The new year is finally here and you are ready for your next big adventure! In fact, you just got a new stand up paddle board that you are itching to get in the water. Whether you are interested in a short weekend getaway or heading to a far off destination somewhere in paradise, you will need the inside scoop on how to transport your gear. Never fear! Everything you need to know will be addressed in this quick and dirty guide to traveling with your SUP.
What’s Your Board Type?
Think about the type of stand up paddle board you are planning on bringing along. Of course, this depends on a number of factors, such as where you are going, how you are getting there, and what you want to do when you arrive. Once you come to these conclusions, you will have be able to properly prepare for the trip of a lifetime. If you have the flexibility and budget to plan your gear around your trip, then by all means, do it! Obviously, an inflatable SUP will be the easiest board to travel with since it can fold up to the size of a backpack. With something that small, you can easily put it in an overhead bin, or stow it safely under the seat in front of you. You can even throw it into the trunk of a Honda Civic. That said, if a hard board is a must, you can still have an easy trip as long as you take all the right precautions.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
If you decide to fly, be sure to pay attention to airline restrictions and extra charges for oversized baggage. Each one has its own set of policies when it comes to baggage. That said, a good general rule of thumb is to keep your stand up paddle board under 115 inches (9 feet, 6 inches). Again, these measurements will vary from airline to airline. For example, United Airlines will not accept any board over 115 inches, however American Airlines will allow boards up to 126 inches (depending on size of aircraft). Your best bet is to do your research and err on the side of caution. You definitely do not want to be turned away at check-in! Note: All boards must be encased in a protective cover. Side Note: If you find yourself in a situation where you have to lug all of your gear across the entire airport to get to the right terminal, make use of the dollies. These will be a life (and a back/arm/shoulder) saver!
For a unique experience, consider taking a train. You will be able to enjoy the scenery of a car ride without the hassle and strain of sitting behind the wheel. Sure, it might take a little longer than a plane ride, but it is still a pretty cool way to travel! According to Amtrak, any board under 72 inches can be carried (or checked) onto a Pacific Surfliner. Otherwise, boards can be up to 120 inches in length. As on an airplane, another important requirement is that they must have a protective cover (soft or hard). This is to prevent scratching, and will be more to your benefit than theirs.
Even if you choose to fly initially, you will eventually need a vehicle to drive yourself and your gear around town. The best thing to do is rent a big van. A 9.5 foot board will fit easily inside the van, so there is no need for an equipment rack. It should also be spacious enough to fit your extra luggage and trip companions. If you can not afford a large van and need to go with a smaller sedan or SUV, purchase some good quality tie downs or straps. As long as the roof of the car has a decent amount of space, you can make it work. If the vehicle already has built-in rack mounts, then you are in an even better position. Also, make reservations far in advance. This will ensure that the rental agency has exactly what you are looking for on hand.
In addition to length (or height), transportation systems also take the weight of your luggage into consideration. The maximum weight for most bags are capped at anywhere from 50 to 100 pounds. In order to keep your luggage on the lighter side, try to minimize any unnecessary items. Even the wax on your board can cause your baggage weight to tip over the edge. In order to avoid extra overage charges, removing the wax could be a good start. If you do not, you may even find a sticky mess in your bag when you reach your destination. Do not risk it!
Write your contact information on everything! If you do not want to actually write your name on every item you own, make sure to do so on the big stuff. For instance, put a tag or label on your board bag. Better yet, just write your info directly on the bag with a permanent marker. At the very least, if the bag gets lost with everything intact, you have a good chance of having it returned unscathed. Also, refrain from letting your stuff loose in your bag. If your bag somehow opens while in transit, you are bound to lose something important! Keep everything taped together or attached to your board.
If you are flying with an inflatable board that has an air valve, it would be best to remove it and put it in a safe place for the duration of the flight. Otherwise, due to the high altitude, the air pressure might force the board to start inflating. If the valve is removed, the board will stay deflated. You can also just lock it in the open position, so that the extra air will be able to escape.
Watch our for what you put in your carry-on bags. Airlines and other transportation systems have strict rules and regulations on what you can bring onboard with you. Some gear might not be allowed, such as fins, fin keys, or tools, such as screw drivers, may not be allowed. Take a look at the appropriate websites for the official guidelines.
Try to keep all of your gear together as much together as possible. You do not want to spread little pieces of equipment across multiple bags unless you absolutely have to. There is more of a chance that you will misplace, lose, or leave something behind this way. If it is all in one place, you will be able to see everything that you have all at once.
Protect Your Assets
Get a good protective board cover. No matter how you travel and what type of board you take, you will need to do this anyway. If you are using a transportation system that utilizes baggage handlers, you might want to invest in a small board repair kit. This way you can patch it up on the road, if necessary. Pro tip: Wrap the nose, tails, and rails of your board with towels in order to provide extra padding. These are the parts of the board that get dinged the most during transport. Plus, the towels will provide a practical purpose later on during your trip.
Do not forget about the rest of your gear. Paddles should also be put in a protective case. If you have a one-piece paddle, be sure to use a bag designed specifically for a paddle. Though, the easiest option is going with a paddle that can be broken down into pieces. These are much better for fitting into carry-ons or checked luggage.
If you are going on a big trip, it is crucial that you bite the bullet and get some travel insurance. You never know what can happen, especially when you are engaging in extreme sports away from home. Look into policies that will cover anything from medical attention to lost gear. It definitely can not hurt, and you will not have to worry in the event of an emergency.
It never hurts to be overly prepared. Consider bringing more of the following just in case something gets lost, stolen, or broken along the way:
- Equipment or tools (i.e. fin key, tape, etc.)
- Cables or tie downs (for packing or securing your board for transport)
- Money (including local currency)*** This is a must. You never know when you need to throw a little extra money on an unpleasant situation, especially when you travel outside of your home country.
The most important thing to remember when you are traveling with you SUP is this: research, relax, and have fun! As long as you educate yourself, you will be good to go! This includes looking into the culture of exotic destinations and specific requirement of the transportation service you choose. It is doubly important if you are planning a journey with multiple companions. They’re relying on you to plan this amazing trip! If you do your homework, your trip will be well worth all of the planning and hard work. Good luck, and get going on your adventure!