How To Pick A Boardbag - Which Surfboard Bag Is Right For You?
Surfboards—how we love them. And we know you do too. Besides our loved ones, and beer, surfboards are the most important things in our lives.
The first surfboard sighting dates back to 1778 when European explorer Captain James Cook sailed to Hawaii.
The Hawaiians had been surfing for hundreds of years. The original Hawaiian surfboard could measure up to 16 feet and weighed one hundred pounds. Strong.
Todays surfboards are much more fragile then those original Hawaiian logs and they do get damaged without the proper protection. If you aren't using a surf bag to protect your surfboard, you might be putting your sled at risk.
The surfing pros use surfboard bag travel knowledge to get their gear to their favorite waves and so should you. However, even the best surfboard travel bag can be treated poorly by airline kooks. John John, one of my favorite surfers on the planet, got off his flight and found his surfboard was mashed to pieces and the boardbag he was using looked like a piñata.
Dakine makes some great surfboard travel bags. But even with a great surf bag, you are not guaranteed that your surfboards will be safe. But you should do everything you can to protect them before handing them to the airline gods.
A photo posted by John john Florence (@john_john_florence) on
The Top 7 Dangers of Not Using A Surfboard Bag
It's a dangerous world out there for surfboards. Buying a surfboard is a big investment and I don't know about you but I like my investments to last. The following are some common ways that surfboards get damaged outside of the water:
DINGS - Dings from knocking your board around the house;
NICKS - Nicks from when you find that the dog was playing tug-of-war with your leash (board attached);
BROKEN BOARDS - Broken boards from angry ex-girlfriends (or boyfriends: Wave Tribe is for you too ladies);
DELAM - Delam from the sun as you left it baking like a chocolate chip cookie in the backyard;
FADING - Color fading from too much sun exposure;
CRACKS - Tail cracks from it dropping out of your car while you take off your wetsuit.
SCRATCHES - Scratches from the cat that decided your board was a humping post.
Lucky for you there is a quick and easy solution—protect your surfboard with a well padded surfboard bag.
A good boardbag will protect your surfboard from the elements (mainly the sun and heat) and also insulate it against those occasional dings or other life scenarios mentioned above. To ensure the safety of your surfboard always be extra nice to your gal or guy and never tell her or him where your favorite surfboard is located, just in case you have a gnarly. I've lost a few good boards over the years. Shame.
Why Do You Need a Board Bag?
First of all, it's just plain logical to buy a boardbag. Your surfboard needs a home.
You just spent $500-$1000 bones on a new stick and you need to protect that board while shlepping it to the beach and back. Lot's of stuff can happen in transit.
You don't leave the house naked and your board shouldn't either. Not offense to surfing nudists out there. Being naked is cool, but you don't want your board bumping into any strange objects.
A good surfboard bag will also protect your surfboard from the sun while chilling in the back of your ride, not to mention that it will keep sand and wax off your car's interior. Did your girl ever yea at you for sitting in sand while you were reaching over for a kiss? Oh, and if you get wax on your seats it's super difficult to get off.
Surfboard Delam - The Sun Will Melt Your Surfboard
The sun's ultraviolet ray's, both UVA and UVB, can cause your board to 'delam'. UV radiation is part of the electromagnetic (light) spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. These are the same rays that cause damage to your skin.
Dude, delamination is a bubbly, blistering bumpiness on your beloved board that could lead to your beauties demise. It's like ace on your surfboard and the only thing that can fix it is a trip to the surfboard doctor.
The most common cause of delamination is leaving your board in a car in the hot sun and not putting a cover on it to cool it down and keep the sun's rays off your deck and rails. A boardbag acts as a cacoon that insulates your board and creates a small micro-climate that helps reduce the temperature inside the bag. This keeps your board cooler and also protects it from the damaging UV rays.
Boardbag Buying Guide Basics
There are four primary types of surfboard bags: socks, day boardbags, travel bags, and surfboard tombs. We consider a sock a boardbag—which it is, kinda.
But a surfboard sock is the most inferior type of board bag because it has little to no padding. The sock is also made of a thinner material so it doesn't help create the micro-climate described above. However, a sock is better than nothing.
Let's review the various boardbag types, surf bags uses and pain points. The following is a quick and dirty comparison guide for boardbag types:
1. Surfboard Boardsock - The Good
easy to store
Surfboard Boardsocks - The Bad
hard to get on and off
2. Surfboard Day Bag - The Good
fits one board
must get right shape + size
zip to nose
Surfboard Day Bag - The Bad
zippers - the most important!!!
no shoulder strap sucks for carry
no interior pocket for gear
no exterior pocket for wetsuits
not enough padding for airplane travel
zippers fall apart if cheap
3. Surfboard Travel Bag - The Good
fits up to 2 + boards
lots of protection
can use to store boards
acts as extra suitcase
no need for soft racks
gets board to international destination
Surfboard Travel Bag - The Bad
bulky and heavy
airline will charge for use
hard to travel with glass-ons
4. Surfboard Travel Bag Wheels
use one top of rental - no need for racks
carry 3-4 boards
offers the best travel convenience
easy to cart around in airport
great for getting your quiver to loction
Surfboard Travel Bag Wheels - The Bad
most expensive option
heavy and bulky
wheels not great in dirt
hard to store it off season
Each kind of boardbag has its own benefits and use and in many cases must fit the surfboards (or variety of boards) that you want to carry and protect.
Lets take a look at which surfboard cover is right for you and let's look at what you need to look out for when you buy a surf bag for your surfboard.
The Surfboard Sock
The surfboard sock is the most light weight of the board protection options and also the wimpiest.
The sock mainly serves to protect your board from scratches, sun damage, and minor dings.
If your stick never rides on top of the car and doesn't get much sun exposure then this is a good option. Easy on, easy off (most of the time).
Try and find a surfboard sock with a padded nose—and like we said earlier, make sure you get one that fits the shape and style of your surfboard nose. If you get the wrong shaped nose you won't be able to fit the surfboard in the sock.
Usually the nose is the most vulnerable part of the board during travel—as you maneuver through the house or garage on your way to the beach the sock offers a little cushion for your surfboard.
A surfboard sock also does a good job at keeping wax, sand, and water away from your goodies after your surf and can help keep your car clean, which keeps the ladies (or guys too) stoked.
There are some awesome board covers out there these days, some that look like art or are being make by-hand in a surfer dudes garage. However, these can be very expensive.
Another great company in California that is making surfboard covers by hand is Green Fuz down in San Clemente. Each one of their surfboard socks is unique and looks like an art piece.
Pick the right nose and size options, both width and length matter along with the board style. Most socks will stretch a few inches in all directions. If you buy a 6 foot surfboard sock, you'll be able to stuff up to a 6'4 in that baby. Some surfboard socks stretch more than others. The canvas style socks seem to be making a comeback and these socks tend to be more baggy and do not stretch, but they are easier to get on and off.
Don't forget to check the nose styleYou can't put a 7'6 round nose into a straight nose boardsock. Well, you can, but it won't be the kind of fit that you desire.
Retro surfboards usually require a retro boardsock. The retro surfboard covers have a special nose and are a bit wider throughout that fit the special shape of your board. At Wave Tribe we have a few surf board socks for the Mini Simmons and Fish surfboard designs.
Retro surfboards usually require a retro boardsock. The retro surfboard covers have a special nose and are a bit wider throughout that fit the special shape of your board. At Wave Tribe we have a few surf board socks for the Mini Simmons and Fish surfboard designs.
TIP. Always check the nose dimensions and shape, a little tight is better than baggy.
The one issue I have experienced with board covers is when they get too hot and the wax melts and then creates a bond between the sock and the board. This sucks and can be a real pain.
If your going to leave your board in the sun, not recommend in any situation, it's better to use a boardbag. Try and store your board in a dry and shady place that doesn't get too hot.
Day Surboard Bag
The day board bag provides all of the benefits of the sock but offers much more protection. It is a little heavier and more bulky. This is the bag you want for day-to-day use. Going to the beach. Heading south for the weekend. Also, great for when you need to store your surfboard. Dust and oil from the garage can make your surfboard slippery and cause kook-ness.
Most day board bags have 5mm of padding, a shoulder strap, pocket for wax and a loop on the end so that you can hang it in the garage.
If you need to hike to your surf break then the shoulder strap is essential. Carry your board over your shoulder for those long walks to Trestles or other far off locations. Make sure you get a padded shoulder strap, that way you can do long hikes into awesome locations with more comfort.
Ever surf Trestles?
If you haven't surfed trestles—you should. If you have surfed there, then you know that making that walk with a shitty board bag sucks. A surf bag with a strap can make your day.
TIP: Grab your skateboard for your trip to Trestles. It's a fun ride.
There are more basic surf bags that doesn't have a shoulder strap. These are usually the baordbags at the bottom of the price range and are just the bare bones bags. More common in Europe, these surf bags are between a sock and day bag.
If you want a more versatile board bag, look for a day surfboard bag with a pocket to hide goodies like fins, wax or your cheewawa inside. These pockets really come in handy for stashing an extra leash and wax, which are items that surfers always need to have ready for the unexpected.
Grab a Day Surfboard Bag That Fits Your Board
Also, a solid handle is very important. You'll see two types of handles, one is just a nylon strap and the other is a proper rubber handle that allows for better portability and grabbing. It's always good to have something to grab ('that's what she said').
Most day surf bags don't have enough padding to travel with. If you are going to fly somewhere please get a surfboard travel bag (more on that below).
Day surfboard bags also do a good job of keeping your board from overheating while in your ride making out with your girl or lying on the beach soaking in the sun.
Most day boardbag are covered with reflective material and have insulation that keeps the board cool when the sun is shining through your window or if your board rides on top of your car.
Believe it or not heat can damage a board, so you want to be careful where you leave it. The reflective material ensures you won't find a mess of wax inside when you open it up or cook your board while grabbing a beer with your bros after your session.
The zipper is the most important element of your bag (more on that below too). If you buy a cheap bag you'll get a shitty zipper and it might fall apart in a few months while you are walking to the beach with your chick.
Dude, don't let the chicks see your bag fall apart—so embarrassing!
There are lots of cheap boardbags on the market with shitty zippers, you won't be happy when your zipper breaks.
A bag with a broken zipper is worthless, look for YKK zippers (made in Japan) and nickel platted zipper pulls (those are the things you, well, pull).
Custom Surfboard Bag
Another option on a day boardbag is a custom custom made boardbag. A custom bag is made to your specifications and let's you customize it with your own style.
Our favorite custom bags are made by Air Wave in San Francisco. These guys have been making bags since 1984 and they offer a wide range of colors.
There are a few companies making board bags from reclaimed billboard. We tried it for a while at Wave Tribe, but we couldn't make them competitively in the market. We also noticed that the surfboard got extra hot in the board bags because the billboard didn't allow for air flow like the hemp or other fabric.
I think it's fun to design your own boardbag and if you are into the billboard this is an awesome option. Here is the Etsy category for board bags, the perfect place to start looking for one.
Airplane Surf Travel & Airline Fees For Surfboards
Thinking about going on a surf trip? Needs some ideas or inspirations? Check out some of our surf trip travel articles to places like Easter Island, Cabo, Peru and another 100 locations around the world.
If you get on a plane without a surfboard travel bag it would be like flying without your underwear.
People say you can just rent a surfboard. Not. Would you wear someone else's underwear?
You may get the best waves of your life on a #surftrip and you will want to have equipment that you know, like and trust. Being stuck somewhere awesome without your best sleds can be a real nightmare.
Travel surfboard cases can also double as a second suitcase while traveling and save you on baggage fees. Airlines are going to charge you good money to check-in your surf travel cases so you might as well take advantage of the situation and stuff your surf travel bags with everything you need for you trip.
Speaking of board fees, have you read our Airline Surfboard Fee Guide? It is a must read for anything planning a surf trip and has over 200 airline surfboard travel bags fees and the contact of airline so that you can do your own research. People are always sending us updates and it has become the top page on the internet for surfboard travel bags fees.
Most surfboard travel bags have many of the same features as the day board bag but they are made with thicker padding and more resilient straps and handles. Unusually when you travel you take more than one board (different conditions bro) so you'll want one that fits two or more boards and also has a padded divider.
You don't want those boards sitting directly on top of each other, too much pressure can smash the rockers together and snap you board. I've done it and it sucks.
Surfboard Bag Travel - Look For Great Padding
Most travel surfboard bags contain about 10mm of padding to protect your board from damage during transport. We felt that 10mm wasn't enough, so Wave Tribe Travel Bags are made with 13-15mm of padding.
But wait, that still wasn't enough for us. We noticed that on our research and development surf trips that sometimes the nose and tail sections of our boards where getting damaged from when the airline employees would jam the surfboard bags onto the planes. Thus our surfboard bag travel development was kicked into gear and we decide to design even greater functionality into our surf travel bags.
We saw this as a huge problem and thus we redesigned the surfboard travel bag and added an additional 13 mm in the nose and tail where the board bags are most vulnerable. These inserts are made of closed cell foam which is like a protection helmet for your tail and nose, this is the same foam in football helmets.
That's 26 mm of padding where you need it, and trust me, after 30 years of international surf travel I know you will need it. We've never had a board damaged with this new innovative bag design.
Even though we have all this extra padding we still recommend that you wrap the rails. See the video of step-by-step instructions on how to pack your board bag so it doesn't get damaged at bottom of page in the section titled #7) How do I pack a boardbag?
Fish Surfboard Travel Bags + Mini Simmons & Retro Surfboards
You might want to consider traveling with a board that has removable fins, but a good travel bag should allow you to transport glass-ons fins. I always throw a Mini Simmons with galss-ons in my surfboard travel bags. When packed properly, you can take that glass-on no problem.
These days retro boards like the Mini Simmons have really taken off and so the old traditional travel board bag might not allow you to travel with an alternative quiver. If you want to travel with a retro style surfboard you'll need a travel surf bag constructed with wider mid sections and tail. Also, remember that if you are traveling with a regular board and a retro surfboard you'll have to make sure that the rockers of each board fit well together in the boardbag.
TIP: Want to learn more about the Mini Simmons? Check out our guide Keel Nation and learn how to ride and even share this awesome surfboard.
One of the hardest things to do is lug your surfboard travel bag through the airport and customs. If you are not going far or have a butler to carry your board, then a non wheeled travel board bag might be right for you. However, if you have multiple flights or expect to have to carry your surfboard bag long distances, then I always recommend a surfboard travel case with wheels. Sometimes called a tomb or coffin surfboard travel bag.
Why Are They Called Surfboard Tombs & Surfboard Coffins?
The king, or queen, of the
surfboard travel bag wheels category!
Because of the way they are constructed, these tomb or coffin surfboard bags look like you could put a body inside. In fact, you can and I have even slept in these things on a trip to Mexico (it's a long story). They have big side walls and tons of room on the inside for up to 5 surfboards. All tombs have wheels are they allow you to transport your international quiver to your chosen destination. Stoked.
This is a quick video of what the Wave Tribe wheeled Tomb looks like . . .
If you are planning a surf trip by car, train, boat or plane—a
surfboard travel bag with wheels is a good investment. The tombs are the creme-de-la-creme of surfboard bag travel and have most of the elements of the double surf travel bags, but with wheels and more room for more surfboards.
You want to look for good quality wheels, excellent YKK zippers, interior pockets and padded board dividers. In 2017, Wave Tribe added an internal strap system to all its travel bags. The internal straps allow you to tighten up your sleds to make them more compact.
International Surfboard Rental
Some guys tell me they are sick of paying surfboard travel bag fees so they decide that they will rent a board once they get to their surf destination. As I stated at the top of the article, I am too attached to my own particular boards and I think renting a surfboard should be your last option. It's not that difficult to travel with surfboards, getting them to and from the airport can be the greatest challenge.
You can't always find the board you want either and in some locations you won't find any board to rent at all. There is nothing like standing on the beach as the waves are going off and you find that the surf shop (the only one in 200 miles) just burned down because they started selling SUPs to the locals.
Of course we think that the Wave Tribe Travel Bag is a great choice but whichever boardbag you buy please remember the main principles of this article. I would recommend always spending a little more to get the board bag with the better quality zippers and handles.
If you do decide on the Wave Tribe surfboard bag or boardsock, know that you can carry two boards and travel in style with our unique hemp construction. Be confident that we have used the best stitching, zippers, and construction available and that we stand behind them with a 100% stoke guarantee.
Other surfboard bags that I would recommend are Prolite and the custom surfboard bags at Air Wave. I prefer to support the smaller companies that have deeply rooted ethos and you should too.
Ok, here is our last section. A step-by-step guide to buying a surfboard bag.
7 Tips To Buying A Surfboard Boardbag
Now that we are clear on all the types of surf bags and the different options out there we are going to talk about the next step in your journey–how to buy a surfboard bag?
Read each of the tips and if you have any additional questions drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our board bag experts will get back to you within 24 hours. Also, if you see our chat window open you can hit us there too. We might be surfing though.
Ok, let's get into the nitty gritty
surfboard bag buyers tips . . .
#1) Does Your Surfboard Fit Into The Surfboard Bag?
Make sure the surfboard bag fits your stick. Length should be obvious, and size does matter by the way. If the surf bag is too small your surfboard will be crammed into the bag and the zippers might harm the rails.
The boardbag will be marked by length. Something like 6'0, 7'6, 9'6, etc. Remember to check the width also. Most bags have an additional 2 inches beyond their marking. So a 6'0 surf bag can usually fit a 6'2. I would lean towards more room than less, especially with
surfboard bags for travel.
It's cool to get a board bag a few inches bigger than your board, but not too much bigger, you don't want it moving around too much inside the bag. 6-12 inches bigger is ok, that way you can use it if you ever get a slightly bigger board or if you want to stuff it with wetsuit, fins and other travel goodies inside.
The best time to buy a bag is when you buy your stick, but I know that this won't always be possible. These bags are not cheap to ship, so plan accordingly and give yourself plenty of time before a trip. Overnight shipping of a
surfboard travel bag coffin can cost as much as the bag itself. Plan and save that money for more beer on your trip.
If you are at a surfshop, fit your board into the bag and pick the one that feels right. If in doubt call the company you are researching and ask them, they will usually know which surfboards work in which bags.
If you buy a Fish, Mini Simmons, or Retro Surfboard, you should look for a
surfboard air travel bag with the same qualities and dimensions. That goes for a day bag or surfboard sock too.
Finally, check the nose shape of the board bag.
Surfboard bags come in three main nose shapes:
Pointed, mainly for short board bags
Semi-round or hybrid
Full round, for Malibu and long board bags.
TIP: For shorter surfboard bags get something a little wider if you plan on surfing any alternative shapes in the future. I like to use rail systems when I travel and don't mind a little extra width.
#2) Do Your Fins Fit Into The Boardbag?
You will want to make sure your bag works with your fins in and out. The thing that you want to look for is called a gusset. This is an area at the rear of the bag that expands when your fins are in and then flattens when there are no fins inside. Think of an accordion, they work like that. The cheaper bags won't have them.
Quads have wide fin setups and will require more room in the back and sides and thus if you want to roll with your fin on you should make sure your bag has gussets.
Glass-on fins are making a comeback and if you are going to be traveling with your fins glassed-in make sure those fins are well protected (see the video below for some tips on protecting your fins).
Some bags come with a fin slot, make sure you check this feature if you like to keep your fins in place. Usually this is only a feature of larger bags made for longboards and mini mals. With a fin slot you can fit your board in the bag with the fins on and also zip the surfboard bag closed.
#3) Does The Boardbag Zipper Suck?
Make sure your bag has a good zipper that will last. I can't tell you how important this is. The zipper is the lifeblood of any surf bag and if your sucks then you might end up duck tapping your boards together to get them home.
The zipper should be waterproof and rugged. Metal zippers will rust—so stay away from metal: the salt water will eat them for lunch. The only time you want a metal zipper is if the zipper is coated with nickel, gold or silver. These types of zippers are ideal and offer the best functionality and longevity. At Wave tribe we use nickel platted YKK zippers and we offer a lifetime guarantee on all our zipper pulls.
Most board bags that are trashed are because of a dead zipper. Think about it, your bag is of no use if it won't open or close. The salt water will eat those cheap zippers alive and if you live near the coast this is even more vital.
You should look for the trademark YKK. These are the best zippers in the world. If you look at your favorite jacket of pair of jeans you'll likely see the YKK imprint on all your top gear. You should look for it on anything you but with a zipper—backpacks, suitcases, and surfboard bags. I won't buy anything without a YKK zipper.
I know, I am kinda a zipper dork.
Your boardbag zipper should be a #8 or #10. The larger the number, the bigger the zipper. I know, it's confusing. The #10s are the best and considered the Mercedes of zippers. Wave Tribe uses the #10 YKK nickel platted zippers on every bag.
Before you buy a bag, check the zipper function and give it a few back-and-forths. If the company has a good zipper they will talk about it. If a surfboard bag company doesn't talk about the zipper in their presentation, don't buy the bag from them. #4) Is the Surfboard Bag Padded Like a Push-up Bra? A cheap bag will skimp on padding and you are better off wrapping the board in a towel and a dipper. Really.
I hate to call out my cheap bros out there but why would you look for a cheap bag to carry over $1000 in surfboards? I just don't get it.
Check out what we've done to our global bags here with 13mm + 13mm in the nose and tail to give you 26mm of protection.
Don't be a cheap bastard, when that zipper breaks and your board gets dinged from the thin padding you'll be cursing at yourself and wish you would have listened to uncle D.
There is nothing like opening your boardbag in Costa Rica when it's firing outside and you got three dings to fix before you can paddle out.
Check out your new board bag and give it a good squeeze—like grabbing your partners arse—before you buy any board bag. If you can feel your fingertips through the bag, don't buy it.
#5) Can Your New Surfboard Travel Bag Pull a Wheelie?
If you're traveling with 3+ boards you'll want to get a coffin with wheels. Wheels are rad, especially when you are lugging those boards through customs and they tell you to go get in that 5 mile line to X-ray your bag.
Boardbag coffins are the luxury surfboard travel cases invented by the pros to carry their quivers with them to the contests. I was watching the Quicksilver Pro in France this year and they said Kelly travels with like 20 boards to each contest.
Dude, I wonder how many bags he travels with. Oh yea, here is a link to the finals with Kelly and Dan, the waves are sick and the barrels unbelievable.
Coffin boardbags are a great option if you want to travel with your mini quiver.
However, before you get on that plane shake that bag loose before you leave for your trip and make sure you didn't drop any, ahem, roaches in there! <<< that's the most important advice of this entire article.
#6) Can You Hide Your Condoms Inside the Surf Bag?
Most bags come with a number of cool features like pockets, board padding, extra stitching, and other bag goodness.
It is great to have a few pockets built into the interior of the board bag to keep an extra set of fins, some wax, and a tube of ding repair. Throw in your fins, a few boardshorts and anything else you can think of.
Check out the inside of a few board bags and make sure you're getting one that works for your needs.
#7) How Do I Pack For Surfboard Bag Travel?
So you got your plane ticket and just bought a killer Wave Tribe Global Surfboard Travel Bag but you need some advice on packing your boards because you really want to arrive at your surf spot without any new dings.
You might want to spend an extra $30 and get a few items to help protect your surfboard.
We recommend that you grab the following before your trip:
Once you get those watch the video below for a step-by-step packing instructions.
Some Parting Thoughts
Surfboard bags help protect your boards from dings, nicks, scratches, sun damage, and your Mother-in-Law (it hides it from her when she comes over to feed the cat).
Starting at $25 socks are a good investment to protect your surfboard for light duty travel.
Clumsier surfers like me should definitely grab a day bag, and if you are getting on a plane, please invest in a boardbag that will get your surfboards from point A to point B in style with the needed protection and comfort available. Grab the wheeled boardbag for the best travel experience.
If you are looking for a good solid surf bag we highly recommend that you check out Wave Tribe's selection of high quality surf gear but whatever you do buy a well constructed surfboard cover for your stick.
The table below shows you all the details of what we offer . . .