Are you planning a surf trip soon and wondering whether it makes sense to fly with your board or just rent one when you get there? Or have you already decided to bring your board and are now wondering how best to take it with you? If so, here are some great tips about how to pack your surfboard for travel.
Did you know that some airlines let you fly with your surfboard for free? We personally know that Singapore Airlines and United (going to and from California) allow surfboards to be checked for free. I have flown my boards with both Singapore and United several times and have had great experiences. There may also be several other airlines offering free checked board bags, but this is regularly changing.
Additionally, in many cheaper parts of the world checking your surfboard on domestic flights is very affordable. In our experience, flying between islands in Indonesia with a checked board usually costs no more than $15 USD. However, be careful to doublecheck these costs and policies before showing up to the airport with your board. We were once forced to pay nearly $300 USD to fly aboard from California to Indonesia on China Southern Airlines.
Aside from the costs of flying your surfboard, you might be hesitant to take your board because you have heard horror stories of airlines breaking boards. However, if you pack your board properly this is very unlikely to happen.
Step 1: Prepare Your Board
The first step is to prepare your board for packing. Most people like to remove all wax because it usually needs to be changed anyway and it can melt and get gross when traveling. To remove your wax, first leave it in the sun for a couple of minutes to get soft, then scrape as much off as you can with the non-comb side of your surf comb, finally to get it really clean, use a product such as the Pickle Wax Remover.
Next, remove your leash and fins. Removing the fins is critical because they are likely to get damaged if your board bag is thrown or dropped, and even worse, they can get ripped out of your board, causing a lot of damage to the fin boxes.
Step 2: Protect Your Board
Now that your board is all fresh and ready to go, you need to make sure that you protect your board properly. A mistake many people make is to just put their boards directly into their travel bag and hope that they provide enough protection. What you really need to do is to wrap your surfboard in protective layers before putting it into the bag.
The most obvious way to do this is with bubble wrap, however, you can also use other items you will be bringing with you such as towels or a yoga mat. You can also add cardboard around the nose and tail, and pool noodles around the rails. Whatever you use though, just be careful that it does not have hard parts that might themselves damage the board.
Sometimes, we like to put our boards into our day bag (a thinner version of a travel board bag) and then put that inside a travel board bag for added protection. This works nicely because it is easier than wrapping a board in bubble wrap and then we have our day bag’s to use at our destinations.
Step 3: Accessories
Pack your surf accessories separately. As mentioned above, hard or sharp items in your bag will damage your board. So, if you are traveling with extra fins, combs, surfboard leash, etc. make sure you either pack these in a secure pocket that is protected by foam in your board bag, or pack them in your suitcase.
Step 4: Board Bag
You need to make sure you have a travel board bag. While a surfboard sock or canvas surfboard bag are great for local use, they just won’t cut it when flying. The difference between a day bag and a travel bag is the thickness of the foam layer. A day bag may provide 1 to 5 mm of foam, while a travel bag will provide about 10 mm of foam. If you try to fly with a day bag without any extra protection, you board is guaranteed to break. We have once, however, used a day bag to pack a surfboard on a short flight from California to Mexico, along with 200 feet of bubble wrap and a full outline of cardboard, and the board was fine! But we were worried the whole way, so we would absolutely recommend a proper travel bag.
Overall, you don’t need to be too worried about the stories you hear of airlines breaking surfboards or expensive fees. As long as you pack your surfboard properly and confirm baggage fees before you fly, you will probably be okay.
For more surf travel tips, check out 8 Unique Travel Tips for Your Next Surf Trip.
Do you have any extra tips or experiences to share? If so, we’d love to hear below!