Ding repair shacks in other countries are really cool places to visit. It’s not like a surf shop proper. You get to meet legitimate local surfers who are usually down to earth people and get a glimpse into the local surf scene. However, you don't ever want to have to go to the ding repair shack on your surf trip, for obvious reasons.
But sometimes you don't have a choice. After you’ve paid an airline to get you to some exotic locale, and then extra fees for your surfboards, you still might find that things still get damaged. Alex Gray, Kanoa Igarashi, and John John Florence have all famously dealt with it. From WSL pro to traveling bro, it’s a tradition as old as surf travel itself.
There’s no avoiding occasional bashed boards in transit, but you can certainly reduce your chances by packing your sticks with some tender love and care.
Get a Good Board Bag
When my kid was a year old, I took a winter trip with three shortboards and one noserider. The shorties got packed in my standard coffin bag. The log was going to stay down in the Caribbean. I left it with friends and I go back and use it every year. Did I really want to invest in a longboard bag that I was only going to use for one flight?
Instead, I rolled the dice by padding the entire noserider with diapers and duct tape, then wrapped the whole mess in a $20 board sock that was on sale at the local surf shop. The board sustained one small ding that I fixed myself. I wouldn't expect to be so lucky again.
Brands like Dakine, Creatures of Leisure, Rareform, Prolite, and Wave Tribe all make greqt bags. Ideally you want to buy a bag that is several inches longer than your longest board, so you have room for extra padding. Take your time and pack that thing right.
This is an old trick I have used for about 15 years. Pipe insulation is a cheap foam tube used to keep your hot water from losing its heat as it runs to your faucet. It also happens to slide onto surfboard rails pretty easily and adds very little weight to your board bag. You can find it any hardware store. I recommend the stuff made for 3/4-inch to 1 1/4-inch pipes, depending on the thickness of your rail.
If you’re adverse to adding more plastic to the waste stream, you can save the stuff and use it over and over. In a pinch, you could use it for a makeshift roof rack. Or you could just put it on your pipes when you get home. Who doesn’t like a hot shower?
Surfers have long used clothes for extra padding around boards – This is still a solid idea. However, weight is an issue these days with air travel, so plan wisely. Unless you get crazy lucky, you’re getting charged for your board bag. Even with that fee, the bag usually has a weight limit. So, while it makes sense to pad out your boards with t-shirts, towels and your soft racks, you certainly don’t want to fully weigh your board bag down.
Distribute the weight. Your dive mask, hand plane and those specific jars of extra creamy peanut butter that you have to bring everywhere can go in your duffle. This makes navigating crowded airports with your bags much easier too.
Don’t Forget the Necessities
You should always have a spare tire, flashlight, a few tools and a poncho in your car. Similarly, there is gear that should live in your board bag.
Most travel bags have storage pockets. It’s always a good idea to keep wax, a leash, duct tape, a ding repair kit and maybe some fishing tackle and head lamp in that compartment. Maybe consider a photo copy of your passport, too. Don’t even take it out between trips. When you need it, you’ll have it.
Lighten Your Load
This isn’t specific to your board bag, but surf travel in general. Pack your old flip flops, tees, and trunks in there. After you get a few wears out of them on your trip, give them to the locals. (Tip: Kids love stickers.)
We live in the richest country on the planet and they are your hosts. Much of the stuff we take fro granted (even things like surf wax) might be very difficult for local surfers to get their hands on. Plus, it’s less for you to carry home. Trust me, some of your old gear will go a long way.
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