How to Transport An Inflatable Paddle Board

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There are several ways how to transport an inflatable paddle board.

  1. If Inflated You can
    1. Carry the board to shoreline by its middle handle
    2. Place and strap it to a roof rack
  2. If in it’s bag you can
    1. Carry it on your shoulders or roll it, if your paddle board bag as wheels
    2. Store it in the trunk of your car
    3. Transport it via plane, train or public transit

That was the very basic short answer but here at inflatable SUP Authority we don’t like giving you broad short answers. So below we will be walking you through what to do in each situation step by step!

Let’s go!

Carrying Your SUP While Inflated

carrying Nixy G4

Usually this step is performed when you are heading to or from the shoreline. Almost any inflatable paddle board in existence has a middle handle to carry from. If it doesn’t then you probably should look elsewhere! 

Many paddle board manufacturers have handles on the front and rear of the board. While it is tempting to drag the board from these handles to the launch point I don’t advise this. You don’t want the seams and rails of the board to become compromised from being dragged. Even little particles of sand can do their part in compromising these which compromises the life of your SUP.

So to carry your SUP you want to:

  1. Have the board on its side on a SOFT SURFACE
  2. Bottom of the board facing the side of your body with the fin facing forward
  3. Bend over and grab the middle handle 
  4. Hold while using your arm to sandwich the board against your body
  5. Carry to the water until the board is in knee deep water
  6. Place board down into the water fin first

Sometimes you will encounter wind while carrying your board and you can feel its force pushing against you. Depending on where the wind is coming from try to walk with it if you can. 

Some inflatable paddle boards can be heavier to lift or their nylon handles may not feel too great on your hands. In those cases you can either use a SUP cart to get to the water or a SUP Sling that holds the board onto your shoulder while you are walking.

Transporting Your SUP by Bag

Most ISUP manufacturers give you a backpack or a mesh carrying bag to store and transport your SUP. I’ve been through my fair share of SUP bags and I have also encountered some truly awful bags

This is what I call a “not so great” bag

In my opinion try to stay away from mesh bags, they usually tear after repeated use over the years and I find they are awful when it comes to carrying them as there’s no padding which means you will find a fin jamming into your back. 

– Editors Notes

So what do we look for? I like bags that have ample amounts of padding and are baggy in nature. Yes baggy bags take up more room but let me tell you, I’d take a bag that takes up a bit more room vs alligator wrangling an ISUP into a tight bag after hours of paddling!

The best bags I have come across so far are from Red Paddle and Nixy. These bags are nicely compartmentalized well thought out, have lots of padding and are comfortable to carry on your shoulders

This is Miles better!

To Roll or Not to Roll? 

This is a common question I often get from paddlers when they are having to choose between a SUP package that has a bag with wheels or without. So to keep it simple here’s a little bulleted list as to when to and when not to use a roller bag

When to use a Roller bag

  • When you are traveling a short distance to shore
  • You have a paved path to the water or grass
  • You prefer suitcase style bags over backpacks

When Not to Use a Roller Bag

  • If you are hiking to your paddling spot (the wheels add weight to the bag)
  • It’s muddy to the water
  • There is lots of sand in the way from the path to the water. 
  • You want to save weight

Transporting Your ISUP By Vehicle

Below we will tell you what is the most optimum way to transport your SUP for certain kinds of vehicles. I usually prefer to pack my SUP back into my bag and put it in the trunk but there are other ways of doing this.

paddle board roof rack essentials

If you are interested in how You Can You Put An Inflatable Paddle Board On A Roof Rack click here. We go into this process in far more detail above. 

By Car

There are two main ways to transport your SUP via car. You can fold it back into your bag or you can get a soft rack.

Soft roof racks are straps covered with padding that go through the doors of your car. They can be used to rack up inflatable SUPs but for short distances. They usually range from $40 to $80. 

When I travel by car I always put my SUP in its bag in my trunk. I have a relatively small car (Hyundai Elantra) but it can still easily fit 2 paddle board bags with the SUPs in the trunk. I personally would rather take the extra 10 minutes to fold the SUP and have it stashed away safely.

– Editors Notes

By SUV/ CrossOver

This way has 3 methods. You can deflate your board and store it in the back, you can keep the board partially in the car if it’s long enough. Or you can put it up on a roof rack. 

To put an inflatable paddle board on a roof rack you need to ensure that:

  • There is sufficient paddling between the board and the cross bars
  • The board should be centered with the fin at the front of the car facing up as a last measure of defense
  • The board needs to be securely strapped down on the vehicle at all times. It’s worth it to pull over and check from time to time. 

I won’t go into detail here as we have a more detailed article on this in the above link.

By Truck 

Wherever you are placing your board in the truck there’s 3 options you can do. Get a truck rack system, fold the board, put it back into the bag or place the board fully inflated on the tailgate.

For the truck racking system you will be following similar instructions as above. But if you are leaving the board fully inflated with an extendable tailgate bar then watch the below video on what to do. 

Transport Your SUP by Plane

When you look at comparisons between inflatable boards vs hardshell boards this is one area where inflatable SUPs have a distinct clear advantage. 

However, most airlines you go to these days will charge you an excessive baggage fee depending on how heavy your ISUP package is. My advice is to get the bag with the board and all the accessories inside weighed beforehand and then check rules for the plane you will be boarding. 

On a whole, complete paddle board packages can weigh anywhere from 35 to 50 + pounds depending on the size of the inflatable paddle board. You can check this website to find out exactly how much it would cost you to fly with your inflatable paddle board. 

Transport Your SUP by Train

Same with planes, train and rail companies have limits as to how much luggage you can bring. Many of them limit you to 3 bags including one carry on and have fees for bags that are over 1 meter long. Check to see how much your ISUP weighs and if the train will allow it before committing!

I found this site that helps you find baggage allowances with different rail companies.

Transport Your SUP by Bus

This of course will be dependent on what kind of bus you take. For longer bus trips we found this chart by Bus Bud that shows you what some of the bigger US bus companies allow you to take as excess luggage. 

Metropolitan bus systems run by the city will all have different rules. The general rule of thumb is that each ticketed passenger is allowed 2 large pieces of luggage with a maximum weight of 50 pounds. Which, thankfully, many ISUP’s are under this weight. 

Transport Your SUP by Boat

This will depend on what kind of boat you will be boarding. If it’s a commercial transport then you will have to look at the luggage guidelines for that company. 

But if it’s your local family wake boat then it’s usually best to pack the board away into the bag and keep it on the boat. You CAN keep it inflated but it will have to be secured somehow onto the boat with the board being placed deck pad down, fastened down by straps. 

Always avoid sitting the board on its sides as this makes it act like a sail and it will at some point go overboard!

So How Can You Transport Your ISUP?

If you go by foot you can transport your inflatable paddle board by rolling or carrying the backpack. When the board is fully inflated the best practice is to hold it by its middle handle and carry it to shore.

When being transported from one destination to another you can deflate and pack away your board and stow it in the trunk of your vehicle. Or you can strap it securely to a roof rack system that is compatible with your vehicle.

For commercial or international transportation methods you can bring your inflatable SUP with you by plane, train or bus. But it’s recommended that you weigh your SUP in its bag first and find out if it fits the requirements of the transportation company you will be using.

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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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