Baggage Fee Mutiny
Alternatives to paying ever-increasing surfboard baggage fees when traveling
As the airline industry spirals into economic nosedive, fees for almost anything oversize have gotten worse. Even golfers, long coddled by the airlines, have to pay to get their putters handled. Checking a damn duffel bag can now cost you $25 each way for a carry-on!
Of course, surfboards continue to be the worst. Continental will gouge you $200 round trip for a domestic flight. US Airways will demand $400 to fly two seven-pound thrusters and will do little more than throw you a drink ticket if they crush your rail. It kind of feels like prison sex: just bend over and take it or surf your local beachbreak forever.
But there's a growing trend among surfers to start keeping boards or quivers at repeat destinations. Like many other pros, CJ Hobgood stores his guns in Hawaii and Tahiti. "Cali is a little different as I have a lot of boards there but mainly because I'm always going in and out of LAX," he says.
But this doesn't have to be purely a pro deal. With a little legwork you can start buying sticks at your favorite haunts and save cash. Surf shops all over the world have racks and racks of used boards. You can also scour the Craigslist page of wherever you're going before you leave. Places like Hawaii, Australia, and Puerto Rico see so much surf traffic that already ridden sticks are plentiful and affordable.
The point is, why give $300 to the airlines when you can spend it at a surf shop? Why support the corporation that has discriminated against us for so long when you can help put food on the table of a local surf family?
It also makes great sense as local shapers tend to make the best boards for the waves in their region—there's a reason half the World Tour orders …Lost surfboards from Matt Biolos for the Trestles comp. As well, your Dumpster Diver is going to be pretty much the same as the one on a rack at the Coolangatta Board Store.
Especially at places the tour goes, pros are constantly ditching near-new boards. The only caveat is they tend to have their boards glassed ultralight, though that might work out fine if it's not an everyday board.
Shaper Maurice Agnello owns Used Surf in San Clemente, California, with some 85 to 90 used boards in stock, all cataloged on usedsurf.com. "I get a lot of guys who come in for three weeks. They buy a board from me for say $250. Then I offer to buy it back for $100 when they leave. They're stoked, and I make a little money. It's a win-win," he explains.
Your next mission is to find a place to stash said sled. If you like one particular hotel or cabina, see if they'll store it in the luggage check. Better yet, if it's a place you hit on the regular, ask a buddy to host your foam until your next visit. Of course, you run the risk of him sneaking a session on it, but consider that an economical storage fee.
Through this practice, I've now got a quad in Southern California, a 5'10" and 6'3" pin on Oahu, and a log in the Caribbean. So long as none of my storage buddies develops a crank habit, I can save about $600 a year. Even better, the money I'm spending is supporting great surf shops instead of a greedy airline.—Jon Coen