Gear up for your ocean adventure, no matter where it takes you.

Airplane flying over two surfers standing on a beach.
Photo: Sorn340 Studio Images / Shutterstock

While still considered a niche activity, surfing is one of the most popular extreme sports, with tens of millions of fans across the globe. Some of the highest-rated locations to go surfing include Gold Coast, Australia; Bali, Indonesia; Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa; Ericeira, Portugal; and Hawaii, USA. As a result, surfers are often on the move in search of the best waves to ride. And, like many other sports players, surfers look for ways to check their equipment rather than renting a board they’re not used to.

How to pack your board

While the Montreal Convention 1999 (MC99) will insure damaged or lost luggage up to $1,700, it’s best to prepare as well as possible to prevent your board from breaking. Surfboards come in many different shapes and sizes, and each has a bag made to fit. Since surfers often have more than one, the first step may be deciding which ones you’re happy to travel with and securing a well-made, reinforced travel bag that can fit the number of boards you want.

Airplane flying over palm trees.

Photo: Song_about_summer / Shutterstock

On the boards, you’ll need to remove all fins and leashes and, ideally, tape some foam pipe protectors along the rails for padding. Pack each board into the bag in the same direction, optionally adding towels or swimwear between the boards to keep other bags lighter. With the padded boards fit into a protected bag, it’s improbable that they’ll break even if the baggage handlers are rough with the luggage.

How much will different airlines charge for a board bag?

Sports equipment fees are wide-ranging, complicated, and change frequently. Even on the same airline, different international routes may have you paying hundreds of dollars or nothing. Some research can pay off for surfers and athletes traveling with sports equipment since the cheapest airfare may result in a less affordable overall trip.

Passengers picking up oversize luggage at an airport.

Photo: Rob Crandall / Shutterstock

If Oceania is your location of choice, you’re in luck. With Qantas and Air New Zealand, surfboard bags count as a standard checked bag, though on international flights with Qantas, your limit is 32 kg (70 lbs), and with NZ, you’re only allowed up to 23 kg (50 lbs) before you get hit with fees. AirAsia’s website states that all passengers are allowed a complimentary surfboard check-in for up to 15 kg (33 lbs) for flights to and from Australia. And on any Air Tahiti Nui-operated flight, in addition to your checked bags, you may additionally check in a surfboard under 23 kg for free.

Are you heading to Hawaii? Delta Air Lines will treat your surfboard bag, with a limit of two boards per bag, as standard checked luggage with a 115-inch limit. Alaska Airlines also follows their standard bag policy of $30 for the first and $40 for the second, waiving the oversize fee for most sporting equipment. Interestingly, to bring your surfboard on Hawaiian Airlines, you’ll pay $35 one way for island hopping, $100 one way between mainland North America and Hawaii, and $150 for other international routes, except for Australia and New Zealand, in which case your board counts as one of your two allowed checked bags.

View from an aircraft flying low near the Hawaiian coast.

Photo: Janis Apels / Shutterstock

European surfers traveling with British Airways can check their surfboard bags as regular checked bags if it’s under 190 cm. Aer Lingus asks flyers to wrap their boards in bubble wrap or other cushioning material and allows bags up to 240 cm; however, on Regional flights, you’re only allowed 205 cm. TAP Air Portugal, the flag carrier for one of the best surfing countries in the EU, allows sporting equipment under 32 kg to be checked for a flat fee of €60 ($65) within Europe and Northern Africa and double for all others.

In Latin America, Avianca and LATAM will let you check one bag with up to three boards, though it counts as special baggage, and fees range from $50 to $200 depending on your route; however, by prepaying before traveling, you’ll receive a discounted rate. To hit the beaches in South Africa, South African Airways will accept most sports equipment, including surfboards under 200 cm, as a standard bag.

Are there other uncommon items you might bring on a trip and would like Simple Flying to cover? Let us know in the comments below!

Sources: Freewave Surf Academy, Surfline, Lush Palm


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