You may have done your initial paddles close to home, but it’s not long before most paddleboard enthusiasts find that they want to paddle in far-off locales, too. It might seem impossible, but you can actually take your paddleboard with you when you travel, as long as you know what you’re doing!
Traveling with an Inflatable Board
Inflatable boards are, hands down, the best kind of board for traveling. They pack up into a relatively small space and they are hard to damage, even if they get banged around or tossed carelessly into a hold. Unless someone stabs your paddleboard bag with a knife, your inflatable board should get to your destination without any problems.
The only thing you need to transport your paddleboard safely is a solid bag for it. This bag should cover the entire board, without any mesh openings. While these can allow a board to dry better, they can also make it easier to damage the board during travel.
Make sure that you are comfortable carrying your board in its bag for longish distances. Most bags have handles, while some will also come with backpack straps or a shoulder strap to make transportation easier.
Do roll up your paddle and your pump inside your board if at all possible. This keeps all of your gear together and it also provides the most protection possible for these more fragile items. If you have a bag for your paddle, put it in that before you place it in your travel bag.
Depending on the airline you’re flying, you may have to pay to check your paddleboard. Do your best to pass it off as a regular piece of baggage, so you don’t incur special fees, too. You may be tempted to try and bring it as a carryon, but most boards are too big for that — even when all rolled up — and require gate checking anyway.
Traveling with a Hardboard
Traveling with a hard paddleboard is more difficult, but definitely not impossible. Some hardboard owners choose to rent boards at their final destination rather than trying to transport them, but that’s not always a good option, either.
If you decide to take your hardboard on a flight with you, make sure it’s under 9’6″, or within just a few inches of that. That seems to be a standard size allowance, though no one is likely to jump out at you with a tape measure. Just don’t push it too far, and you should be okay.
Do make sure that you have a board bag designed for transporting a hardboard on an airplane. These will have ample room for everything you need to bring and some will provide extra protection in certain areas, too. This can mean the difference between finding a damaged board when you get off the plane and having your board remain intact. Most of the boards come with pockets for your paddle and other gear, and some even have wheels for MUCH easier transportation.
Remove any fins and wax from the board before you travel. Your fins will attract damage like crazy if you leave them on the board. Water temperature is likely to be different in your destination anyway, so you will have to use different wax no matter what. Wax tends to melt during transportation, which makes a mess in your bag, too.
Reinforce padding at both ends of the board and at the widest points. If you want to get more bang for your buck and you can do it unobtrusively, stuff some of your clothes into bags and use these as padding. If you want even more padding, you can wrap the entire board, or just these sensitive spots, in bubble wrap before you pack it. Just make sure that it will still fit in your bag!
Cinch everything together with bungee cords or cargo straps before you close your bag. This will help make your board look smaller, which can mean lower costs at the check-in desk. Speaking of costs, look at baggage policies before you go so you know how much you can expect to pay to transport your board. (You will almost always have to pay to transport a hardboard, unless you get a newbie desk agent when you check-in!) You may even want to take a copy of the policy with you, in case someone tries to charge you too much!
You’ll need to think about ground transportation once you arrive at your destination, too, since you can’t fit a hardboard in many rental cars or Ubers. You may want to rent an SUV with a roof rack or look into a U-Haul truck. Sure, you might look funny in a truck, but it can be the best deal around, especially if you are traveling with several boards. Many airport hotels also have large shuttles available, and these can almost always accommodate your board.
It may be a challenge to get your board to your travel destination, but you’ll have a blast once you’re there. Once they figure out how to do it, most avid paddleboarder enthusiasts find that they take their boards with them wherever they go!