How to Travel With a Surfboard


©istockphoto/Leonardo PatriziSome of the best waves are halfway across the world, but getting your board to them is no easy matter. Airlines charge ridiculous fees and you have to make sure your board is protected during the flight. Follow these tips and the next time you have to fly your board overseas to catch a big wave will be a breeze.

Is There a Fee?
Each airline sets its own fees pertaining to surfboards, so you’ll have to check their website or call ahead to know how much you’ll be paying. Some charge as little as $40 flat per board, while others charge $200. You might get tagged with taxes in each country you fly out of as well, so you have to do your research or flying your board might cost more than the price of your ticket.

Are There Dimension Limits?
Surfboards take up a lot of space and airlines are within their rights to limit how many they allow on board the cargo area. The size of your board will also affect the fee you’ll have to pay. Some airlines won’t allow long boards outright, while others will limit how many you can travel with.

Pack it Properly
You’re probably going to have to sign a waiver—the airlines aren’t interested in covering any damage to your board. To avoid breaks and bends, you’ll need to be extra careful when packing for the flight. Consider removing the fins if possible.

Line the inside of the bag with bubble wrap (or wrap your board entirely) or towels to cushion it on all sides. The nose, tails and rails are most susceptible to damage, so definitely throw enough bubble wrap around them to make them snug enough in the bag that they won’t be able to move around during the flight.

Protect Your Surfboard
Aside from wrapping your board, you need to secure it so no one can peek inside and mess with the contents of your bag. Find a lock or good bag protector that wraps around so no one can get inside. Put your name somewhere on a tag on the outside so you can identify your board, just in case someone manages to hop on the same plane with the same bag. It happens.

Buy the Right Bag
Don’t hop on an airplane with a cheap board bag you found at Wal-Mart. Invest in a high-quality bag with lining and other designs that’ll protect your board. Don’t settle for something thin that’s likely to rip at the slightest provocation just to save a few bucks.

Arrive Early
Boards are a pain in the butt to drag through the airport and they sometimes present a hassle at check-in. Don’t wait until the last minute. You want to find out about any problems ahead of time so you can make adjustments if needed. Arrive for your flight a few hours early to give you time to check in and make sure they’re storing your board properly and can answer any questions you have.

Be Nice to Staff
Above all, be nice to the airline staff. Once that board goes through their little conveyor belt, you’ve no choice but to trust them to take proper care of it. Slap on a smile and a friendly attitude and don’t tick them off. You wouldn’t want to arrive at your destination to find a fin just so happened to break off in transit.