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Surf Travel: 7 things we can't do without

April 11, 2014

 The Northern Hemisphere is getting towards the end of the winter swell cycle. As we prepare for a summer of modest waves and crowded beaches/lineups, avid surfers begin to daydream and formulate their Southern Hemi surf trips. Even if you’re just rigging your surf wagon for a surgical swell strike, these tips may still apply.
  We’ve covered a few different aspects of surf trip planning from which destinations and when, what to bring and what to look out for, and which airlines work best with surfboard luggage. However, we haven’t told you how to prep your luggage so when you approach the carousel, you can be worry free that you have everything you need. Some of these simple, apparent items are the most overlooked pieces of equipment to pack. Including them will make life a whole lot easier than if you forget them.

Items we rarely think to bring:
This is HUGE. First, it’s only 4 ounces so it’s within airline regulations. Second, you never know where you’ll end up when you’re visiting a surf destination for the first time. If you’re a 4 hour ponga ride from the nearest ding or boat repair hut, you’re going to destroy a dinged board if water has access to the foam. It’ll weigh 20lbs by the end of the day. That leads me to something I have to throw in here. I know you packed boards with removable fin options, you don’t fly with glass-on fins, you just don’t. That said, bring a backup fin set, even if they suck. What’s crappier than sucky backup fins is a a broken fin with no backup. Unless you’re Mark Richards (twin fin reference.)

I don’t care what wave you choose to surf, you NEED to bring protection. Chances are you chose a warm location. If so, there are two elements a jacket or rashguard are going to help with. If there’s a decent amount of UV light coming through, you’re likely to get lobsterized even if you have sunscreen. I’d bet $5 you’re not going to ask your shipmate to lather up your back every time you paddle out. A surf jacket also adds buoyancy in case you bounce your head off a coral head or the like. You’ll also save yourself from any serious reef rash. Lastly, if you don’t have access to packing materials, a surf jacket packed in around the nose of your board will likely save you a hasty, shoddy repair after the airlines have their way with your bag.

If you pick your airline correctly, you can get two boards to your destination for the price of 1 or even 0 if you’re lucky. Solarez cannot repair a snapped board… no matter how many tubes of it you bring. The last thing you want to do is risk snapping another board that doesn’t belong to you. Bring a backup, and make that backup be that board that was SO GOOD in ’98 but has been sitting quietly awaiting glory for the last 6 years. Chances are it has the outline and rocker necessary for a destination wave anyways. If it costs a little extra to fly with it, blow a local groms mind by gifting it to them on your way out, you’ll change their life forever.

 Don’t just go, I’ll get sunblock when I get there. You may be going somewhere where they don’t use it. Find a good sunblock, 4 oz or less, that’s got titanium or zinc oxide. If it doesn’t have either, you’re going to get toasted no matter how much you put on. Second, it’s nearly impossible to protect your eyes and your scalp from the sun. Look at a pro surfer’s eyes, nearly all of them have some terigium (sun damage) visible. Even if it’s cloudy, if it’s light out, the UVs are screaming down, right through those clouds. A hat and sunglasses will pay off when you’re 60 and still surfing.


Virtually everything you need to pack for a surf trip can fit inside your boardbag. Your board(s) will thank you for it. It sounds funky, but if you tape your clothing/wetsuit/towel etc. to the rails and deck of your boards, you’ve just turned your boardbag into your best friend. If you have a roomy daybag and can’t afford a travel bag, this is one easy way to convert it into a travel bag on the cheap. To add, airlines have started charging for extra bags and carry-ons. Not only that, those charges have caused the overhead compartments to fill up a whole lot quicker. A flight to New Zealand with a backpack jammed into your shins isn’t our idea of a good time.
Good luck finding an english language map of anything in a foreign country, let alone a map at all. Once you’re away from the airport, you’re pretty much on your own. Your prep research will save your ass. The last thing you want to do is run your rented pontoon boat aground on a hidden reef or get caught between a rock and a hard place with your rented Suzuki samurai not realizing a potential mountain pass is really a 20% grade goat path. You’d be surprised what a topographic or nautical map can do for you, plus, it’ll only cost you a few sheets of loose leaf.

Not every surf destination is prepared for your arrival. You might be stuck with a stick of beeswax or a candle if you’re not careful. Even if you bring some, make sure it’s more than you need, somebody is going to bum a rub from you and that could earn you a beverage later that evening. who knows, maybe that surfer is an unnamed pro that invites you to their next day adventure for saving their bum that morning. You may have helped them get the cover shop and you didn’t even know it.

The more layers between your board and the luggage guys, the better. If you have a board sock, add it. If you have access to a local board builder, he ships boards, spend the $15 on some bubble or go all out and purchase tail and nose foam blocks. A cheap way to protect your rails is by way of Home Depot’s pipe insulation foam tubes. Need a wetsuit where you’re going? wrap the bottom half of your board in it. If there’s no way around getting pillaged through baggage fees, aka Hawaiian Airlines, commission a local shaper to build you something you can pick up when you arrive, guess what, he’s going to know what works in that neck of the woods better than you do.
There are many other things you’ll need to consider when setting up your epic surf trip, these items will no longer be among them because you just printed this out and taped it to your dusty trusty travel bag. Bon Voyage and safe travels. We’ll see you and your intact board when you get back.

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