While most paddle boarders think about racks for their vehicle when they plan how to transport their paddle board and gear, they forget that they must also get it from the car to the water. That can be a quick walk or it can be a good portage to get to the right spot. Carrying it might be ok for a short trek, but what can a stand up paddle boarder do if they are going to have to hike for a bit? Here are some options on how to transport a stand up paddleboard from your car to the water.
Man and woman walk along beach with Thurso Surf Waterwalker All-around SUPs

The middle handle found on most boards is perfect for short distances.

Transporting Your SUP to the Water

The first way of getting your board to the water is the old-fashioned way: carry it. A SUP board typically has a handle that is located in the middle of the board to carry the board for shorter distances. However, unless the SUP paddle board is an inflatable SUP board or a small one, they can be a bit awkward to carry for any substantial distance.

How to Transport a Paddle Board – Overhead Carry

For those who are small, have shorter arms, or less upper body strength, picking up the paddle board by the center handle can be problematic. We’ve designed extra-cushy, comfortable handles, but if it’s not easy for you to hoist your board using the handle in the middle, then try doing the tail lift. To do this, paddlers must start by squatting by their board and then lift at the tail end. Remember to lift with your legs, not your back. Begin to stand up and walk your hands up the board with it overhead. Hold the rails in the middle and put your head in the middle of the board, and then it can go up on your head to balance. You can leave it on your head or put it on your shoulder and grab the center handle if that works better.

Once you have the board on your head, then you must grab the paddle. Make sure it is nearby before you lift the board. Have it leaning against something so you don’t have to bend down to carry it. If you have a Thurso Surf board, it’s easy. Just use the paddle holders on the side of your board to secure your paddle before picking it up. That way, it’ll stay put as it’s being lifted. Lucky you! If you don’t have a Thurso Surf board, you may have to use a bungee cord or some other way to easily attach you paddle directly to the board.

man shows how to transport a paddle board paddle by attaching it to his Thurso Surf Max multi-purpose SUP

Many of the best SUPs, like the Max, pictured here, let you attach your paddle directly to your board, making it easy to carry both.

How to Transport a Paddle Board – Middle Handle Carry

If carrying by the center handle is comfortable for you, then put the board on its side with the base beside you and the nose pointing forwards. Reach over the board, grasp the handle and lift. No matter how you carry it, beware of wind as it can catch the board and the person off guard. If you do encounter strong winds try to point the tip directly into it. If you turn sideways your stand up paddleboard acts like a sail and will catch the wind making it more of a struggle than it needs to be.

Also, when carrying it by hand, be careful when you set it down. It’s a good idea to be aware of the surface you’re putting it on and of the fin box especially. Put the nose on the ground first then walk your hands to the end of the board and put it down gently. Sand or grass is best so it won’t get scratched or bumped. Most boards are incredibly durable, especially iSUPs, but it’s always good practice to take care of your gear.

man shows how to transport a paddle board using a Thurso Surf shoulder carry strap

A shoulder strap SUP Carrier makes it easier to transport your paddle board.

Shoulder Carry Strap – SUP Carrier

While carrying a SUP is ok for a short distance, longer distances are challenging. Thankfully, there are shoulder carriers that can make it easier. They have high-quality comfortable materials, fasteners, and pieces of Velcro all of which add up to make sure the board is secure and much easier to carry. Because of the better weight distribution they afford, shoulder carry straps makes it easy and comfortable to transport the biggest to the smallest board without an issue.

Some carriers have loops to hold your paddle as well, so you aren’t trying to juggle both. However, it’s easiest to just attach your paddle to your stand up paddleboard if possible. Then once you get your paddle attached simply get it over your shoulder; then you can head for the water no matter how far away it is.

man unpacking gear from his Thurso Surf stand up paddleboard roller backpack

An iSUP Roller Backpack makes it easy to store and transport everything in one go.

SUP Backpack (Preferably Wheeled)

This piece of equipment allows you to move your SUP inflatable paddle board easily. It’s the perfect way to move it over long distances, along with any extra equipment you need when hitting the water. These backpacks are big, so the SUP with pump and paddle can fit, leaving lots of extra room for the leash, hose, and anything else that might be needed. There have large openings at the top, so everything is easy to take out and put away.

The biggest thing to look at in these backpacks is the wheels. You want ones that are oversized and sit at the bottom of the backpack. Good wheels mean the bag can be pulled rather than carried when needed and if the wheels are big enough and spaced properly, they will stop the bottom of the bag from hitting rocks, curbs, and any other bumps.

Lastly, make sure the SUP backpack has good shoulder straps and grab handles, so it is easy to move in and out of your car’s trunk or storage and comfortable to carry if the wheels are unusable on a particular terrain. Sometimes you’ll have to carry your bag for the truly difficult to reach places. So comfortable back cushions and a sturdy waist belt are essential. They’ll keep your back and shoulders happy and help you enjoy your paddling that much more!

Woman hands man Thurso Surf SUP roller backpack down a step ledge

A good iSUP roller backpack can help you paddle anywhere you can find.

Final Thoughts

When it’s time to go paddle boarding and enjoy time out on the water, you do not want to be struggling with the board and simply trying to get there. Knowing how to transport a paddle board and other necessary equipment should not wear you out before you even get to the water. Use any of the methods discussed above and you’ll be off paddling in no time. Find your preferred way of how to transport your paddleboard and save the energy for actually enjoying your day!

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About the Author: Matt G.

Matt Gelgota is a traveler and all around digital marketing guy. His greatest adventure to date was the Mongol Rally, a 10,000 mile unsupported on and off-road saga from Sweden to Mongolia. He has visited more than 50 countries and has been paddling a Thurso Surf Expedition since 2018. Since then he’s had a chance to paddle board in Nepal, Thailand, Japan, and the US. When he’s not on the road he divides his time between Tokyo and Atlanta, Georgia.


  1. Ginger May 24, 2022 at 1:23 am - Reply

    What about people that want to backpack with their inflatable on their backs to a remote location? I just hiked in 5 miles with my iRocker in the backpack provided on my purchase. The pack is NOT suitable for this. It was a miserable hike.

    • Matt G. August 19, 2022 at 4:36 pm - Reply

      Great question Ginger,

      Most riders are traveling short distances with their gear and using their board bags for storage so they appreciate a loose bag with lots of capacity and wheels for getting across the parking lot. That way you can easily toss your board and accessories in and go. For serious hiking, that’s not ideal, you want the weight of your board to stay close to your back. While Thurso Surf board bags have an internal strap to keep the board from sliding around and some nice features like a mesh padded back and well-padded adjustable straps with a more tailored fit, they’re still not up to extreme hikes. For that, you’re better off using an internal frame backpack like you would take backpacking. A well-padded hip belt and load lifters on your shoulder pads will make a big difference. Can’t wait to see where you take your board next!

      See you on the water,

      Social @ Thurso Surf

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