Transporting Your Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard
Inflatable paddle boards are incredibly practical for exploring locations that would be difficult, or even impossible to get to with a hard epoxy board. Inherent in the design of an inflatable SUP is the ability to reduce the board to a fraction of its final size, which gives you a number of good options for transporting and moving them between locations. This is important not only for paddling in remote locations but also for convenience in everyday use.
Know Your Options For Getting Around
Before we get into the different ways of getting around with your SUP boards, there is one important thing you’ll need to know to keep your board safe from damage. The first thing you need to know about transporting your inflatable paddle board is this: Never allow the edges of a folded paddle board to contact the ground, especially on concrete or hard surfaces. Dragging the folded edges of material on a hard surface, even momentarily, can damage your board. To avoid this, you need to get into the habit of laying the folded board flat, and never standing the folded board up end-to-end when it’s not in its backpack or travel bag.
For transporting your board, we have a few suggestions for the easiest and most convenient ways to transport your inflatable SUP.
Rolling Travel Backpack
The first option for transporting your inflatable paddle board is the most compact and secure: Safely rolled up in its storage bag.
The SUP storage bag or backpack protects your folded board from damage and gives you a convenient way to take it with you in your car or to check it in on a plane for air travel. It is also a natural place to put accessories, such as a pump, paddle, leash, and fins. Most inflatable paddle boards come with a travel bag or backpack, but be aware that there is a vast range of quality in paddle board bags, and not all SUP bags are created equal.
ERS boards include our custom Deluxe Rolling Backpack which is designed specifically for the task, being the ideal size for storing your board and gear. These SUP bags are the best you will find on the market and are fitted with multiple carrying handles in a variety of positions for lugging and loading your board just about anywhere. The shoulder straps have been designed to spread the load to make hiking in and out of remote locations much easier. In addition, we have added the airport baggage style wheels for quiet rolling through airports and train stations - Simply grab the top handle, and away you go with your board following behind.
For instruction on rolling your board correctly and being able to fit all your gear in the bag please see How to Roll or Fold Your SUP Board.
Storing your board in the rolling backpack will keep it safe and protected, but it can take a bit of time to set up on arrival and to pack away after. The flexibility of an inflatable allows you to keep your board inflated between trips and hit multiple locations in a session so there are a few other options for transporting your board while keeping it inflated and ready to use.
Carrying on a Roof Rack
If you paddle regularly or plan to use your board for consecutive days, you might decide that keeping your board inflated is the best option, saving the time and effort required for inflation and deflation before and after each session. This is perfectly fine for the board, but the air inside will expand with heat, so we recommend that, on hot days, just purge a little air from the valve to protect your board from extreme pressure. If the board will be in direct sunlight for a while, it is a good practice to keep the deck pad covered or turned away from the sun to keep the colors from fading.
To rack your board on the roof of a vehicle requires only a few minutes to secure. We highly recommend the use of our SUP-specific ERS Tie Down Straps with a padded, spring-loaded buckle, as opposed to a trucker-style ratchet which is easy to overtighten and cause damage to your board and vehicle. A board, once secured properly onto the crossbars, will not shift or move. If you can shift the board easily with your hands, the straps should be further tightened until the board is secure. Also, check your load periodically to make sure the boards remain tight.
This is a great solution with the advantage of being able to stack multiple boards on your vehicle's roof for transport, saving valuable space inside for extra people and luggage. This method can be adapted for use without a roof rack by just looping straps through the vehicle’s luggage rails, or even through the windows, though this last option is only recommended for shorter trips.
Transporting In a Trailer
Transporting your board on a trailer is a great option for a number of reasons. For shorter people, or those that drive high-top vehicles, loading a trailer is a much more practical affair, allowing loading to take place at a lower height. In most cases, a trailer will be capable of carrying a larger quantity of boards than a car roof rack, meaning you can pack more cargo for the session. If the trailer is smaller than the towing vehicle it will be slightly more aerodynamic than having boards strapped to the top of the vehicle, saving fuel in the process.
Securing a board to a trailer is exactly the same method as tying to a roof rack by utilizing the two bars and passing the straps around the board and bar. Boards with fixed fins should be stacked in alternate nose-to-tail orientation to keep the weight centered and the cargo as flat as possible.
Carrying Inside a Vehicle
This option is not always practical and is completely dependent on the size of the vehicle and the intended travel distance. If you drive a Mini, we wouldn't recommend trying to put an inflated board inside, as it wouldn't fit or be practical. If you own a high-top van with sufficient length, these can be a great option for transporting boards inflated. For a larger vehicle or van, you generally only need to open the back door and slide the board in on its side. For longer touring boards, the nose of the board can often fit between the front seats in the console.
If your vehicle is too small, you may be tempted to release some air and bend or fold the partially inflated board to fit the vehicle, but we do not recommend this. To bend an inflatable SUP board the pressure will need to be reduced to less than 1PSI, and it is much better to simply deflate the board completely, fold it loosely, and avoid forcing the board into the vehicle with the potential for damage that could result. If you are using a 12VDC Electric Car Pump, the difference between inflation time for a shaped board at 1 PSI and a completely deflated board is negligible, so it is simply not worth the risk to save a few minutes of inflation time.
Finally, make sure the folded or inflated board is never forced into place. If you force the board into a tight space, it may get caught or jammed, resulting in damage. Make sure that the board isn't touching anything and protect the vulnerable edges of a folded board. When the doors are closed, ensure that the board is supported and locked in place making sure it doesn't obstruct your view.
Carrying on a Truck Bed
With more and more people opting for trucks and pickups, carrying a board in the truck bed is a common method of transport that leaves things tidy inside and keeping everything wet outside. The first consideration for carrying in the truck bed is to consider what you were previously carrying in the bed and be sure to clean it of anything that is sharp or that could be abrasive to your board.
The next factor is to consider the length of the board and how much is overhanging or obstructing your view. Tying a fluorescent flag to the exposed end of the board can help draw attention to your load for drivers who are following behind. Securing the board can be done with a combination of straps and tie-downs through the handle or towing D-ring. The relatively lighter weight of an inflatable SUP board will subject it to bouncing around in a truck bed so it is important to develop a method to keep movement at a minimum and consider deflating the board for longer trips.
There is ultimatley no one right way to transport inflatable paddle boards. The method you use will in any situation will depend on a variety of factors discussed above, but whatever way you decide to transport your boards, doing it safely and securely should be your primary objective.