7 Hacks to Help Pack Your Board Bag Better

Matt Rode

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Updated 374d ago

Surf travel isn’t always easy. Not only do we have to choose the right place to go (and the right forecast to go on), but we also have to drag a heavy bag full of fibreglass and foam with us wherever we fly. Nothing is worse than showing up to a pumping swell, only to find that your boards got destroyed in transit, or didn’t arrive at all. Fortunately, you can take a few steps before your trip to help lower the chances of your boards getting damaged on your way to your dream surf destination. When packing your board bag, follow these tips to keep things tidy, affordable, and in one piece.

Know the airline’s surfboard baggage policy

Sounds obvious, but different airlines have different rules about traveling with surfboards. Some allow board bags for free, while others charge you exorbitant baggage rates. Some limit the number of boards you can bring, while others let you bring as many as you can fit in the bag (assuming the bag is not overweight). Speaking of weight, most airlines limit you to 50 pounds, but some allow as much as 99. And many airlines also limit the length of the board bag (usually around 9'8", although some go as short as 6'6"). Knowing your baggage allowance will help you to pack properly, so you don’t run into any snags at the airport.

Forecast: Indonesia, Sumatra + Mentawais.

Strip your wax
While it might seem like a nuisance to have to strip your wax before traveling, a board bag full of melted paraffin is infinitely worse. There’s a good chance you will be traveling somewhere warmer or colder than where you normally surf anyway, so you might as well strip your wax before traveling, and start your trip with a fresh coat.

Use board socks and towels to pad your boards
Sure, that fancy board bag of yours might offer some protection from bumps and scrapes—but airlines are notorious for putting boards through the ringer, so any extra padding helps. Board socks are a great way to give your boards a bit of extra protection, plus they provide a buffer between boards that are stacked on top of each other. At the very least, you should aim to sock the top and bottom boards in the stack. If you need to separate middle boards that aren’t in socks, place a towel between them. Since you will need a towel on your trip anyway, you aren’t adding any superfluous weight by doing so.

Alternate board direction

One this way, the other opposite for Reubyn Ash.

One this way, the other opposite for Reubyn Ash.

You’d be amazed at how many boards you can fit into a bag if you pack them correctly. Most mid-sized to large bags can accommodate at least one more board than they are rated for, but you will have to get creative to fit all that foam in there. One way to sneak an extra board in is to alternate the way you stack your boards. Put the first board in tail down, then the next board tail up. The third should be back to tail down, and so on. While this doesn’t make your board stack any shorter or narrower, it does prevent the combined nose rocker from a big, unidirectional stack of boards from pushing up against the top of the board bag, which makes closing the zipper easier.

Pad your rails
If your bag has enough room to accommodate some extra padding, try to protect the rails of your boards, as they often take the brunt of the impact when board bags are thrown around. Wetsuits are a great way to pad your rails, since you have to bring them anyway, so they aren’t dead weight. If you aren’t traveling with wetsuits, try to get some thin, lightweight packing foam to wrap your rails with.

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Utilise your entire weight allowance
Even if you are only bringing two boards that combine for 12 pounds or so, make sure you use the rest of your weight allowance. Not only does this mean not having to pay for other check bags or carry-on luggage, but it also enables you to give your boards extra padding by strategically stuffing your coffin with the clothes you plan to bring on the trip.

Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket

Stuffing your board bags with accessories such as leashes, board shorts, sunscreen, wax, and fins (if you have a side pocket) is a great way to save space in your hand luggage—but make sure you keep at least one of everything with you in your carry-on, just in case your check bags don’t make it. You can usually find someone who will loan or rent you a board, but finding extra accessories can be difficult, so you want to make sure you have the bare essentials in case you show up sans board bag.

Whatever you do, don’t put your boards in one check bag and all of your accessories in another. Your boards don’t do you any good if your fins and leashes are stuck somewhere in a lost duffel bag. Also, make sure to carry your swim fins on with you (if you bring a pair). That way you can always bodysurf if your boards don’t arrive.

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Cover shot by Scene Images.