The Best Surfboard Bags | Socks, Day Bags, Travel Bags & Coffins
Taking your surfboard on a plane? Or just tired of surf wax getting on your car seats? Protect your surfboards with these surfboard covers and travel bags
In surfing, as in life, protection is of the essence, shielding your car’s interior from melted surf wax, preventing unwanted pregnancies, and—most importantly of all—keeping your surfboards ding-free. If you own a surfboard, it’s likely that at some point in your life you’ll need some sort of sheath to put it in—either a surfboard sock or a surfboard bag, of which there are three main types: day board bags, travel board bags, and coffins.
Surfboard Bags: Surfboard Socks
A sock for your surfboard will guard it from scrapes, dust, and minor bumps, and also stop your wax from rubbing off on other surfaces. It’s a handy piece of lightweight protection when leaving your surfboard around the house, it’ll serve as a barrier between your surfboard and the inside of your car, and can provide an extra layer of padding inside another board bag.
Look for a sock no more than 6 inches longer than your surfboard, the closer the fit the better (this rule of thumb applies to board bags too). They’re relatively cheap to buy, or if your granny’s a legend try and persuade her to knit you one. Taking the measurements of your boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s/relative’s surfboard and getting one custom made is an inspired idea for a Christmas present.
Surfboard Bags: Surfboard Day Bags
A step up from a board sock and providing significantly more protection from dings and sun damage is the day bag, which generally consists of a waterproof, UV reflective, tarpaulin zip-up shell. Most are 5mm thick; some are more spacious in the tail to accommodate fins, others have little slits for them to poke out through; almost all come with a detachable shoulder strap.
For air travel a day board bag is unlikely to be up to the task, not on its own anyway. Channel Islands says of its Jordy Smith Signature Boardbag, billed as the toughest day board bag around, that “for the very bold and daring it just might survive a plane ride", which isn’t exactly a cast-iron guarantee. Combined with a decent layer of bubble-wrap, however, and additional padding in the form of t-shirts and towels, a day board bag will probably suffice.
As well as length, you should also take into consideration width; special "funboard" or "hybrid" board bags are available for wider shortboards, which may not fit in a standard shortboard bag.
Surfboard Bags: Surfboard Travel Bags
If you’re taking your surfboard on a plane and care deeply for your surfboard’s welfare, it’s worth opting for a travel board bag, distinguished by its thicker padding (10mm is the standard thickness) and generally sturdier build. Inside a travel bag your surfboard should withstand the attentions of most baggage handlers, although there’s always an element of luck involved with air travel. Many surfers still choose to pad their boards out with reinforcements inside their travel board bag.
Travel bags are available for one or two surfboards (any more than that and it's generally considered a coffin). Even if you only possess one surfboard at the present time, it might be worth investing in a travel bag made for two surfboards; if you’re serious about surfing, it's likely that at some point in the future you’ll possess two boards, and want to travel with both of them. Going on a surf trip with just one surfboard is a risky business—even if your board goes well in all conditions (unlikely), you may struggle to find a suitable or affordable replacement if it snaps or gets badly dinged. In any case, there’s nothing to stop you taking a board bag made for two surfboards and putting just one surfboard in it; in fact your lone surfboard will probably be better protected, since multi-surfboard bags contain internal padded dividers to separate the surfboards within. You’ll also have more room for clothes, wetsuits, etc.
Surfboard Bags: Surfboard Coffin Bags
Aside from the greater space inside, the chief advantage and distinguishing feature of a coffin board bag is a zip that goes almost the whole way round the bag, allowing you to access all of the bag’s interior and thus to pack your stuff—including all your clothes, wetsuits and other equipment—in the most convenient, space effective manner possible. A decent coffin board bag will have both internal and external straps that can be tightened to stop your boards sliding around inside the bag. Some coffins can hold as many as 7, even 8 surfboards, but most max out at 3 or 4.
For the sake of your back and shoulders, I’d recommend a coffin board bag with wheels. A heavy duty surfboard bag plus three or more surfboards plus whatever clothing and other equipment you’ve got stashed in there adds up to a weighty proposition. Yes, you’ll probably manage with the aid of a shoulder strap, and once you’re inside the airport you’ll be able to drag it along the shiny floor, but it won’t be fun—your upper back'll be aching before even setting foot in the water. Dragging isn’t great for the board bag anyway, and still requires significantly more effort than wheeling, no matter how smooth the floor.
Channel Islands have come up with an inspired idea to combine your board bag and your hand luggage all in the same user-friendly package. Board bags in their Travel Light Coffin range have no built-in wheels of their own, but can be easily attached to the Carry On wheelie bag (see above). When it’s time to check your bags in, simply undo the straps and take the Carry On with you as hand luggage. It’s basically the Power Rangers of surf travel.
And if attaching and detaching a separate wheelie bag sounds like a faff (it’s not), or if you already have a suitcase or backpack you’re happy with, plenty of other coffins are available with built-in wheels. Take into account a board bag’s weight when making your purchase (this information should be readily available). Most airlines won’t count the number of surfboards in your board bag but instead will weigh your overall baggage; lighter board bags are likely to afford less protection, but allow you to carry more.