A well known-fact among traveling surfers: airline baggage handlers don’t surf. If they did, there wouldn’t be so many bummed surfers arriving at their destination only to find their quiver smashed, thrashed, and destroyed beyond repair. Fortunately for surfers looking to expand their cultural horizons – and their wave options – a whole host of tips exist to help ensure that their boards stay safe from the surf rack to the beach.
(1) Protect the ‘Bump Zones’
The nose, tail, and to a lesser extent, the rails of your surfboard are at the greatest risk of being damaged during travel. This is where bubble wrap, foam packing material, and cardboard can mean the difference between time in the water and time at the ding repair shop.
Head to your local packaging or shipping supply store and pick up some foam piping, saran wrap, any other protective-looking materials they might have, along with some duct tape – lots of duct tape. Depending on the size of your board bag, adding this extra padding to your surfboard’s ‘bump zones’ may make it difficult to slide your board inside. Don’t fret. You can always place your board inside your day bag, secure additional padding to the outside, and place the nice bundle in a large cardboard box for transport.
(2) Get a (Legit) Travel Board Bag
If you’d rather not go through the hassle of beefing up the padding of your standard board day bag with tape, foam pipe insulation, clothes, towels, and the like, consider picking up a heavily padded surfboard travel bag. Day bags are not designed for long-haul or airport travel, with most of them carrying only 4-6mm of foam padding. A surfboard bag designed specifically for travel, however, will have somewhere in the neighborhood of 10mm of foam. If you really want to get serious about protecting your surfboard, investing in a surf case with a molded polyethylene plastic shell will provide the most protection that money can buy.
(3) Take Care of Your Fins
Removable fin systems like FCS and Futures Fins are a godsend to traveling surfers tired of opening up their board bag and being greeted by a broken fin. Take your fins out before packing your boards, and remember to bring along a spare fin key so you can put them back in upon arrival. A foam fin protector is perfect for boards with glassed-on fins, but a cheap alternative is to slice open a tennis ball and place it over the tip of each fin.
(4) Board Placement is CriticalMost traveling surfers jet off with multiple boards in tow so that they are prepared for whatever conditions await them. Unfortunately, boards knocking and smashing against each other mid-flight does not equate to a happy surfer. If you plan on packing more than one surfboard in your board bag, make sure that the largest board is placed on the bottom, and that each board is facing the same direction. To ensure that your boards don’t shift during travel, secure boards to one another using the straps inside your board bag, or with some tape, string, or rope.
Other articles in our surf travel series:
- Advantages to Traveling with Surfboards
- Disadvantages to Traveling with Surfboards
- Renting Surfboards on Surf Trips
- Surf Trips: What to Do When It's Flat (Part 1)
- Surf Trips: What to Do When It's Flat (Part 2)