Surfboards cab be huge. If you are going to the beach with some of your surfing friends you might have multiple surfboards to transport. Unless you or one of your friends owns a pickup truck with a bed that's large enough you will have to strap your surfboards to the roof of your vehicles.
You would not want your surfboards to bounce across the highway or fly off the top car and endangering other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.
Strapping your surfboards to the roof of your vehicle is a vital skill for most surfers to learn. One of the most popular ways to fasten surfboards is to use a soft surfboard rack, good old-fashioned rope, straps, and lockable tie-down straps.
Although there are multiple different options and it can be sometimes difficult to identify the best surfboard car rack, taking your time to learn the best way to securely tie down your surfboards will save you a lot of money and time in the long run.
Below are tips on how to improve your surfboard transportation
Tips for vehicles with roof racks
If you own a surf rack car you can count yourself lucky because the installed surfboard racks can offer a solid foundation for your surfboards.
Before you fasten your surfboards to your roof rack it is vital that it is securely installed in your vehicle. That may sound like a weird tip however there are multiple cases of surfboard car racks detaching and flying off into a ditch.
Bungee cord and ropes
The good old-fashioned bungee cords and ropes. They are easily accessible, and cheap and they work (most of the time).
I use bungee cords and ropes at the beginning of my surfing career. It was in the 90s and the fancy and sometimes expensive straps specifically designed for surfboards were not yet available.
The biggest problem with low-quality ropes is that they either do not tie properly or stretch out, which means there is a lot of added extra length to handle each time you untie and tie your surfboards.
The biggest problem with bungee cords is that they usually stretch. They can also wear out quickly with time and they do not offer the best amount of tension to fasten your surfboards.
I stopped using both bungee cords and ropes several years ago because I purchased multiple bungee cords and ropes of different lengths and I got tired of the hassle.
I think almost 8 years ago I bought a set of FCS straps that were designed for surfboards for 25 dollars, padded with neoprene and cam locks together with a small carrying case. Hands down I think that was the best surfing accessory that I have ever purchased.
They are almost indestructible, and I still own the same exact set today and I frequently use them.
One of my biggest regrets is that I did not purchase them earlier. I always assumed that they were too expensive compared to bungee cords and ropes and I thought there was no need for the benefits of owning a pair of straps specifically designed for surf. I was so wrong.
Surf straps are very effective and simple. Each of the big surfing brands offers consumers a set of straps and there are multiple different locking mechanisms, color combinations and styles.
Surf straps are worth the investment however it is vital to make sure that any of the metal parts of the straps are padded to prevent any damage to your surfboards.
Surfboard car rack pads
Rack pads are fitted on the racks of your vehicle, and they offer padding for your boards. For several years I used to attach foam pipe insulation to my metal round roof racks. You can buy foam pipe insulation at any hardware shop for a few dollars. It was cheap and it also worked.
However, rack pads have been specifically designed for surfboards and they offer noticeable more padding and protection. They are available in multiple colors, and you can add your own style to your old boring roof racks.
I personally like a simple black because they always look good, and they also age well.
Lockable tie down
Lockable tie down straps offers an increased level of security for your boards when they are on top of your vehicle. Normally the buckle is fitted with a locking mechanism and the straps are supported by a metal webbing that makes it difficult to cut through. They also work as an additional deterrent for anyone looking to take your boards.
Tips for vehicles without surfboard car racks
Just ropes or ropes and towels can work. When I first began surfing my first car roof rack consisted of some rope and a towel.
We fitted the "rack" by placing a towel on the roof of my mother's car for protection and then stacked my surfboards on top. Then I would throw a rope over my boards, tighten it all together and tie it inside the vehicle. If you want to get fancy you can always add an extra layer of towels as extra padding in-between the surfboards.
You can also get rid of the towels all together and just place the boards on the roof of your vehicle and tie them down with a rope. However, there is a possibility that your surfboards might get dinged up a bit, but it will work. If your boards are inside a bag this method will work even better.
I'm sure almost every surfer has tried a variation of this method at some point in their surfing career. It's effective and simple but it does not offer any form of protection to your boards or vehicles.
Surfboard roof rack technology has improved over the years and there are multiple awesome alternatives to the towel and rope method.
Soft racks are a roof rack mechanism that is portable and is designed for vehicles without roof racks and they are relatively cheap. Soft racks are made from neoprene protectors, nylon straps, foam padding and cam locking buckles. Normally they come together with a practical carrying case.
Soft racks have been designed to hold multiple surfboards but confirm with the recommendation from the manufacturers to make sure that you do not carry beyond its capacity. The racks are available in single and double wide which depends on how many boards you want to carry.
Soft racks are typically available in most dedicated surf stores, and they are usually offered with surfboard rentals so that you can transport your boards to and from the beach. I've owned soft racks for multiple years because they are secure, strong, and amazing for travel. Soft racks are perfect for travel they are small enough to pack into a board bag and they can be easily fitted on a friend's car, taxis, or rental vehicles.
Foam blocks and straps
Another great option for vehicles without a roof rack is a combination of straps and foam blocks. This method follows the same principle as soft racks, but you can purchase the components separately to save some money.
As well you can also buy larger or smaller blocks of foam that will perfectly fit the roofline of your vehicle. If your vehicle has a flatter roofline you can use smaller foam blocks. However, if your vehicle has a more curved roof line you probably are required to use larger and thicker foam blocks. This will give you the opportunity to specialize the foam blocks to fit your specific requirements.
To create this do it yourself type of soft rack you will need to buy the following components. Two straps and two rectangular foam blocks.
Surfboard - deck down
The surfboard deck is the part of the surfboard where you apply the wax and put your feet.
It is vital to have the bottom facing up and the deck side down which means your surfboard fin will point up with the deck pointing down this will help prevent the wax from melting away because it's protected from the sun's harmful UV rays. If you have many surfboards, then all of them should be stacked on top of each other and the decks pointed down.
Position the fins to face the front of your vehicle
Now that we know surfboards should be placed on decks facing down the surfboard should be placed in a way the fins are at the front of the vehicle. Doing this will offer you two benefits.
First, the straps will be fitted behind the fins which would have offered extra security this is because the surfboard fins will prevent the board from sliding off your vehicle if the straps loosen up.
Second, it makes it easy to stack up multiple surfboards on top of each other when the fins are positioned at the front of the vehicle.
But what is you don’t have a car or access to one?
The old bike works great for transporting your surfboards. A surfboard bike rack usually has two carrying bars for your board and some have bungee to keep them from flopping around.
Longboard surfboard bike surf racks have 2 bars and mount at two different locations. The front bar usually mounts to the neck of the bike and the back bar mounts to the seat post or bike rack. Carrying a longboard on a surfboard rack can get a little tricky, especially if it is a 10’. Make sure the bars are extended to provide enough depth and padded to protect. Most longboard surfboard bike racks can also transport paddleboards. Give yourself plenty of room when starting to ride and you should be fine.
Shortboard surfboard bicycle racks are usually dual bars but mount at only one location. Usually this is the seat post. If your board is 5” to 7’6” the shortboard bike rack will do the job. Most are rust proof, padded and durable. Malo’o has a great shortboard and longboard surfboard bike racks. Most racks can also be mounted to e-bikes, but they will not handle multiple boards. Tell you friend to get their own bike and you’ll be fine!
Surfboards and expensive and so is gas these days. If you are a long way from the beach, get a surfboard car rack. Even though I mentioned the DIY versions, don’t be a kook, get at least a removable rack. If you are close enough to bike it, you should. Reducing our carbon footprint is important to our environment and oceans, so the less we use gas, the better off we are all going to be!