You’re eager to go on a vacation to an amazing SUP destination. But, before you book your trip, there are a few important things you’ll need to know:
- Best stand up paddle boards for traveling
- Best airlines to fly your boards
- Tips and tricks for flying your boards for cheap
- Protecting your paddle boards when traveling
- Choosing a rental vehicle
The best stand up paddle boards for traveling
Without a doubt, inflatable paddle boards (iSUPs) are the most ideal type of paddle board to travel with. Why? Because when deflated, they roll up to the size of sleeping bag. Pack them as a carry on or check them as bag. Airline marshals can throw around your inflatable paddle boards as much as they want – there will be no damage. Remember this: inflatables are portable, storable and durable.
If you have epoxy paddle boards, the general rule of thumbs for most airlines (with the exception of a few) is to keep your board under 9’6. If you’re a few inches over the limit, they typically won’t pull out the measuring tape and you will be okay. Just keep it to a few inches over. If you get greedy, prepare to be denied, so exercise caution when exceeding the length limits!
If you’re driving, (depending on the type of vehicle), you should have the option to bring a variety of paddle boards. You will be able to fit several inflatable paddle boards in your car. Epoxy paddle boards will be most effective on your car’s roof, unless you have a van. Most trucks and bigger SUVs can fit 2-4 epoxy paddle boards on the roof.
How to pack your paddle board to avoid damage
Travel board bags for hard boards
Regardless of the type of board you take with you, one thing is certain, and that is to always store your paddle board in a bag for protection and ease of transportation. We recommend getting a board bag a little taller than your board so you’ll have extra room to pack padding gear inside it. Our ISLE Board Bags have a reinforced nose for extra protection in addition to pockets to store your fins, wax, GoPro or any other accessories. They also serve as a sleeping bag to keep you warm on the beach if you go camping!
If you’re super cautious about protecting your board, you’ll want an extra layer in your bag. Pro-Lite makes a tried and true series of paddle board travel bags with extra wheels, thick padding and durable material over a standard bag to withstand anything airline travel can throw at it. If your paddle board is damaged by the airline, it is always a good idea to pack some ding repair and patches.
Travel board bags for inflatables
Since inflatables paddle boards are the most ideal SUP to travel with, we created a bag specifically for traveling with an iSUP. Our travel bag is built tough with noncorrosive heavy-duty zippers, padded shoulder straps, top and side grab handles, as well as heavy-duty polyurethane wheels so you don’t have to haul the bag on your back the entire trip. It’s the easiest way to travel with your paddle board hands down.
Protecting Your Paddle
Paddles should also be placed in your paddle board bag while traveling. We recommend you invest in a 3-piece travel paddle which breaks down into smaller pieces and is much easier to store than a one-piece paddle. If it is crucial to bring your one-piece paddle, then invest in a paddle bag to add extra protection. If you have room inside your board bag you should store your paddle inside of it to consolidate.
Packing Your Paddle Board (Flying with epoxy paddle boards)
It’s always good to take extra precaution when traveling with an epoxy paddle board. We recommend that you wrap the nose, tail, and rails in protective material (bubble wrap or foam) because these are the parts that get dinged the most. When protecting your boards, keep in mind the weight limits and also the fact you will have to carry the bag across the airport so making it too heavy can be a big hassle.
Airlines Board Fees
Anytime you walk up to the counter at an airport and have a board with you, it’s always best to politely try and check in your boards without paying the fee. There are a few types of ticket agents: 1) The chiller who won’t charge you at all 2) The newbie who doesn’t know about board fees and charges you at a checked bag rate 3) The hardo who asks to look inside your board bag to count all the boards and charge you per board. In this situation, the best way to get away with paying the least amount of fees is to stay cool and collected.
As mentioned earlier, the airline travel rule of thumb for paddle board’s is: keep it 9’6 or less, and you can usually find an airline to accommodate your travels. The biggest turnoff when traveling with your boards is that sometimes the fees can add up to the actual price of the board. Since there are many different prices and restrictions between airlines, we have put together a guide to the different airlines and what they charge. For the most part, stand up paddle boards do not have their own category for airline pricing (typically will be the same price as surfboard fees) so make sure to check ahead of time with your preferred airline and see what the fees are.
|Company||Max. Weight and Height||Fees Associated|
|American Airlines||10’ 6” 70 lbs.||$150 U.S.Brazil –$37.50 for 1st board$85 for additional|
|Delta/Northwest Airlines||10’6 – 70 lbs.||$150 Canada, Europe, & U.S.$75 Brazil|
|Southwest Airlines||Freight/Cargo Only||$75 Each Way|
|Alaska Airlines||9’ 7 – 100 lbs.||$75 Each Way|
|U.S. Airways||Freight/Cargo Only||Priced individually.|
|Hawaiian Airlines||9’6 – 50 lbs.||$100 Each Way$200 Each Way to/from Select Asian Locations$35 Inter-Hawaii|
|Jet Blue||No size restrictions under surfing equipment. Probably 9’6 though100 lbs.||$50|
|United||9’6 – 99.9 lbs.||$150 each way for U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands$200 for all other travel|
|Volaris||8’1 – 55 lbs. We have flown with them several times and no limitations have been given as we have checked 12’6 paddle boards for races||$80 – Make sure to call ahead of time to confirm.|
You arrived at your destination: now what?
Choosing a vehicle
Choosing the right vehicle is contingent on where you’re traveling, your budget and the amount of luggage you’re bringing. The best type of vehicle to have when traveling with paddle boards under 10 ft. is a big van. A van eliminates the need to strap your boards to the roof and you can simply slip your boards inside which makes you way more incognito on the road. Always reserve your car in advance online so it’s ready for you when you arrive. Better safe than sorry!
To splurge or not to splurge
If big vehicle budgets are not in your travel plans, use caution when selecting a vehicle. With the proper straps, you can strap multiple paddle boards down to the top of any vehicle providing there is adequate rooftop space. The best alternative rental cars are 4 door vehicles with extra roof space. If you can’t swing that and opt for a 2 door prepare to stick out like a sore thumb as a tourist and drive slower due to wind shear. In addition, it’s great if the vehicle has existing hard racks built into the roof and this allows you to strap onto those rather than run straps into the vehicle.
Always keep an eye out
Never (ever!) leave your boards unattended on your vehicle! Use your head and trust your intuition. If you leave boards on your roof, thieves can swoop by in a matter of seconds and be off with all your boards. Use your best judgment depending on your country and location within that country.
Travel insurance: a must!
You never know what could happen before or during a big trip and there are hundreds of circumstances that could cause you to cancel, return home early, or force you to seek emergency medical treatment while traveling. We recommend you review all the top 10 travel insurance companies and always get something in place before you leave in addition to insuring your gear. Its pennies on the dollar and gives you piece of mind on the road.
At ISLE, we circle the globe paddling and surfing every year and hope you find our travel tips helpful. We are always available to answer any questions you have before taking off on your next adventure so give us a call 888.5697873 or shoot us an email firstname.lastname@example.org