Learning how to fly with your stand up paddle board may seem daunting at first, but with these tips and tricks, you’ll be soaring skyward in no time!
Of course, the thought of bringing a paddle board on a flight might seem impossible. After all, they are huge! Luckily, there’s a solution – the inflatable SUP board.
Inflatable stand up paddle boards offer the ultimate blend of extreme portability and performance. One unique benefit of owning your own iSUP is the fact that you can bring it along with you when you fly. As the ultimate piece of adventure travel gear, an inflatable SUP allows you to explore the most stunning paddling locations in the world without having to pay all of those expensive paddle board rental fees.
How To Fly With Your Stand Up Paddle Board
In this article, we’ll go over our top 5 tips on how to fly with your stand up paddle board. We know it sounds like a daunting task, but there are many options you can take to make your flying easier, more intuitive, and more affordable!
Following these simple steps will help to ensure that your paddle board, bag, and SUP accessories are well-protected and arrive at your final destination in one piece!
TIP 1: Get A High-quality SUP Backpack
These days, most inflatable paddle boards come with some kind of bag to carry them in, but each travel bag isn’t created equal. While features and quality vary greatly, a high-quality iSUP backpack will give you a super convenient way to pack and transport your board while traveling.
If you happened to purchase a used iSUP or want to upgrade to a comfortable SUP bag that can easily fit all of your gear, we would highly recommend that you pick one up before your trip. Our Thurso Surf Inflatable SUP Backpack is available separately for purchase — it’s an affordable bag with plenty of room to fit any normally-sized board along with your 3-piece SUP paddle, pump, and accessories – everything you’ll need to get out on the water.
Of course, the main advantage here is that this board bag was specifically designed for your SUP and the accessories. By efficiently putting everything in place, you are basically minimizing the size of the bag as a whole. And if there’s on thing we know about flying, it’s that space is crucial.
TIP 2: Get A 3-piece Travel Paddle
Bring a 3-piece travel paddle whenever you fly with your stand up paddle board. If a 3-piece paddle wasn’t bundled in with your iSUP, there are plenty of options available.
While you may be able to find a basic aluminum model for cheap, a high-performance carbon fiber paddle will go a long way toward reducing fatigue on the water.
We have two excellent options that are an upgrade your shoulders will thank you for, the Thurso Surf Carbon Paddle with its all-carbon fiber shaft and nylon blade, that comes standard with any of our SUP packages, and the Carbon Elite Paddle that’s a full 15% lighter with its all-carbon shaft and blade. So when it comes to picking a paddle, portability doesn’t mean sacrificing quality!
TIP 3: Roll Up Your Pump And Paddle
Roll your pump and 3-piece travel paddle up in your deflated board anytime you fly with your stand up paddle board. All of our paddle boards feature double layer constructions with triple/quad Military Grade PVC coatings on the deck/side. It’s the strongest inflatable paddleboard structure currently available on the market and makes a perfect buffer to protect your pump and paddles from reckless ground crew.
Unfortunately, airlines are notorious for abusing luggage across the board whether you’re seated in first class or coach, and rolling your paddle and pump up will provide an added layer of protection against hard bumps, knocks, drops, and flying elbows.
Nothing is invincible on a flight! So it never hurts to take the extra precautions to ensure that your inflatable board is safe.
TIP 4: Wrap Your Backpack
Regardless of how durable your iSUP backpack is, it’s not designed to be dragged across the tarmac with a heavy load inside. We’d highly recommend an added layer of protection to keep it in tip-top shape whenever you fly with your stand up paddle board.
One of our favorite tricks for protecting your inflatablle SUP backpack from scuffs, cuts, and other damage while flying is to wrap the whole thing. SUP backpacks are designed to make it hassle-free to get your gear in and out. That means, instead of fitting snugly around your paddle board and accessories, there’s usually some excess material that can make your bag look deceptively large to ground crew when they’re checking your bag. Wrapping your SUP backpack tightly will protect the bag itself, keep your gear from shifting in flight, and might even make it small enough to slip on board without any additional baggage fees.
Many large airports offer bag wrapping service that only takes a few minutes on site. If you plan to go that route, don’t forget to make sure the airport you’re flying through has luggage wrapping service at the terminal you’ll be departing from.
If a service isn’t an option, a DIY method for wrapping your luggage is Rhino Wrap. Rhino Wrap is a TSA approved stretchy, more durable, version of household cling-film that includes a handle for easily and quickly wrapping your bag. Lastly, a tarp is an affordable and widely available DIY method for protecting your gear — simply wrap the tarp around your SUP backpack and secure it with luggage belts, tape, or cordage.
It’s anecdotal, but we’ve had luck flying fee free with both American Airlines and Delta airlines. The decision to charge you for flying with ‘sports equipment’ depends on the airline you’re flying, the seating class you’re in, and ultimately, the ground crew checking your bags, so make sure to put on your friendliest smile at check-in or the bag drop to avoid an upcharge.
If you’ve had any fee/non-fee flights we’d love to hear about them in the comments so we can pass the word around to the whole Thurso Surf Crew!
TIP 5: Make Sure Your Inflatable SUP Backpack Meets Your Airline’s Weight Limit
SUP backpacks are oversized by design to make it easy to get your gear in and out. Even though your paddle board and accessories probably won’t tip the scales (our 11′ Waterwalker only weighs 29 LB/13 KG), resist the urge to add too many extras to your SUP backpack when flying with your stand up paddle board.
When you’re finished packing (and before you have your gear wrapped), check the final weight of the bag to ensure that it meets your airline’s checked baggage weight limit. Here’s a quick way to verify the checked baggage size and weight limits for multiple airlines. Typically, overweight luggage fees are costly, so definitely make sure you know what to expect before heading to the airport – which actually leads us to our next point…
TIP 6: Do Your Research
Flying is all about knowing what to expect beforehand. Different airlines have different luggage allowances, capacities, weight limits, and prices. The simple fact is that many airlines use luggage fees as a way to influence the price and make you pay more than you wanted.
Your best weapon here is proper research. Measure the size and weight of your properly packed board bag, and account that into any luggage fees that may be required by each airline. If you do the math beforehand, you can actually save quite a lot of money, especially if you qualify for the cheaper weight requirements.
Half of spending less is effective research, and this is especially true when considering airlines.
TIP 7: Overall Prep
Finally, don’t neglect all the other things you need to pack! When planning for a flight, your board might be the biggest and bulkiest thing you need to pack, but don’t forget to consider this in terms of everything else you need to bring. As mentioned directly above, if you plan your luggage beforehand, and measure everything out, you can end up saving a lot of money by not getting caught off-guard with luggage fees!
Our best travel tip is to plan everything beforehand. After all, if you are going to be paddling on your vacation, you’ll need more than just a board.
What if you don’t want to bring your paddle board on vacation? While a die-hard paddler might want to bring their own board, perhaps you aren’t at that level yet. So of course, there are alternatives if you want to still get in some SUP while you vacation.
The primary alternative here is to simply rent a board. Many public beaches will have rental stores nearby, and often they are stocked with boards. However, there is no telling whether this will actually end up costing you more than the luggage fees, especially if you want to rent more than once.
Another consideration is that there is no guarantee of quality with rental shops. They are all privately owned, so there is no way of knowing how new or well-kept the board stock will be. Or even whether they will have your preferred size available on a busy day.
Of course, there is no guarantee that your destination will have a SUP rental spot either. So if you are keen on getting a SUP session in, it is something you should research beforehand.
Either way, whatever you decide should be based on your own ideal vacation! It is vacation after all, so settle on a plan that makes thing easy and smooth.
We hope that this article has given you some useful tips for traveling with your inflatable paddle board. Thanks to iSUPs, exploring the world from the water has never been easier and we’re confident that your paddling adventures will go smoother than ever if you follow these simple pointers before flying.
Safe travels, and keep paddling!