Can You Put an Inflatable Paddle Board on a Roof Rack?

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For those who want a quick answer on can you put an inflatable paddle board on a roof rack

Yes, you can put an inflatable paddle board on a roof rack. To do this successfully you need to have:

  1. sufficient padding, like pool noodles or foam blocks
  2. The board properly centered on the vehicle
  3. Have the board securely strapped and fastened onto the vehicle at all times

Want the longer answer on how to transport an inflatable paddle board

Follow along as I explain exactly what you need to do to properly secure your inflatable paddle board to your vehicle and what instances you need what kind of set-up.

What You Need to Get Started

The very basic supplies you need to get started is:

  1. Car/ SUV/ Crossover/ Truck
  2. Straps (that are NOT Heavy Duty Truck Ratchet Straps). Earth River SUP sells appropriate ones here.
  3. Inflatable SUP (Tell me something I don’t know!)
  4. Padding (You can DIY it with pool noodles or foam blocks)

The rest is dependent on the type of racking system you use. As we go through it below

Racking Options

Below are some of the options you are faced with.

With Rails

“Rails” refers to SUVs or Crossovers that have those side rails on the roof. Crossbars are attached devices that go across the roof. This is what your inflatable board will be sitting on. 

As a further measure, you want to make sure that these crossbars have sufficient padding or that you use your own. You can make padding out of pool noodles or foam insulation hose that fits the dimensions of the rail. 

Not sure how to install a crossbar to a rail? Eric the Car Guy has your back! Watch the video below to see how it’s done. 

Of course, not all installations will look exactly like this. Much of this is dependent on your car model. There is a good chance you can find roof rack rails for your car on Amazon. If not, the best place to start is to google type “_(Your car)_ crossbar installation”. There should be plenty of videos or articles on this. 

Without Rails

If you are like me and you have neither the Crossover nor an SUV you can still transport your paddle board onto the car. The set of tools you have will be a bit different though.

In this case, you will be using a soft rack system. You will be using pads that will be placed on the roof of your car. They are secured onto the car by straps that run through the doors of the car. For that extra padding, you can also put some foam blocks underneath the board to ensure no damage is done. 

How to Strap Your Inflatable Paddle Board to a Roof Rack

I assume by now you have determined if your vehicle can have a roof rack or not so let’s go through the steps of getting that big floppy paddle board onto the roof!

  1. Have the roof rack all set up including protection (pool noodle insulation hoses) or  foam blocks
  2. Have your ISUP next to the car. You can either lift from the side (if you are comfortable putting the board over your head) or you can go from the back of the car, and have it leaning deck down fin side on top.
    1. From there you can lift your board from the nose and lever it onto the roof of your car. Always remember to have the deck down and the fin at the front of the car! If the straps come loose the fin could be your last saving grace to keeping the board on the rack.
  3. Properly center the board so that it’s placed on the middle of the rack, and make sure the nose nor tail is too far out. If you have a longer Inflatable SUP you may need to attach safety flags to the load as per law.
  4. Next, it’s time to strap in! You want to secure the board to the most stable part of the roof rack. This would be the rail. You will want to wrap the strap under the rack and over the paddle board. Toss the buckle end to the other side
  5. From there you want to wrap the buckle underneath the rack and toss it back over the board. 
  6. Before attaching the buckle to the loose end you want to do a few twists to the buckle end of the strap. This may seem odd to you but it reduces noise from the wind and reduces the friction of the strap bumping against your board as you are driving
  7. Now on the other side, you are going to attach the loose end to the buckle. Make sure the buckle stays on the top of your board. Not the rails of your paddle board.
  8. Once the strap is properly in the buckle pull the strap down until it is properly snug so that you cannot move it when you try pushing the board side to side. Do NOT ratchet the heck out of the board because this can damage the inner and outer components of your ISUP. 

Are you more confused than you were when you started reading? John will show you via video how this is done thanks to Paddling Magazine. 

This is a similar process with trucks that have racks as well. The main difference is that the SUP is evenly distributed on the rack located on the tail rather than the vehicle. 

The instructions for stacking one to 2-3 SUPs to your roof rack will be relatively similar. The only difference is that you want to place the bigger sups on the bottom while stacking the smaller ones on top. For complete protection add towel layers to each layer of your inflatable paddle board sandwich. 

How to Strap Your Inflatable Paddle Board to a Car with No Roof Rack

The steps involved with this are a little bit simpler. This method is best for shorter traveling distances and lower speeds. Otherwise, I would just fold the board and put it in the trunk. 

  1. If needed, have extra padding like 4 foam blockers placed evenly on the roof 
  2. Lift your paddle board onto the car, the same methodology as above. 
  3. Once the board is onto the car, and the foam blocks are in their proper spots wrap the straps around the board through the doors (the door being opened otherwise you aren’t going anywhere!)
  4. Make sure buckles stay at the top and pull down until the board is securely fastened to the roof. 

When Should You Deflate and Pack Up a SUP Instead?

The main instances when you should be deflating and packing up your paddle board should be when it’s:

  • Too Windy Outside 
  • You are traveling long distances at higher speeds
  • When you just finished cleaning your board (remember all those bugs splattering the windshield on road trips?) 
  • When it’s snowing
  • When there is hail (but why the heck are you paddling in hail to begin with?) 

Things to Look Out For

Below are some things that you need to keep in mind before strapping up your SUP

Kayak Rack Systems

I do NOT recommend these for paddleboards, let alone inflatable paddle boards. There is just simply no need!

Kayak rack systems are ok for kayaks because kayaks are heavier, and rounder which means air flows around them. With inflatable paddle boards they act as a sail because the wind is hitting a bulker item. 

This means that any wind or cross breeze that you get while driving will not only affect vehicle behavior but it will also make your paddle board move more. This causes 2 problems.

  • The constant movement of wind hitting your board on these racks will disrupt the hold that the buckle provides.
  • The constant battering of the board against the rack can cause damage to your board.

While if a board is laying flat on the roof of the car it’s more aerodynamic as the wind is hitting the sides of the board instead of the bottom or top head-on.

Outside Elements 

While outside elements like rain or too much heat may not be a deal-breaker there are still some things you need to consider. 

Sun and Heat

When it’s sunny out and it’s humid it’s best to release some of the PSI from the board (usually by 1 or 2 PSI or so). This is good practice to do regardless because heat expands. 

So let’s say you filled up your board to 15 PSI (standard paddle board rating). If the board has been in the sun all day then it can expand a few more PSIs. This may not matter as much for higher quality SUP’s but for cheaper brands, this could reduce the life of your board. Especially if it goes over the maximum PSI limit.

– Editors Note


We already touched on this a bit before but if it’s super windy outside it’s best to spend the extra 10 minutes packing up your inflatable paddle board.  The wind can affect vehicle behavior on the road and loosen straps if unchecked. 

So Can You Put an Inflatable Paddle Board on a Roof Rack?

Roof rack or no roof rack you can absolutely do it!

Just make sure that you:

  • Get a Proper Cross Bar to go onto your roof rack or Install a Soft Rack to your car
  • Learn when to keep your paddle board inflated vs deflated for traveling
  • Learn how to strap an inflatable paddle board onto the roof rack properly (see above)
  • Keep away from kayak rack systems 
  • Keep an eye out for outside elements and understand what they can do to your board

Got any specialty tips you want to share with us? Drop us a comment on our Facebook page!

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Hey, My name is Derek Lenze and I'm the owner of Inflatable SUP Authority. I've had over 20 years experience with watersports and over 10 years of various paddle boarding experience. My new-found passion is bringing my stand up paddle boaring knowledge in an explainable and actionable way all the while giving you my unbiased takes.

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