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One of the best perks of owning an inflatable SUP is, of course, the fact that you can travel with it. Their incredible portability and durable construction mean inflatable boards are made for exploring anywhere you want to go.
Inflatable paddle boards are most at home on the water, so there’s a few considerations you should make before you take your board on the road. As long as you plan and pack properly, you're going to have a smooth trip.
In this article, we’ll give you a breakdown of how to pack, check and fly with an inflatable paddle board, as well as the best ways to transport it on the ground. We have all the advice you need to safely transport your board by plane, car, bus, or train - so you can be well on your way to a perfect paddling session before you even hit the beach.
Ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime? Here’s everything you need to know about how to travel with an inflatable paddle board:
Table of Contents
Ready to take your first flight with your board? It’s easier than you think to fly with an inflatable SUP board, even to the other side of the world! We know that planning air travel can come with its challenges, so we’ve put together this guide to make flying with an iSUP simple.
However you’re planning on getting to your destination, there’s one crucial thing you can do to protect your board on its journey: Invest in a specially-designed paddle board travel bag.
These custom-built bags are shaped to accommodate your deflated SUP, and have all sorts of pockets to store your paddle, fins, and other accessories. Plus, they’re reinforced and padded for extra protection to ensure that your board arrives in perfect condition. Simply roll up your deflated board like a sleeping bag with the paddle and pump tucked inside, load everything into the bag, and you’re ready to roll.
Not every paddle board bag is created equal, so be sure to look for a durable design that protects your board and makes for easy carrying every step of your trip.
If you’re looking for the ultimate in quality and design, the GILI Rolling iSUP Backpack will knock your socks off. It’s easy to carry, crafted for the most epic journeys, and comes with premium padded shoulder and waist straps for maximum comfort. Its heavy duty wheels allow you to carry your bag like a regular backpack or take the weight off your back and roll your SUP bag like a suitcase.
Aside from looking slick, it’s also roomy enough to fit your pump and paddle inside, plus it’s loaded with extra pockets for carrying all your other gear. When you arrive at your destination, the top and side grab handles allow you to easily pull it off the luggage carousel.
Packing your paddle is easy when you have an iSUP backpack, and even more so if you invest in a travel-friendly model. We never leave home without our GILI Adjustable 3 Piece Travel Paddle - it’s made of feather-light aluminum, can be adjusted for all rider heights, and breaks down into 3 pieces to fit perfectly inside your board bag.
To keep your paddle and pump protected on the journey, we recommend rolling them up inside your deflated board before stashing everything in your iSUP backpack. This method keeps all your accessories secure, plus gives you the option to wrap your paddle blade and pump in some layers of extra padding for ultimate peace of mind.
Don’t get caught out by crazy excess baggage fees or hold-ups at the check-in desk! Most airlines have a 50lb checked bag weight limit, but this policy can vary between airlines, so it pays to do your research ahead of time. Most inflatable paddle boards in an iSUP backpack come in well under this weight and size limit, but it’s wise to use this pre-flight checklist before you book:
While a friendly greeting will get you a long way at the check-in desk (and potentially help you avoid any excess fees), it does depend on the gate agent’s discretion. Naturally, different airlines come with their own luggage restrictions, so be sure to check ahead of time so you can pick an airline that won’t gouge you with additional fees when you arrive.
Don’t forget to pack these other paddling essentials! The good news? Your iSUP backpack has plenty of room to fit more than just your paddle board, so load up the pockets with this other gear:
Inflatable SUPs give you a host of transport options on the ground, letting you get your board to the water’s edge without a hassle. Depending on your vehicle type, you can always keep your board inflated if you’ll be using it for consecutive days of your trip.
With an iSUP backpack, it’s even easier to transport. Hit the ground running with these tips on how to travel with inflatable paddle board by car, truck, bus or train:
If you’re traveling in a car with roof racks, you can leave your board inflated for transport. This is a good method if you’re traveling with friends and need to stack multiple boards too. Plus, you’ll save a ton of time deflating and re-inflating your board every time you arrive at a new paddling location!
If your vehicle doesn’t have roof racks installed, a set of rack pads and straps is a good work-around. These easy-to-install systems use foam blocks and strapping to secure your SUP right onto the roof of any vehicle, and only take a few minutes to install.
Here’s some things to keep in mind when transporting paddle boards on top of a car:
Not sure of the best method to transport your SUP on top of a vehicle? Check out our article on the Best SUP Roof Racks for Cars, Trucks & SUVs.
If you’ve got a trailer to transport your paddle boards in, you’re in luck. Trailers are super practical, as they’re great for people who aren’t tall enough to load SUP boards onto roof racks, plus have plenty of extra room to store your other gear or stack multiple boards.
Depending on the size and style of trailer, you’ve got two options:
Generally, the best way to transport an inflatable SUP inside a vehicle is in its travel bag, stowed in the trunk or on a seat. When packed in its bag, your entire SUP kit takes up less room than a small suitcase.
On the flipside, if you’ve got a bigger truck or van at your disposal, you’ve got the option of leaving your board inflated. Just remember these key points if that’s the case:
If you’re planning to take public transportation, we recommend you deflate the board and carry it in your iSUP backpack. Here’s some pro tips:
Touring distant lands with your inflatable paddle board is a breeze with these easy travel tips. Just deflate your SUP, roll it up like a sleeping bag, and you’re ready to ride. Here’s to new adventures and exploring the world with your GILI paddle board!
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