Travelling with a SUP – Part One

Over the years, I have only ever had one really bad experience with damaged SUPs. Ever since then, I have luckily managed to escape any other major damage (touch wood). Maybe the baggage handlers are treating luggage better, or maybe technology has come a long way and board bags are more durable? Either way, taking the time to prepare & carefully pack your kit, as well as considering the airport logistics, will help ensure your hard/inflatable SUP not only arrives in one piece, but that your whole travelling with a SUP experience is as stress free as possible.

“There is nothing worse than sitting in the window seat in full view of the baggage handlers, seeing your prized possession catapulted across the ground. You can just about hear the thud through the thick plexiglass windows!”

Part 1 – Preparation (preparing your gear for travel)

Hard Boards:

  • Removing all wax (if you have any) is the key to ensuring you wax up using the right wax at your destination. It also saves you from cleaning up a wax melted mess on the first day of your holiday!

  • Remove your fins and pack them in a fin wallet, or in the inside pocket of your board bag.

  • Remember to also remove or unscrew any air vents you might have in your board. This is so important and necessary. If you are unsure how to remove them, consult the manufacturer or your local dealer for advice. Once you have removed the vents, place them somewhere very safe so you can re-insert them when you head out for your first surf. I like to put them with my fins, tape it onto the board next to the valve, or even write a big note and stick it on my board to remind me!

  • Remove and check your leash for damage. You want to make sure your equipment is in good order.

  • Check your paddle for damage.

  • Have your board bag ready for packing.

  • Before packing, I lay everything out in front of me to see if there might be anything missing. I have my little list of the important things to take; board, leashes, leash string, fins, paddles, wax, wax comb, fin keys, repair putty, etc.

  • Driving to the airport when it’s raining with board bags strapped to the roof will add extra weight to your luggage. Check the weather on the day you are travelling to the airport and if there is rain in the forecast, try to wrap your board bags in big bin bags (you can reuse these for wet clothes and laundry on your holiday!)

  • Remember to write your name and contact details on your gear.

Inflatable SUPs:

  • Make sure your board is washed, dried and clean to travel with. This prevents bacteria and mould from building up.
  • Inflate your paddle board to check for any leaks and make sure to patch up any signs of damage. Use your patch kit that came with the SUP.
  • Make sure that you have a suitable travel bag that your SUP will fit into.
  • Remember to check your pump, hose, leash and paddle for damage as well before packing these items.
  • A 3-piece paddle will fit nicely in an inflatable SUP bag. Travelling with a fixed length paddle will count as a second piece of check-in luggage!


If you don’t already own a board bag, it is important to find one that suits your preferences. Take in to account the boards you are travelling with, their length and width (also thickness if you want to squeeze an extra board in the bag), the airline’s restrictions on baggage size and weight, how you think you will manoeuvre the boards through the airport (handles, handles, handles!) and also if you would prefer wheels on the bag or not (remember board bags with wheels already have a lot of weight).

Hard Boards:

  • Buy a board bag that has 10mm minimum padding.
  • Always try to source some spare SUP/board dividers to protect the bottom of your boards when packing.
  • Outside pockets on the bag can be great, however they are a trap for you to pack more which increases the weight. They also get caught on random things at the airport.
  • Inside pockets are fantastic! Pack your wax, fins and any other small items you can fit in.
  • Handles are my best friend. I like to have handles on the nose, tail and rails of the board bag for easy manoeuvring through airports.

Inflatable SUPs:

Does the bag that came with the SUP look sturdy, durable and can be easily carried? If not, it might be time to invest in a good travel bag for your inflatable SUP.

  • Some bags come with wheels to make transporting your SUP easier. Remember that if you are limited for weight on the airline, having wheels will increase this weight.
  • A good bag will have space for your board, pump, leash, fin, paddle and even some clothes!
  • Most bags come with backpack straps that make carrying those SUPs around the airport and to the water at your destination much easier.
“When I travel with inflatable SUPs, I use a durable bag that has both wheels and a backpack option.

For my hard boards, I travel with a coffin board bag that has wheels. I can fit 2 SUPs and a shortboard in there and I like the ease of wheeling the board bag along. Plus you can stack your suitcase on top of it and wheel that along as well giving you a free hand!”

Written by Beau Nixon

As featured on SUPboarder Magazine

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