Surf travel can be rough on your gear. Airline workers, cab drivers, and minibus operators have better things to do than worry about your pintail. If you think you can explain the proper method of attaching a board to a tuk-tuk in perfect Indonesian, then go for it, but a safer bet is smart packing. The following tips will teach you how to pack a surfboard for air travel.
Buy a good boardbag
A decent boardbag is the first line of defense for your quiver when you fly. Day bags don’t offer much protection and don’t leave much room for packing. Try to find a bag designed specifically for air travel. Remember, surf travel involves more than airplanes, so you’re going to want a bag that can handle falling off the roof of a chicken bus. A sturdy bag that’s several inches longer than your biggest board should do the trick.
Protect your stick
A good bag is important, but it shouldn’t be the only thing between your board and the elements. Cardboard and bubble wrap are your friends. Ideally, you want two long strips of cardboard to line the rails of your board, and then blocks of cardboard to protect the nose and tail. To protect the nose, fold a large piece of cardboard in half, then cut the square into a pentagon that it slightly larger than your board. Wrap the nose in bubble wrap and then duct tape the cardboard pentagon around the nose. Repeat as necessary for the tail. If you want to bring extra reading material, wedge a small book between the tail of your board and the bottom of the bag. This protects the board and saves space in your backpack.
Many surf trip necessities can double as insulation for your boards. After you secure the cardboard to the rails, line excess boardbag space with towels, boardshorts, rashguards, and wetsuits. Keep hard items in your backpack and use all your soft items to protect your boards.
Unless you’re on the world tour, you really don’t ever need more than two boards when you travel. Bringing more than two boards is expensive and cumbersome. Make sure to pack one everyday board suited to the most common surf conditions at your destination, then pack one bigger board for more serious swells. Depending on your ability and destination, you may be able to get away with one board. Remember, unless you’re really going off the grid, you can probably find a used board if you need one.
Leave something behind
Most people plan to bring a few things home when they travel. That’s fine, but you might consider planning on leaving a few things behind as well. Many stellar surf destinations are situated in some of the poorest countries on earth. The locals have been gracious enough to share their natural surf resources with travelers. Return the favor by leaving behind some gear and sharing the stoke. Boardshorts, t-shirts, leashes, fins, and old boards go a long way.