Stand up paddle boarding, and other similar pastimes, have always gone hand in hand with travel. Once those initial skills have been learned it stands to reason that SUPers would wish to spread their paddling wings.
Exploring foreign destinations, experiencing differing cultures and checking out other SUP opportunities is not only a way to improve your on water skills, it’s a way to grow personally and have a deeper understanding of our planet.
Travelling with stand up paddle gear can be tricky. Due to the size and weight of SUPs, getting your stick to exotic destinations can be a hassle. Here are a few travelling tips to, hopefully, help alleviate the stress.
Choose your weapon (wisely)
If you’re an avid stand up paddle boarder then chances are you’ll have a quiver of boards and paddles in your arsenal. You could be the type of SUPer who loves waves AND flat water or you could have chosen to specialise. Your kit will no doubt reflect this.
However, your destination of choice will most likely have a specific set of conditions which will suit a single piece of kit better than others – even if this isn’t the case you’d be wise to compromise and travel with your ‘best fit’.
Consider just how much kit you need
Trying to take your entire stand up paddle boarding collection can incur unnecessary excess baggage fees. You can help remove the strain on your wallet by taking just one board and a single paddle.
If you’re heading to a surf zone then chances are you won’t need your 14ft race stick – so leave it ‘back at the ranch’.
Baggage restrictions with certain airlines are, these days, enforced rigorously with little room for negotiation. In fact certain carriers refuse point blank to ship any ‘unusual’ luggage.
For instance, British Airways crate everything up into metal containers, making it physically impossible to freight any oversized kit – it’s simply not possible. (Taking an inflatable is usually the only option here – or hire).
When planning your trip it would be worth checking which airlines fly to your chosen destination before parting with your hard earned cash. It would be a shame to turn up at check in and end up having to leave your gear behind!
Get it in Writing
The good news for stand up paddle boarders is not all airlines will refuse to freight your SUP gear. There are still plenty of companies that are happy to fly with kit – but, whatever the airline’s policy for transporting gear, make sure you get a print out of the T’s and C’s to present at check in.
Many stories are reported regarding travellers being stung with considerable excess fees during departure, even when the airline states clearly on their website what their oversized baggage fees are.
The fact is, check in staff are not always aware of this and avoiding a confrontation is the best course of action – so get it in writing, and if possible, pay for your gear before you travel.
Packing it Up
During the packing process you’ll want to keep the weight to a minimum. You may have your oversize fees paid before departure, and have the relevant paper work to prove it, but airport ground staff will no doubt want to weigh your kit, leaving you vulnerable to yet more charges if you’ve gone over the stated weight.
Fortunately, SUP companies who manufacture board and paddle bags take note of these airline restrictions and produce good quality, lightweight, bags that protect your kit.
Many lightweight SUP travel bags are available
Even so, use your common sense. Trying to fly with a triple ‘coffin’ style board bag will most likely result in a repack at the airport or, at worse, a complete refusal by ground staff to manually lift your gear.
By all means, add extra protection, in the form of bubble wrap to your paddle and board, but keep this to a minimum by only wrapping the vulnerable areas of your gear. Remove fins as well, and don’t forget to loosen the air vent if your stick has one.
Always the Possibility…
Even if you’ve got all your paper work in order, your excess fees have been sorted and ample precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of your gear, you still may come up against problems at check in and/or be faced with dinged equipment upon arrival at your resort.
Make sure you pack some ding repair materials in your other luggage – in particular, gaffer tape comes in handy for plugging small holes in stand up paddle boards.
Baggage handlers don’t really understand that your SUP equipment is delicate. They’re employed to do a job and in most cases this means a rough ride for your kit. If you’re travelling with gear then you’re just going to have to accept this.
Make sure you pack some roof rack straps as well. These can be a lifesaver during transfers to and from the airport once in your country of choice.
If you’ve chosen a popular resort then chances are there will be some form of hire facility close to hand. It may be worthwhile considering the rental option over travelling with gear.
Most reputable hire firms are tied in with brands and boast good quality, up to date equipment – in a lot of cases the SUP gear on offer may be better than your own equipment.
By choosing to hire, you’re going to have a smoother travelling experience and get the opportunity to test/demo some new kit. This should be seen as a fantastic chance to experience what other SUP gear is on the market.
If you’re determined to travel with stand up paddle boarding equipment then the biggest piece of advice is stay cool. Accept the fact that you’re travelling with ‘unusual’ baggage and will face certain issues that go hand in hand with this.
Lastly, smile and be polite when dealing with airport officials and huffing taxi drivers. You’d be surprised just how far this will go.