Carrying Your Surfboard in Your Car: A Complete Guide(Step 1: Don’t!)

After a long day of surfing, it can be tempting to toss your surfboard in your car and head home. But, driving with a surfboard bouncing around in the back seat can be dangerous for the board, the car, and you.

Do not carry a surfboard in a car. In the event of an accident, a surfboard can cause fatal injuries to the driver and passengers. However, a surfboard can be safely transported by attaching a surfboard rack to the roof of the car and securing the surfboard with a board bag and straps.

Always use a surfboard rack attached to the top of the car to transport your surfboard. Clean your board and cover it with a board bag before transporting it.

Don’t Put a Surfboard in Your Car

Don’t put a surfboard in your car. Not only is it against the law in some states, but it can also cause fatal injuries to the driver and passengers in the event of an accident. In an accident, the surfboard can become a dangerous object that can break and fracture bones. The fins of a surfboard can cut through skin and even take off your head.

A surfboard can also damage the car. If the board is placed against a window or windshield, it can shatter the glass.

Carrying a surfboard in a car can result in damage being done to the surfboard itself. Chips, scrapes, and scratches are common. If left inside a car, the laminate on the surfboard can begin to melt. Surfboards that have been waxed may start to drip wax onto the interior of the car, which leaves a mess that is hard to clean up.

Using a Surfboard Rack

To avoid injuries, damages, and sometimes breaking the law, use a surfboard rack attached to the top of your car to transport your surfboard. Carrying a board on a rack on top of the car is legal almost everywhere. It’s a safe option for transporting a surfboard and is actually very convenient.

Carrying the surfboard on top of the car ensures that in the event of an accident, the board stays in one place. It’s also out of the way of the driver’s view and doesn’t block the rearview mirror.

Using a surfboard rack protects the surfboard. Secured with ties and pads, a surfboard is unlikely to be damaged while being transported.

There are two common options for carrying your surfboard on top of your car. Soft racks, which use padding and straps to secure the board, don’t permanently attach to your car and are a relatively cheap option. Crossbar racks, which come with the car, can be adapted for surfboards. They are inexpensive as well.

Assess which surfboard rack option is best for you. If your car already has a rack, attaching the surfboards to the rack is the cheaper option. Depending on how far you travel to go surfing, you may want to invest in a more expensive surfboard rack.

Soft Racks

Soft racks are two soft pads that fit across the top of the car and buckle inside the car. The surfboard rests on the two soft pads. The pads are secured by straps that come down the side of the car, through the doors, and connect in the middle.

You can loosen or tighten the straps from the inside of the car. This allows drivers and passengers to check the tension of their surfboard racks while driving without stopping the car.

Soft racks usually cost $100 or less. They don’t damage the car and are removable. Some even come with suction cups that vacuum-seal to the top of the car, removing the need for straps.

Here are some good quality soft racks that are relatively inexpensive:

  • Surf LogicOpens in a new tab.: This brand makes high-quality soft racks that are sure to protect your car and surfboard. The extra-wide racks can hold two surfboards at a time. At around $89, these racks are moderately priced and will last a long time.
  • Ocean & EarthOpens in a new tab.: Soft racks from this brand come in different sizes for different prizes. Ranging from $70 to $150, you can choose the soft rack that fits your needs and budget. The racks are made of durable but soft materials like rubber to make sure there are no damages.
  • Ho Stevie!Opens in a new tab.: This brand is very affordable, retailing for only $50. The pads and straps fit any vehicle and can hold three surfboards at a time. The buckles are made from silicone and won’t damage your car or surfboard.

Crossbar Racks

Crossbar racks are racks that are already part of the car. The two metal bars are attached horizontally to the roof of the car and are not easily removable. Crossbar racks can be used for strapping down nearly anything.

To convert crossbar racks into surfboard racks, you will need rack pads and straps. Both the pads and straps are inexpensive and last a long time.

Here are some suggestions for inexpensive but good quality pads and straps:

  • Clean Line SurfOpens in a new tab.: these rack pads sell for about $50 and easily attach to crossbar racks. They won’t damage the bars and can be removed. Clean Line Surf also sells Survivor StrapsOpens in a new tab., which secure surfboards to the roof of the car and are easy to use.
  • COR SurfOpens in a new tab.: With both rack pads and straps included in the package, this brand has created a convenient way to convert a cross rack into a surfboard rack. The pads and straps come with a carrying case, so you can store them in your car and keep them tidy.

Cleaning and Protecting Your Surfboard

Part of safely transporting your surfboard is the cleaning and protecting the board before transport.

The first step is to rinse the saltwater off the surfboard. Believe it or not, your surfboard can be damaged by saltwater, especially if the water is allowed to dry on the board. Rinse with fresh water before packing it up.

It may be difficult to find fresh water on the beach after surfing. A shower or hose are good options, but they might not be available. In this case, a portable water sprayer is helpful.

Fill the sprayer with water, pump it, and spray the surfboard. A sprayer allows you to conveniently carry fresh water in your car and apply it to the surfboard without wasting water.

Here are some water sprayers that are affordable and portable:

  • The HDX SprayerOpens in a new tab. from The Home Depot costs only $10 and is lightweight enough for travel. It doesn’t require a power source and holds up to a gallon of water.
  • The Flo-MasterOpens in a new tab. by Hudson is another excellent option for a sprayer. With an adjustable nozzle, you can choose from a light mist to a steady stream of water.

Fill your water sprayer before you go surfing and place it in the trunk of your car. When you’re ready to rinse your board, simply open the trunk and lean the surfboard against the car. Use the sprayer to rinse the board. The saltwater should rinse off easily.

The second step to protecting your surfboard is using a board bag. Board bags are padded and durable covers for surfboards that protect the board from heat and scrapes. While board bags can be somewhat expensive, the investment is worth it. You will save money in the long run by protecting your board with a board bag.

Here are some highly-rated, but moderately-priced board bags:

  • The Dakine Mission Hybrid board bag is extremely durable and will protect your surfboard from high heat and collisions. At only $150, this bag is reasonably priced and will last a long time. With a vent in the bag allowing air to circulate, your surfboard won’t be damaged in high heat conditions and will allow it to fully dry. The bag also comes with a padded strap for comfortable carrying and has a pocket for stashing essentials.
  • The Hemp PioneerOpens in a new tab. board bag from Wave Tribe will protect your surfboard as well as any board bag and costs only $140. With an adjustable fin expander, this bag is flexible and durable. Made from hemp, it’s also eco-friendly.
  • The Ripcurl Day CoverOpens in a new tab. is a very affordable option at $90. With padding and a carrying handle, it’s convenient to use for any surfboard.

Buying a new board bag isn’t necessary if you’d like to save some money. A used board bag in good condition will provide the same protection as a new one at a lower cost.

A surfboard sock is also a good option for keeping your board safe, though it doesn’t offer the same protection as a board bag. Board socks are stretchy fabric covers that protect the surfboard from minor damages.

Here are some board sock options that are inexpensive but high quality:

  • Ho Stevie!Opens in a new tab.: The board sock from this company comes in several colors of stripes. Its drawstring closure is easy to use and doesn’t get tangled. The velcro pocket in the bottom of the sock can be used for stashing essentials.
  • VictoryOpens in a new tab.: These board socks protect surfboards against UV light and are highly durable. The fabric also stretches to accommodate nearly any size surfboard.

A board sock can be better than a board bag if you need a cover for different-sized boards. While a surfboard bag isn’t usually adjustable, board socks can fit nearly any size of the board. They can even be used to cover paddleboards.

If You Must Put a Surfboard in Your Car

Sometimes, a surfboard rack isn’t available. In this situation, be sure to check the laws in your area related to transporting surfboards. If there is a law against transporting surfboards in a car in your area, do not transport your surfboard in your car.

However, surfboards can be safely transported inside a car in a pinch if the law allows. If transporting a surfboard inside a car, follow these guidelines to ensure safety for the surfboard, the car, and the passengers.

Be sure your car is large enough for a surfboard. A small sedan will not be large enough for a surfboard, but a van should be big enough. The surfboard should not be placed lengthwise in the car. The nose should be pointing towards the roof or the doors, not the windshield.

To keep the surfboard safe, cover the board in a board bag or board sock. Board bags and board socks are relatively inexpensive and help protect your board from scratches and dings. A board bag or sock is absolutely necessary when transporting a surfboard inside a car.

Place the surfboard in a space in the backseat where it doesn’t touch the windows, windshield, or roof of the car. Laying the surfboard on a seat or across a seat are good options. Using the seatbelts to secure the surfboard, make sure it doesn’t move or slide around while driving.

Give the surfboard plenty of space and drive carefully. No one should be in the backseat with the surfboard.

Driving with a Surfboard

The way you drive can make a big difference in the safety of your surfboard. Collisions, accidents, and speeding can all cause damage to a surfboard. Follow these safety tips:

  • Make smooth stops. Don’t slam on the brakes. A surfboard can gain a lot of momentum and break a window.
  • Avoid low ceilings. While your car may be able to fit under a low ceiling, the fins of your surfboard might not. Remember that surfboards add, on average, about a foot of height to your car.
  • Check the tension of the straps. If you’re using a soft rack, you can check the tension from inside the car by testing the buckle where the straps connect. If you’re using a crossbar rack or straps on the outside of the car, pull over to check the tension every so often.
  • If the surfboard begins to slip down over the front of the car, increase the tension of the straps. The board could slip all the way down and block the view of the driver.
  • If it begins to rain, pull over to check the tension of the straps. The rain can cause the board to slide around, but tight straps will ensure that nothing moves.

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