How to travel on an airplane with your paddle board?

Posted by Rich Price on

Imagine an 8.6ft and a 11.6ft epoxy bamboo paddle board squeezing in a medium sized shuttle bus that is about 5 minutes away from the airport. Can we make it? They said on the phone it would fit on the bus and they could open the back, if needed, to get it done. Cool! 6:30am in the Morning, the day of our flight; Nope! Me: “Hey, you don’t even have an opening in the back of that bus.” Bus driver: “ Let’s hang it out the side door while it’s still dark and hope we don’t get pulled over.” Wow, we are on an adventure now!! …….Seriously, this really happened

Solace flight to PR

In this post, I’ll hit on my overall experience traveling with my two Solace SUP Boards, paddles and other gear flying to Puerto Rico from Ocean City, Maryland. Also of course, how I packed my boards and paddles to avoid damage, airplane fees and getting around once I was there. I couldn’t really find this information all in one place at the time I traveled in October 2013, so hopefully someone can get some nuggets from my amateur writing, but first hand experience.



My trip started with lots of planning for plane tickets, parking, hotel reservations and finding out what it was going to cost to get these boards to where I wanted to be paddling; the warm Puerto Rican sun! I will spotlight some key information that will help you with your trip if your thinking of flying with your own paddle board.

Cardboard wrap rails on Solace SUP

1). PACKING YOUR STAND UP PADDLE BOARD AND THINGS YOU WILL NEED

BOARD BAG
Having a good board bag and size for your board is key. I found you need some looseness or play in your bag for your size board so you have room to put some extra padding material and paddle gear inside. You could skip the extra material part, but it never hurts to have extra padding to keep your gear from rubbing together and scratching. 10mm padded board bags or more are the best for this type of travel.


PADDLE BAG
I had a paddle bag for my paddles and was able to pack these in the board bags. This helped from being charge extra baggage fees and made it easier with less things to carry. The thickness of this wasn’t as important for me since I was putting it in a padded board bag with extra padding.


PACKING MATERIAL
I used some foam sheets, cardboard, tape and old stand up deck pads to pad the boards. The foam sheets were good for the top deck and bottom of the board. Then I cut card board to fit and wrap the rails and nose. The old deck pads were nice to stick over the packing material on the tail and nose areas as I have heard they can be the most vulnerable. I had some of these packing materials from my manufacturer who makes my boards but you could get card board boxes for free from a grocery store and other packing material online at Uline or in a store like Wal-Mart. Here are some pics from my madness. I’ve also heard you can cut one of those floating noodles that you use for pools to float with in half to wrap around your board. Haven’t tried it on a SUP, but looks like it could work.




INFLATABLE RACKS
These were priceless on our trip. My friend picked us up in a Toyota Corolla with no rack system on it. I usually forget about things like this but thought about it at the last minute before we left thankfully. I purchase some off of Amazon for $60 and it came with the straps and a pump. When folded, it took up less space than a laptop would. I also had a Yakima bra strap system that is also inexpensive and made it extra secure with tie downs that wrap around the nose and tail of the boards and then another strap hooks under the front bumper and runs the length of the boards and hooking under the rear bumper. The inflatable racks do tend to have some movement so I would definitely use some extra tie downs.

Underwater shot of SUP

AIRPLANE FEES ON STAND UP PADDLE BOARDS

This was always something I wondered about and have heard so many different answers. I drove 3 hours from OC, MD because the airport was to small to accommodate my large SUP’s and flew out of Washington, D.C. from Reagan International. I recommend getting to the airport early to check in because you never know what obstacles you will run into. Just like my experience from the hotel to the airport at the beginning of this post. Luckily it work out for me and had a cool bus driver!



Unfortunately, stand up paddle boards do not have there own category yet on most airline websites. So I looked at surfboard and windsurf charges and then emailed the airline to clarify. Most did have kayaks/canoes listed and all seemed to not allow these at all.



Here is information on airline’s that I considered on my trip back in 2014 from there own websites below:



JetBlue www.jetblue.com



Information under surfing equipment states:

One surfboard per case and has to be under 100 lbs

$50 per board each way and count as a checked in bag; excess baggage fees apply

No size restriction stated under surfing equipment



Information under Windsurf equipment states:

Maximum 15 ft in length and has to be under 100 lbs

$50 per board each way for domestic and international flights with some areas restricted



The only thing I could find is a second bag fee of $40 and a section that talks about oversized baggage charges but it doesn’t actually give you a fee schedule.



Delta www.delta.com



Information under surfboards states:

$150 per board each way up to 50 lbs

Maximum on 115 inches in length

$100 additional fee if weight is 51-70 lbs each way



Information under windsurf equipment states:

Same as surfboard but adds a maximum length of 115 inches



United www.united.com



These guys actually had paddle boards listed



Information listed:

$100 per board each way for domestic and has to be under 99.9 lbs

$200 for international

Maxiumum of 115 inches in length





I ended up going with JetBlue as they had reasonable plane tickets and board fees to San Juan, Puerto Rico. I did email JetBlue to confirm the cost of $50 each way for my 8.6 ft and the 11.6 ft boards that I was bringing and they said that it was correct that the charge for me would be $100 both ways for the two boards. Sweet! This is what I paid, but keep reading as I think I got lucky.



Now, they did give me a hard time when I checked in at Reagan International and a even harder time when I was coming back from Puerto Rico. In San Juan the attendants gave me a weird look glancing down at the two very long boards and then looking back up at me while shaking their heads and saying “oh, we are going to have to charge you for oversized baggage” or something along those lines. I was nice and talked them up a bit and showed the email from there company confirming the fees of $50 for each board/each way and what I paid to get there from D.C. They said they would honor the pricing this time but I got lucky and the actual fee should of been $125 for each board/each way…..that’s $500 for a round trip, Ouch! It seemed nobody really knew what the fee’s should of been, but a manager came out and confirmed that $125 for each board/each way is what I should count on next time I travel.

How to?

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  • Great article thanks Rich. I’m planning on a surf trip traveling the Philippines when I retire in about 3 years time and was not having much luck finding any info on peoples experiences travel with SUPs. Kind regards Marty.

    Marty on

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