A SUP roof rack is a great piece of gear that makes it easy to transport your board. We’ve all seen the quintessential image: the silhouette of a vehicle piled high with boards, ready for a day on the water. Whether you are into SUP or surf, it is a classic beach day scene. 

If you’re looking at getting a SUP roof rack, you have options; you can go for a soft rack or a hard rack. Both have their pros and cons. It’s not always an obvious choice, so we’ve laid out the options so you can pick the best one for you!

A car driving away with two paddleboards secured to the roof

Boards pumped, piled, and ready to go! 

SUP Roof Racks and Inflatable Paddleboards

You might be thinking: “Thurso Surf makes inflatable paddle boards. Why would they be talking about roof racks?” While one big advantage of iSUPs is their ability to deflate and be transported without a roof rack, the truth is that they can also be hauled while fully inflated. This is great news for anyone who’d prefer to pump their board at home or would like to keep their board inflated in between excursions. And because iSUPs are lighter and more durable than hardboards, they are actually easier and safer to strap to your vehicle’s roof. If you’ve struggled lifting a hardboard or worried about a rock dinging your board, then you’ll know what we mean.

SUP Roof Racks: Soft vs. Hard Rack

SUP Soft Rack

A soft rack is a lightweight and portable roof rack system that consists of two nylon and foam pads and two straps. A soft rack is a versatile and affordable option for many paddleboarders, whether they have a hard or inflatable board. Let’s get into the pros and cons. 

SUP soft racks on the hood of a vehicle

Our SUP Soft Roof Rack is ready for all the boards


Easy On and Easy Off

A soft roof rack is super easy to use. It requires no tools and anyone can do it! You basically buckle the pads to the roof of your car and rest your board (or boards – a soft rack can handle multiple boards) on the pads, securing them with the straps. Easy peasy! 

Budget Friendly

If you’ve looked into SUP roof racks, you’ll know that soft racks are the more affordable option by far. Hard racks cost at least twice the amount of our SUP Soft Roof Rack. So a soft rack is a great option for someone who would like a roof rack without having to invest too much money. 

Can Be Used On Multiple Vehicles

Do you have more than one vehicle? Would you like the option of using your racks on your friend’s car? Do you rent or do car share? Then soft roof racks are the obvious answer. Because they are not permanently fixed to a vehicle, they can be used on pretty much any sedan, minivan, SUV, etc.

Portable and Easy to Store

Soft racks are small, light, and compact. You can tuck them away in seconds, toss them in your trunk, or pop them into your Roller Backpack so they are ready to be used at any time. This is especially great for travellers who might need them for a taxi or rental car. 


Better Suited to Local Adventures

If you are planning to drive fast, you might want to opt for a hard rack. While a soft rack is an easy and quick racking system, the hard rack is ideal for those want to travel on highways. Soft racks are typically rated for speeds of anywhere from 55 to 80 mph. So if you plan on driving faster than this, a soft rack might not be the choice for you. 

You Might Forget Them

Have you ever left something on your roof and then driven away? It can happen. Because soft racks are so light and portable, you might forget to take them off your roof. Whoops! 

Straps Go In the Car

One small disadvantage of a soft rack is that the straps have to loop inside the vehicle to secure them. Most people don’t mind this, as the straps sit high towards the ceiling of your vehicle, but not everyone is a fan of having the straps inside. If you happen to be out on a rainy day, small amount of water can drip into your vehicle via the strap. 

SUP Hard Rack

A hard rack is a permanently installed roof rack system. They are designed specifically for paddleboards and/or surfboards and attach to the crossbars. Like a soft rack, hard racks can be used with hard or inflatable paddleboards. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of a hard roof rack. 

Two people high fiving while securing the straps of a SUP roof rack

Teamwork makes the dream work (or at least gets your boards strapped down quicker)


Install Once and Done

A SUP hard roof rack only has to be installed once. This is ideal if you are always using the same vehicle to transport your board and are planning on keeping this vehicle for awhile. Once it’s on, it stays on! Just keep in mind that even though the rack is permanently installed, you still have the work of attaching the board to the rack, just like a soft rack. 

Straps Stay Out of Your Vehicle

With a hard rack, unlike the soft rack, the straps are tied to the rack. Therefore there is no need to run the straps through your vehicle. This will keep out any water drips from a rainy day. 

Ideal for Highway Driving

If you are planning to travel far with your boards, a hard rack might be your best bet. The security of a hard rack makes them ideal for long trips and faster highways speeds. But do keep in mind that even with hard racks, you still need to be cautious when driving. Slow and steady wins the race. 



Hard racks can be very costly. You’re looking at several hundred dollars for the racks, plus installation fees. And don’t forget the crossbars! It is definitely a financial commitment and will have to be repeated anytime you change cars. So if you’re only planning to use a roof rack once in awhile, the cost might not be worth it. 

Hard to Find the Right Rack

Finding a roof rack that is compatible with your particular vehicle can be tricky. Unlike the soft racks, hard racks are not one-size-fits-all. In fact, companies that specialize in vehicle racks have to carry a large range of options to suit the many types and models of vehicles out there. 

Can Only Be Used on One Vehicle

A hard rack can only be fixed to one vehicle. So if you want a system that is transferable and can adapt to almost any model or make of vehicles, a soft rack is the clear choice for you. 

Rack Up Your SUP

No matter how you get your board to the water, make sure you find the option that is right for you. If you are considering purchasing a roof rack, we hope this post helped you figure out the right choice. What is your preferred method of hauling your board? Let us know in the comments below!




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