President JFK once famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” And when it comes to packing for a surf trip, I say, “Ask not how much you can cram into your board bag; ask what you actually need.”
Both messages couldn’t ring truer, but indeed it is hard to slim down that 7-foot by 4-foot bag of fiberglass and fin keys. The thing is, once you do whittle the bag down, you’re more mobile, stress-free at ticket counters and on your way to having an easier surf trip.
Heed the following advice. (In the meantime, find a sturdy carry-on bag for the knickknacks.)
Writers have a saying about editing: “Kill your darlings.” It means to delete unnecessary words. The same can be said for the amount and size of surfboards you bring on a trip. Because unless you’re on the Championship Tour, there’s absolutely no reason to bring more than three boards.
Two strong boards is actually a better number. (You’ll thank yourself when lugging them around.) Also, don’t bring a huge gun for the one day it might get big enough to use one. Unless you’re specifically going for an XXL swell, a step-up will always do.
Keep it light
Spread the wealth — as in, “don’t throw everything into your board bag.” It’s a common misconception among traveling surfers that you’re supposed to load up that thing, but it only makes weigh-ins at the ticket counter more stressful and leaves you more prone to getting nailed for excess weight. Make the bag as light as possible.
Bulk up the carry-on
Where’s your weight coming from? Most likely, it’s smaller (but heavier) items that can all fit in a TSA-legal carry-on bag. Things like fins, batteries, electronics, laptops, cameras, books/magazines, etc. — put all of that in a carry-on. Typically, they aren’t weighed like checked bags.
Trade towels for bubble wrap
Towels are great and all, but they can get wet and become heavy AF. Instead of packing your boards with towels and jeans, use super-light bubble wrap.
Get some lighter boards
The technology is out there, plus they’re usually stronger, so why not? Epoxy, polystyrene, carbon wraps and FutureFlex: All of these new, progressive board materials and constructions will make your board bag slimmer.