Although inflatable paddle boards can be conveniently packed down to fit into a backpack like the SUP Roller Backpack, you can also transport iSUPs on a roof rack. You can transport your iSUP just like most surfboards, foam boards, or any rigid board for that matter. Transporting your SUP on a roof rack can come in handy now and again, so it’s good to understand the proper set up. This article covers exactly how to transport your inflatable paddle board via a roof rack, and provides a few extra tips and tricks along the way.

There’s a variety of reasons you may decide you want to transport your SUP on a roof rack. Maybe you need the extra space in the vehicle, find it easier to pump the boards up at home, are going to be paddling several days in a row, or are portaging between nearby bodies of water. Whatever the reason, it’s worth understanding the ins and outs of how to transport your SUP on a roof rack properly.

Before You Load Any Paddle Boards on the Roof Rack

Before you put your iSUP up on the roof to tie it down there’s a few things you’ll want to consider. Two key things to keep in mind are how far are you traveling with your SUP and what are the likely driving conditions. If it’s just a short drive to a nearby location on roads or a highway you’re familiar with, then you don’t need to do anything special. However, if you’re going on a long drive or doing a bit of off-roading it might be worth considering some added protection. Padding prevents damage, even on short trips. And it’s no fun getting to the water, pulling your SUP off the crossbars, and realizing it’s damaged. Obviously it’s your choice, but a bit of added protection is totally worth it regardless the type of vehicle you drive.

SUV with four inflatable stand up paddle boards stacked showing how to transport multiple SUPs on a roof rack

Stack ’em up! If you need the extra space inside your vehicle, transport your SUPs on a roof rack. Photo by

Use a SUP specific roof rack if possible. Many roof racks have the perfect accessories designed to protect your board from damage. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a soft rack. You can easily add padding to get the soft rack feel you’re looking for. So, if you don’t have a roof rack designed specifically for SUPs, you can improvise by affixing foam blocks, pool noodles, soft towels (or other soft materials) at major points of contact between your board, the cross bar, and the straps. Common contact points include where the tie down straps (or ratchet straps) touch the board and where the board touches the roof rack.

Inflatable stand up paddle boards don’t suffer from dents and dings like hard paddle boards. Their soft inflatable bodies actually make them more durable to those typical accidents. Nonetheless, it doesn’t take much to follow the added precautions, so why not?

Side view of car showing how to transport inflatable paddle boards on a roof rack

Stack your boards with the largest on the bottom. Photo by

Mounting Your Inflatable Boards to the Roof Rack

After you pad your roof rack, you can mount your board. If you’re transporting several on the roof make sure to place the largest at the bottom and work your way up to the smallest. This helps build a solid and sturdy foundation for the load you’re carrying.

When placing your SUPs on the rack you want to place them deck down. Placing your SUP with its deck down decreases wind resistance. By placing your board so its tail is at the front of your vehicle you can also increase safety and security a little bit. Here’s the idea; if a strap loosens while you’re driving your board could slide off. However, if the tail is at the front (with or without fins attached) as the board slides back the fin box and/or fins will catch on the strap. Of course this isn’t something you want to rely on. It’s simply a last line of defence against an unwelcome accident.

Close up of hand showing how to check to make sure straps on Thurso Surf Soft Roof Rack are secure.

Check the straps to make sure your boards are secure. Photo by

Securing Your SUP to Your Vehicles Roof Rack

Now that you have your board is in position you can secure it to the roof rack. Wrap the strap over your board and under your rack. Note that although roof racks are quite similar, it’s best to check your specific model’s instructions. Once the straps are in place, but before you buckle them shut, twist the straps. The twist in the strap prevents them from flapping in the wind and creating an unpleasant wind noise while driving.

Now that the straps are buckled check to make sure they’re pulled tight. You don’t want the boards to be able to move around while they’re secured to the rack. With an inflatable paddle board you also want to make sure it’s not too tight. Look for creases around where the strap meets your board. If it’s too tight you’ll see creases in the board as though it’s being pinched or squeezed. If that’s the case, loosen the buckle on the ratchet strap slightly.

Overhead shot of Range Rover parked diagonally with multiple boards, Thurso Surf Waterwalker 132, and Expedition 150 on Soft Roof Rack

Securely transport one or more paddleboards on a SUP roof rack (Thurso Surf Soft Roof Rack shown).

Added Security Beyond Buckles

Although the tie down straps should be enough if attached properly, you can give yourself some added security by securing your SUP using its D-rings. DO NOT solely rely on the D-rings as a way to tie down your stand up paddleboard. They alone are not secure enough and the tension could cause damage to your board. Instead, using additional straps or rope to attach to the D-rings and your roof rack can give you added peace of mind that your SUP won’t fly off if something happens to the main straps.

Quick Guide to Transporting Your SUP on a Vehicle’s Roof Rack

Step 1– Pad the rack.

Step 2 – Place your board on the roof rack centered between the crossbars deck down, tail first. Always place the largest board at the bottom and work your way up to the smallest.

Step 3 – Attach the straps according to your roof rack model. Adding a twist in the strap will prevent it from flapping loudly in the wind.

Step 4 – Check that the straps are tight and your board can’t move around.

As you can see it’s nothing complicated, but having the added insights will help you transport your board properly. This in turn will help you keep your gear in good condition and stay safe on the road.

Overhead of parked SUV with iSUPs transported on roof rack in a parking lot

Ready to go as soon as you park. Photo by

Paddle Board Transport Made Easy

Obviously one of the greatest advantages of an iSUP is that it can be easily packed away and carried in a bag. That means not only traveling in a vehicle is possible, but also quite convenient if you’re flying somewhere. However, there will most likely be a time and several reasons that it makes perfect sense to put your SUP up on the cross bars of your vehicle’s paddle board rack. Regardless of your vehicle type, the way you keep your board safe is to follow these simple steps which will help avoid any transportation issues.

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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. JP July 16, 2020 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    All the pictures are tail to the back, but your advice says otherwise. 🤦‍♀️

    • Social @ Thurso Surf July 18, 2020 at 12:16 am - Reply

      Hiya Jenn,

      Big star for being so astute!⭐️ The most important part is to secure your board deck down. As we mention in the article, it might be a little bit more secure to have your fin boxes forward so, if the board somehow begins to slide, there’s a chance that they’ll catch on the strap. However that’s a minor tweak that you can consider and not something to be relied on. As you can see from the images, Inflatable Boarder was able to transport several boards fully inflated deck down and nose forward. Thanks for the shout!

      See you on the water,

      Social @ Thurso Surf

  2. Joe L March 11, 2021 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Many manufacturers say not to leave your SUP in the sun, presumably out of fear for heat increasing the air pressure beyond the max capacity of what the board can handle. If transporting SUPs long-distance (multi-day road trips) should a board be covered from direct sunlight? Seems like another option would be to deflate the board a bit, but then you’d need to tighten the straps down and that in itself would defeat some of the purpose it seems like…

    • social March 15, 2021 at 2:48 pm - Reply

      You’re right, Joe. Temperature extremes are best avoided. For one thing, sunlight fades and degrades PVC (and pretty much every material) over time. With your board baking on the top of the car all day it can really heat up. Heat increases the internal pressure as you mentioned, so it’s a good idea to let a bit of air out of your board when it’s going to be on the roof rack for an extended period. Your board should still feel quite firm and be safely attached to the rack at slightly less than the recommended 15 PSI but you’ll get the best performance and ride out of it with a few extra pumps of air once you reach your destination. Hit us up right here or at contact[at]thursosurf[dot]com with questions anytime!

      Keep paddling,


  3. Naomie May 15, 2021 at 4:08 pm - Reply

    Would you recommend strapping down the bag to the roof?

    • Jordan-na May 17, 2021 at 9:33 am - Reply

      Hi Naomie,

      That’s an interesting question! Do you mean strapping the bag with the deflated board inside, or strapping the bag on top of an inflated board? Board bags, with or without the deflated SUP inside, fit easily in a trunk or backseat of a car, so that’s always our recommendation. You could technically strap the bag with the deflated board inside to the roof, but it’s not ideal as it is less aerodynamic than an inflated board and will increase your vehicle’s wind resistance. If you do decide to strap your bag with the boards inside to the roof, make sure that it is very secure; you can check out articles on strapping luggage to a roof.


  4. Kenny mccartney June 4, 2021 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    I’ve just tried strapping a paddle board bag to the roof rack of my car and I’m not happy with it. Because it’s soft, it compresses a bit when I tighten the straps. My worry is that it’ll compress some more as I’m driving, and work its way loose. I *could* pull the straps rally, really tight, but I worry about damaging the board. I think I’ll just inflate the board and transport it that way. Seems easier and safer.

    • Jordan-na June 7, 2021 at 3:52 pm - Reply

      Hey Kenny,

      Thanks for your feedback! Always best to transport your board the way that feels safest to you. Bit confused about your comment though; are you strapping the board to the roof inflated or deflated? Anyways, deflating the board and storing it in your vehicle is always best.


  5. Aleah June 23, 2021 at 12:05 pm - Reply

    Hi, I have 2 inflatable SUPs and they don’t have removable fins. Is there a way to safely stack them on my roof rack or am I out of luck? Thank you!

    • Jordan-na June 23, 2021 at 3:48 pm - Reply

      Hi Aleah,

      Good question! You can definitely stack boards with the fins on. In fact, if you do it properly, the fins will act as extra security. The key is to stack them deck down with the fins facing up. The tail (back) of the boards should face the front of the car. Stack them one by one, starting with the largest board. Because of the fins, they won’t sit fully on top of each other, which is fine. Once they are stacked, tie them down securely. If they do happen to slide backwards when driving, the fins will catch on the ties, preventing them from falling off completely, giving you a chance to stop and adjust your ties. This video will give you some extra tips on how to stack multiple boards with fins (he’s using surfboards, but it’s the same concept).


  6. Matt June 30, 2021 at 11:05 am - Reply

    I have an inflatable SUP and my partner has a rigid SUP. Is it okay to stack them on the roof rack? I’m assuming the same rule of stacking the smaller board on top of the larger one still applies. Thanks!

    • Jordan-na June 30, 2021 at 12:02 pm - Reply

      Hey Matt,

      There should be no problem stacking inflatables and hardboards together on the roof rack. You can place a towel in between the boards for added protection. Yes, always place the larger one on the bottom.


  7. Abi Smith July 9, 2021 at 9:43 am - Reply

    I am always concerned about driving at high speeds causing damage to my ISUPs when they’re on my roof rack. Based on this post it seems like that does not need to be a concern, is that correct?

    • Jordan-na July 9, 2021 at 11:11 am - Reply

      Hi Abi,

      Good question! If your boards are tied down properly and securely, driving at higher speeds should not be an issue. I would recommend loading them fin forward for extra protection. Always good to check on them periodically, to make sure they haven’t shifted and that the straps are still secure. But the safest way to transport boards is always deflated in the vehicle.


  8. Brian July 12, 2021 at 6:02 pm - Reply

    Hi there, interesting article, I have had a couple of inflatable SUP , over the years. Some of the big Brand,s too.
    All of them come with a warning to Never under any circumstances transport the inflated board on the roof, Mainly because of Warping due to Wind, and also making the manufacturers warren- tee null and void.

    Now i definitely see the advantages and often thought about doing it to save time and awkward inflation situations, Am i being overcautious?

    • Jordan-na July 13, 2021 at 10:47 am - Reply

      Hi Brian,

      Thanks for your question! We always recommend following the manufacturer’s guidelines for handling your SUP. Our Warranty ( does state that we do not cover “damage or defects caused by transport, loading, unloading, dropping, or out of water handling, including marks left by over tightening transport straps.” So while transporting your board on your roof rack does not void our warranty, you should always transport your board safely and carefully. That being said, many people transport their inflated SUPs on roof racks for the convenience and have no issues doing so. Try it out on a short trip to a nearby spot and see how it goes!

  9. Gary July 28, 2021 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the great information. I’ve read that strapping the SUPs to the roof will warp the PVC because of the wind. Is that true?

    • Jordan-na July 28, 2021 at 5:46 pm - Reply

      Hi Gary,

      Happy to hear you liked this article! If your Thurso board is strapped down securely, it should not be warped by the wind as we use a high quality PVC and durable double layer construction for our boards. I know of many people who transport their iSUPs on the roof but haven’t heard of anyone having this issue. However, I always recommend transporting your board deflated and in the vehicle to be safe.

      Happy paddling,

  10. Aaron August 14, 2021 at 7:49 am - Reply

    i’ve transported my board many times in the past with no issues. However I was wondering could a flying pebble or small rock, that has the force to crack your windshield would also damage my SUP. My concern is not on short trips to a near by lake. but when i travel at high speed to the shore.

    • Jordan-na August 16, 2021 at 10:52 am - Reply

      Hi Aaron,

      Good question. A pebble or small rock should not be able to damage the super-durable, double layer PVC construction of our boards. However, the safest way to transport a board is deflated in the roller backpack and stored in your vehicle. That’s the beauty of having an iSUP!


  11. Gilles Doire August 14, 2021 at 2:10 pm - Reply


    My concern about transporting an inflatable sup on a roof are small rocks that could hit the board. On a highway, travelling at 100km/h, wouldn’t that be dangerous to puncture the board? I was wondering if a protector (like a sock) exists, so you just put it on front side of the board, facing the front of the vehicule?

    thank you

    G Doire

    • Jordan-na August 16, 2021 at 10:55 am - Reply

      Hi Gilles,

      We just had a similar question from Aaron (see below). A pebble or small rock should not be able to damage or puncture the super-durable, double layer PVC construction of our boards. However, the safest way to transport a board is deflated in the roller backpack and stored in your vehicle. That’s the beauty of having an iSUP!

      There are board socks and board bags out there. Most are made for surf boards, so you’ll have to check the dimensions (especially the thickness) before purchasing, but there are some that are SUP specific.

      Happy paddling,

  12. Charlotte February 3, 2022 at 2:58 am - Reply

    I was just wondering about leaving the board out in the sun on top of my car. I like to go paddling after work but it means the board sits ontop of the car in the sun during the day. Is there something I can do to protect it from the sun? Is covering it in towels enough or do I need something more protective?

    • Matt G. February 3, 2022 at 4:17 pm - Reply

      Hi Charlotte! Towels sound like a great idea to protect and extend the lifespan of your board if it’ll be in a sunny lot all day waiting for you to hit the water. They’ll definitely do the trick. Another move would be finding a shady parking spot under a tree. We’re always going to have a certain amount of sun exposure when we’re having fun outdoors. Don’t worry! Your board is built for that, but when it comes to long term storage especially, it’s best to avoid leaving it exposed to the elements all season. It’s so cool that you get to go paddling as part of your regular after work routine! What a perfect way to leave the workday behind!

  13. Fiona February 4, 2022 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    Hi, when the fins are not removeable, do you need to stagger the positioning on the car? or can the second board sit on top of the first boards fins?

    • Matt G. February 21, 2022 at 3:09 am - Reply

      Great question Fiona! Sound’s like you’re going paddling with friends. That’s awesome! You’ll want to put the biggest board on the bottom and stagger the fins when they’re not removable. Have a blast out there!

  14. Brian Holcomb May 11, 2023 at 6:44 pm - Reply

    I am looking at transporting 4 inflatable SUPs on a roof rack and am curious what to expect if I stack them on the side with a rack post in the middle. It seems common to mount kayaks in this manner, but every article I find regarding SUPs says to load them deck side down on top of each other. Any thoughts on loading them on their side?

    • Thurso Surf May 12, 2023 at 8:30 am - Reply

      Hi Brian,

      Transporting multiple (more than 2) inflatable SUPs on a roof rack can be a bit tricky, but it sounds like you have a good idea of how you want to proceed. While it is more common to load kayaks on their side, it’s important to note that SUPs are a bit different in their construction and shape. Inflatable SUPs are built with drop-stitch materials that, drop-stitch threads connect the top to bottom and hold the boards’ shape. Because of that, the deck of an SUP is typically more rigid than the side, which allows for a more stable stack.

      That being said, if you do decide to stack your SUPs on their side with a rack post in the middle, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure that the stack is secure and won’t shift around during transport. You may want to use additional straps or tie-downs to keep everything in place. Additionally, you’ll want to be mindful of the pressure on the inflatable boards. Make sure to the boards are properly inflated so they are pretty rigid.

      Overall, while it is possible to stack inflatable SUPs on their side with a rack post in the middle, it’s important to proceed with caution and make sure everything is secure and properly inflated. I hope this helps, and happy paddling!

      The Thurso Surf Team

  15. Olivia July 11, 2023 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    I am looking at transporting my iSUP across a dramatic elevation change, starting at about 3000ft and going through a mountain pass at around 12,000ft, but staying at a spot around 9,000ft. I know I want my SUP to be rigid while traveling, but should I lower it to account for the elevation change? The recommended psi for my board is 15. Thanks in advance!

    • Thurso Surf July 11, 2023 at 9:57 pm - Reply

      Hi Olivia,

      Thanks for your question. For a change of 9,000 ft in elevation, you are looking at a pressure change of 3-4 psi depending on the temperature variation, which you will want to take into consideration when inflating your board and traveling with it.

      Thanks again and let me know if you have any questions.

      The Thurso Surf Team

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