Are you going on a big surf trip soon and you can’t decide whether to take your surf board or rent one when you get there? We’ve weighed up all the options and explored the pros and cons of each one so you can get back to the important questions like “how many pairs of boardshorts should I take?”You’ve got three weeks of warm, mellow waves and sunshine to look forward to. Everything’s pretty much sorted, but you can’t decide what to do about a surf board. You’re terrified about taking your board with you – you’ve heard what those baggage handlers do to surfboards.
Then there’s airline charges, anything from £30 ($50) to £200 ($300) each way. “Each way??!” You could buy a whole new surfboard for that! So renting a board when you get there might be better.
But you’re not sure what sort of boards you’ll be able to get in the remote town you’re going to, what if they’ve only got rubbish foam boards, or tiny short boards? What if you get there and you surf terribly because you can’t find a decent board?
And so it goes round and round.
So how do you decide whether to take your board with you? We’ve listed the pros and cons of taking your board with you vs renting one when you get there, plus a great third option that most people don’t consider.
Things to think about…
Most airlines will charge you a hefty fee for taking your surfboard. Short haul flights are usually cheaper than long haul but it depends on who you’re flying with (we love Virgin and Sri Lankan Air who let you fly with one board for free!). Surfline keeps a pretty updated list of airlines and their charges and terms of carriage but always double check direct with the airline because they change it so much. Excess Baggage embargoes mean airlines won’t take your surfboard at all, even for a fee, usually during busy holiday times, so check your dates because it might not even be an option.
You’ll also need to weigh up the cost of paying to take your board vs how much it will cost to get a surfboard when you’re there – sometimes it’s about the same, but other times there can be a huge difference.
Where are you going?
If you’re going somewhere with a lot of surfers there will likely be a lot of surfboards there (although that’s not always the case!). If you’re heading somewhere quieter there is likely to be much less choice, which brings us to…
What sort of board do you want to ride when you get there?
If you currently surf something pretty standard or you’re not too fussed what you ride, then you’ll easily be able to find something to surf in most places. If you have an unusual board or one you know it will be perfect for your fitness and the waves you’ll be surfing, it might be a bit trickier.
Option 1: Take your board
- You’ll be comfortable on the board
- You won’t have to search to find a board when you get there
- You can get straight in the water (yay!)
- It might be expensive to get it there
- It might get damaged
- You have to carry it around with you. With a backpack and rucksack, having a board bag as well can be a nightmare on buses, even worse in taxis and walking round town trying to find somewhere to stay
A note on airline damage
Airlines are notorious for destroying surf boards. We’ve all heard the horror stories but is it really as bad as that? Some people I know have travelled loads with their boards and never had any problems, some people took their board once and will never do it again after they baggage handlers dropped it/stood on it/snapped off the nose/used it as a battering ram…
Personally, I’ve taken three trips with a surf board and each time I’ve packed it up really well and the board has emerged unharmed. It’s a bit ridiculous when you have to unpack it at the other end, and annoying if you have to carry round all the packing materials so you can get it back home again. But if you’re staying in one place or only going one way, then it’s fine.
A coffin case is another option as the hard sides take the brunt of any damage, but they’re not cheap to buy, and not 100% guaranteed to keep your board safe anyway.
If you’re precious about your board, or it’s brand new, maybe it’s best not to take it. But remember there’s also just as much chance that you’ll ding your board yourself when you’re there, or even when you’re at home, whether that’s getting it on and off of cars and buses, riding it over rocks you didn’t know were there, letting it blow down the beach, leaving it outside Woolworths standing on it’s end and then it gets blown over and lands on a trolley… or all manner of daft things. And yes these are all things I’ve done to my surfboards whilst travelling!
Option 2: Rent a board when you’re there
Sometimes for the cost of taking your board, you could actually rent a board the whole time for the same amount or less, and you don’t have to risk damaging your board
- You don’t have to pay to take your board or worry about damage
- You don’t have to carry your board around with you all the time – see above
- You can easily change the board whenever you like, so as your fitness improves or the waves change, you can get the right board for the conditions
- You only pay for the days you actually surf – great if you’re going to be spending a lot of time travelling or doing other activities.
- You have to find a surf shop that has a board you want when you get there
- You might not be able to get the board you want
- If you’re going for longer it could work out quite expensive
- If you’re travelling around a lot, you have to find a rental shop with a decent board in every new place
Option 3: Buy a board when you’re there
Now, this one doesn’t come up as much as it should, which is a shame because I think it’s a great idea, especially if you’re going for longer than a couple of weeks. I bought a board in El Salvador at the start of my last trip for $100. I surfed it for four weeks straight so it was way cheaper than either paying the $200 to get my board there and back, or renting a board the whole time.
Tip: You can save money by bringing a set of fins (don’t forget your fin key) and a leash with you from home as they’re small to carry and can save you a chunk of money. For example in Bocas Del Toro in Panama, a set of fins or a leash cost upwards of $50!
- No worries about paying to get your board there or it being damaged
- You only have to find a board once at the start of your trip
- You can sell the board when you come home again and get back some or all of your money
- Or you can give it away to a local surf charity of a young local surfer and spread some surfing joy!
- It’s not always easy to find the board you want
- If you have to sell the board when you leave, and you’re tight on time or in a quiet spot, you might not get the price you want
- You still have to carry it around with you if you’re travelling around – not ideal if it didn’t come with a bag!
If flexibility is the most important aspect then renting a board might be the way to go.
If you have a unusual board or one that you are particularly comfortable on, and it’s not too expensive to take it with you then taking your own board is probably a good idea.
Finally, if airline fees are really expensive, or there’s an embargo, and you’re fairly relaxed about what sort of board you take, then buying one could be a great option
For me it’s always been a battle between cost and how much I love my board. But then if it’s going to cost you the same as your actual board did just to get it on the plane, you may as well just buy a new one when you get there and not risk the damage.
What’s your experience of travelling with your surfboard? Tell us in the comments below…