How To Pack Your Board Bag

Because there's nothing worse than damaging boards in transit

| posted on February 07, 2012

Always remember to look both ways before packing your board bag in the street. Photo: Lowe-White

There are a number of things that can go wrong on a surf trip: dysentery, flat spells, staph infections—the list goes on. But there’s nothing more disheartening than opening up your board bag upon arrival only to find that your boards have fallen victim to baggage handler malpractice. With the sadistic approach the airlines take to transporting your boards, you’ll need every tool at your disposal to ensure that they arrive safely and in one piece. Here are five tips on how to pack your board bag.

The most ingenious inventions are often the most simple. Before you begin packing your board bag, head down to your local hardware store to pick up some foam tubing. Grab a few feet more than the length of the boards you’re packing. With a razor blade, cut down the middle from the bottom of the tubing towards the top, stopping a few inches before you get to the top. Take the tubing and secure the uncut end to the nose of your board and grip the open two ends to the rails of your board. The rails of your board can now stand up against just about anything the airlines throw at them.

Always stack your boards correctly. Your bigger boards should always go on the bottom (wax side up), and your smaller boards on top. Always keep the rocker in unison and the boards facing the same way.

If you’re packing a board with glass-on fins, you can approach protecting them in two ways: you can either pack them individually, wrapping each fin in two or more layers of bubble tape, or you can buy a foam fin box. If you’re packing a board with removable fins, remove them.

Always strap your boards together. Most good bags will come with straps, but if they don’t, you can always use a couple of leashes instead. When you’re stacking your boards, ensure that you use a towel between the deck and bottom to protect yourself from waxing the bottom of the boards. Keeping your boards strapped together will not only lessen your chance of picking up a ding while your boards are in transit, but it can throw off the prying eyes of a ticketing agent, making it look like your traveling with less than an entire quiver.

For an extra layer of padding, evenly distribute assorted soft gear throughout the bag. Pillows wrapped abound the nose and tail work wonders. Westuits and towels placed along the decks not only add an additional layer of padding, but it’ll also save you a bundle of money by not having to check another bag. Throwing boardshorts and T-shirts into the mix never hurt either.

What are your tips for packing a boardbag? Leave your answer in the comments section below.

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  • WaterWays Travel

    Another important thing to remember before packing your travel board bag is to remove all old wax from your boards, this will save you from a mess of melting wax in your bag, especially when traveling to tropical destinations!

  • Wyatt

    Also, don’t pack your boards with any giant, jagged rocks and never put a “Please Destroy Contents” sticker on the bag. Learn these and other secrets to surf travel in my new book, “Super Obvious Tips for Your Next Surfari,” coming this spring from the Duh Publishing Group.

  • Scott

    If sending a California-made board to Hawaii, send it in a Hawaii based surf shop board bag or non-descript ( no CA logo) bag. Bag handlers at Honolulu don’t like haole boards.

  • Chad

    Pipe insulation purchased at your local hardware store does wonders for rail protection. Put it on with cellophane wrap so you don’t get tape residue all over everything and so that you can reuse the insulation. Don’t forget to pack the cellophane for the return trip.

  • Ali

    The foam along the rails is a fantastic idea! Chuck everything and everything (soft) into the bag, then you don’t need a suitcase.

  • William

    And what about SOMA airbag? I’ve heard that is an incredible surfbag for avoid all these fuckin’ problems! is this true?

  • paraisotaka

    I would make the surfboard bag as light as possible. The harder they carry the board bag, rougher they treat.

  • Juiced

    I usually use a layer of cardboard inside my double boardbag. On top, on the bottom, and around on the sides. Has a great shock absorption if needed.
    Like the foam idea, think my boardbag is too snug (or boards too wide) to make that fit.

    Have the SOMA bag, great concept but it’s huge. Also, without inflating there is hardly any protection at all. Stopped using it for destinations where I’m taking local transport as it will be too much a hassle to have such a bulky thing with you.

  • Mikester

    Use kitchen plastic wrap to secure padding to prevent the padding from slipping away and exposing you board.

  • joe

    continental airlines suck! do not fly with them

  • anaru

    Save your back, get a coffin with wheels…roll your clothing to pack the nose and tail … you even look like you give a*#@! when you put it on without the wrinklies

  • Matty

    What about those hard plastic cases/coffins I’ve seen Koloe Andino using? I’ve never seen them for sale but they look like the shit for sending multiple boards.

  • Mike

    inexpensive pipe insulation (home depot) works great around rails. Just slice the insulation and they form right around the rails. Magic.

  • thanks chad

    Cellophane…genius. I made the mistake of using electrical tape once, terrible idea, was scraping black goo off my boards for days.

  • wavtraveler

    If you have the room, those foam pool noodles work great on the rails.

  • JOsh

    Soma bags are a great concept but unfortunately suck. Mine sprung leak after leak as fast as i could patch them a new one would come. Because each tube wasn’t independent a single pin hole would deflate the thing. So you wind up down in costa rica with a fully deflated bag offering zero protection for your return trip. Plus in my situation both the zippers broke. My bag came out completely opened up with my stuff everywhere. I saw my Spanish flash cards all over the Tarmac. So with all the holes in the bag and a bag that wouldn’t zip up I called soma and emailed them. No response… None. Soma bags are a great concept but do not work.

  • randy

    this is good info thanks!

  • Brenda Dorsey

    Bubble wrap

  • Mentawais Bound

    Make sure the airlines DON’T plaster Fragile stickers all over your bags, especially in Indo when they consider that an invitation to use your quiver as a trampoline.

    • Ben

      My board bag came with a massive ‘fragile – top load only’ sticker as part of the bag, should I be worried?

  • Peter

    My biggest concern has always been a crushed rail not a broken nose or tail. For that I usually pack with pipe insulation. Wetsuits and towels work for the area where needed but I try to avoid the extra weight and excess charges.

  • Semper

    When at the hardware store pick up foam insulation and cut it to outline of large board on bottom and top If to thick to squeeze in boards use yoga mats

  • Zron

    Before the flight, a little pray won’t harm 🙂

  • Bobby

    Am I the only one that is confused why the only surfboard travel solution on the whole planet is a bag? Boards should NOT be put into BAGS. You all should check out the Adventurer case made by Nautilus Surf, then Surfer Mag wouldn’t have to waste their time writing about ways to protect surfboards while traveling.

    • JA

      Must be nice Bobby money bags. 😉

    • slim

      Haha, yeah why carry a 7kg board + bag when you can lug a huge coffin around. good one Bobby Bouche!!

  • Nico

    Or try using a biodegradable, recycled, and user friendly product made by BAST Surf. The product is great for protecting your rails and is reusable for many future trips. It was originally created by a surfer for the future generation of surfers in an Eco-friendly way. Give it a go.

  • Kevin Costner

    Besides tip #1 – no shit?

  • Shreddie

    I have traveled with glass on fins with great success. Cut a dowel or broom stick to fit in between the side fins and tape in place. Or if your in a jam, or traveling in a truck roll up your wet suit like a log to wedge in between fins. This help give them more lateral stability. Its not fool proof but it helps.

  • Thomas Walton

    Nice sort of information provided here, every one should know the exact process to

    Pack the Board Bag.