Tips for Traveling With Inflatable SUP

Stand up paddle boarding is a diverse sport and activity that can be done on many different bodies of water; including the ocean, bays, lakes, reservoirs, and even rivers.  With so many options to choose from, paddle boarders need to be able to efficiently pack and carry their boards with them wherever they go, and however they get there.  Below are some of the different ways you can travel with your inflatable SUP.

Strapping SUP on top of car

Chances are you have some quality bodies of water for paddle boarding within a reasonable driving distance.  Many paddle boarders leave their board inflated when taking their board by car. If you don’t have a roof rack, you can easily strap your board to the top of your vehicle and avoid needing to re-inflate it upon arrival to your destination.

One option is to purchase ratchet straps to secure your board to your car.  You’ll likely want to get straps anywhere from 10-16’ in length, giving you the flexibility to be able to tie down more than one board at a time (better to have too much length than too little).  To tie down your board you’ll need two straps, one for the front end and another for the back end.  It’s also important to get two large pieces of foam to put at the front and back of the board to ensure the board doesn’t have direct contact with the top of your car.  Here is a video showing how to strap a surfboard to a car using this method:

Stowing your stand up paddle board in trunk

If you’re taking your inflatable SUP long distances in your car, it may be in your best interest to deflate it and put it in your trunk if you have the space to do so.  Going this route is slightly less convenient once you get to the water, but it’s safer than traveling with it on your roof and you avoid the potential risk of someone trying to steal it when you stop to get gas, to eat, etc.

Traveling by bike

Let’s say you live close enough to a body of water that you want the extra exercise and take your bicycle.  With a solid SUP, you’re probably out of luck when it comes to carrying it with you on your bike.  An inflatable SUP is another story, however.  Using a small bicycle trailer, you’ll be able to easily carry it behind you as you ride; inflatable SUPs are extremely light weight.  If you ride a motorcycle you can do the same thing, although motorcycle trailers are a little less common.

Carrying SUP as a backpack

Depending on the type of inflatable SUP you own and your own strength, you may or may not be able to easily carry it on your back.  Taking your inflatable SUP as a backpack allows you to access more remote bodies of water that would otherwise be difficult to get a paddle board to.  Whether it be a lake or reservoir hidden in a mountain, or a beach with no nearby road access – backpacking with your SUP allows you to do what few can or are willing to do.  There are many inflatable SUPs that include a backpack carry bag, making it extremely convenient for the owners.  Inflatable SUP bags generally hold everything you need – the pump, board, repair kit, and even your collapsible paddle.

Taking your SUP on an airplane

Not only are inflatable SUPs more convenient to store in your car, but they are far easier to take on airplanes due to their compact nature.  If you’re planning a vacation and taking your inflatable SUP with you on the plane, there are some thing you’ll want to consider.  Here are some tips to taking your SUP airborne:

Baggage Limits

The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you completely understand both the weight restrictions and baggage size guidelines for the airline you are flying with.  Many airlines have a weight limit of 50 pounds per checked bag.  Some airlines vary from this, so you’ll want to double check and confirm the specific requirements to avoid being blindsided once you are at the baggage counter at the airport.  Also ensure you fully understand the height and length bag dimensions the airline uses.  If your SUP bag is too big, you can get create and spread out your gear in a couple different bags to adhere to the airline’s baggage requirements and avoid additional fees.

Protect Your Gear

Even if your inflatable SUP bag fits the weight and dimension requirements, you may want to consider separating some of the gear anyway to give them added protection.  Your pump is likely able to be disassembled, letting the pump, hose, and gauge to all be packed individually.  Packing them separately allows you to wrap each piece in a softer item to give it additional padding.  We also suggest keeping any small parts in a plastic bag to keep everything organized.  Your SUP fins are also easy to stow away in a separate bag, either lining the side of the bag surrounding other items or laid on the bottom of the bag.

Lastly, your paddle will be most protected if you pack it inside your suitcase and wrap it in soft items like the different pieces of your pump.  Give yourself a practice run and try packing all the different pieces of your SUP gear to see what is easiest and most protective of your gear.

Research Your Destination

If you are flying out to try someplace new, make sure you completely understand the rules and regulations to avoid any surprises when you get there.  Some bodies of water require all paddle boarders to wear specific gear, such as life jackets, helmets, etc., while some locations only have those requirements for children or even not at all.  Take a few minutes and review all the details so you’re prepared and ready to go with no hiccups.

General tips

If you prefer to keep your SUP inflated between trips to the water, just make sure you always check the air pressure before you go out to ensure it’s properly filled.  Giving your SUP proper care will make it last a very long time and help you avoid needing to purchase new parts or replace your SUP altogether.  Your inflatable SUP is extremely versatile, and as long as you keep both it and yourself in decent shape you’ll be able to take it with you everywhere, no matter how remote your adventure ends up being.  
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