The case for not traveling with a surfboard

Traveling with surfboards is no easy task. It’s expensive, a pain in the ass lugging them around, and the odds are pretty high that they’re going to get damaged — especially when the airlines toss them around like this.

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So what’s a traveling surfer to do? Most major American airlines charge upwards of $100 one way, and sometimes even per board (check out this handy chart). If you’re traveling roundtrip, that’s a good percentage of a new board that you could just buy and then keep there — if it’s somewhere to which you regularly travel.

On a recent work trip to Southern California I decided to leave my trusty 5’8″ J.S. Revolution at home. Yes, it’s tough rolling the dice on finding a board you’ll feel good on when there’s swell on tap, but I rolled them anyway.

For somewhere you travel to on a regular basis (or maybe not), you have four options to help you avoid those boardbag headaches. This guide is based on how to do so in Southern California, but if you do your research ahead of time, most of these tips can be of service to you anytime you travel.

1. Buy a board to keep there

Just a portion of the used surfboard rack at Surfride in Oceanside, California. Photo: Courtesy of Surfride

Just a portion of the used surfboard rack at Surfride in Oceanside, California. Photo: Courtesy of Surfride

If you’ve got the coin to spend on a new board, by all means go for it. But if you’re a bit more frugal, consider buying a used surfboard and keeping it with a friend or even in a super small, cheap storage unit. Craigslist is an underutilized option, and you can really find some gems on there.

Shops like Surfride in Oceanside and Solana Beach pride themselves on their used board selection, and I can attest to finding some diamonds in the rough there. Just make sure you brush up on the complete guide to buying a used surfboard first.

2. Demo a board from a surfboard manufacturer

The Super Vapors GT that I got to demo out. Photo: Ryan Brower

The Super Vapors GT that I got to demo out. Photo: Ryan Brower

Tons of surfboard manufacturers have a good array of their shapes for customers to demo these days. Thanks to my good buddy Justin Coté at Superbrand, I tried out a 5’6″ x 19 1/4″ x 2 3/16″ Vapors GT model while I was out there. It fit me like a glove and Super did a great job picking it for me.

The Vapors GT had plenty of volume for some mushy North County San Diego reefs, and sped through flat spots but still allowed me to put it on rail when the sections presented themselves. Odds are, most manufacturers will have a demo program — Super’s is by far one of the better ones.

3. You can do better than “renting” one

If you're a member you've got your pick of the litter, plus a bunch of bigger boards in the garage. Photo: Ryan Brower

If you’re a member, you’ve got your pick of this litter, plus a bunch of bigger boards in the garage. Photo: Ryan Brower

The Board Club in Newport Beach is a brand new concept which offers the ultimate quiver for members.

An Australian-style surf club, it has way more benefits than just boards: free parking, showers, BBQs and a place to hang out and watch all the WSL contests. But over 100 new surfboards you can check out for three weeks at a time is worth the $80/month price alone.

There are a few other new businesses that focus strictly on surfboards, too. Concept Surf Shop in Encinitas, the Surf Society in San Diego, and most surf shops have some form of board rental programs.

4. Borrow one from a friend

Presumably, you have friends where you travel to on a regular basis. Hopefully, those friends surf and ride similar boards to what you ride. Remember: Sharing is caring.

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