The Surfer's Guide to Costa Rica - Packing Boards
How to Pack Your Surfboards
Make preparations in advance for your boards. If you start
early you can find a better deal on a travel bag if you don’t
already have one. Also, it takes time to pack boards
properly. If you wait until the last minute you may be sorry.
Buy the best board bag you can afford. (Great bags and
prices at SurfTravelGear.com.) If you buy a good travel
bag and have padded day bags and removable fins you
are bulletproof. If not, buy bubble wrap, tape and foam fin
blocks if you don’t have removable fins. Before packing
your boards you might want to remove the old wax. It’s
hot as hell down there, so by the time you get to the
beach old wax can melt all over everything. Besides, it’s
difficult to put tropical wax over cold wax when it’s 90
Consider getting a water resistant bag because you are likely to encounter rain. Packed board bags are
they don’t dry quickly in the tropics, so they get stinky. Or check out the ventilated board bags.
There are many theories on how to pack surfboards. The goal in packing is to make a padded lump out of
your board even before you put it in the bag. Tape a towel, old wetsuit or a couple of tee shirts around the
nose and tail of your board and make it bulky, or use foam nose and fin blocks. Put the foam blocks on
and tape the bubble wrap over it. Bubble wrap the whole thing. Put the wad into your board bag along with
your leash and foam tubing (for securing your bag to the car roof), and your vest or short john, if you’re
bringing one. It used to be that you would pack everything in your board bag—clothes, towels…everything
that would fit and provide extra protection. But the airlines have weight limits now, and they tend to treat
the heavier, bulkier bags worse than others. So you want maximum protection with minimum weight. Not
too difficult with today’s board bags and some extra supplies, especially bubble wrap. Feel good when
your boards arrive with no dings, as it will happen eventually.
Don’t discard the bubble wrap when you unpack as you’ll need it for the return trip. It will be a pain
dragging it all around, along with the board bag, but it will be worth it.
All airlines now charge for surfboards as oversized or “unusual” baggage. And with the security
measures in place they always check inside your bags, so lying about the number of boards in your bag
can be embarrassin. To add insult to injury, they also give you a warning that should the flight be full, your
boards might not get loaded. It’s all at the airline’s discretion. And it means you should be prepared to
stay at or near the airport should your boards get bumped to make room for Marilyn Manson’s cosmetic
Traveling with surfboards sometimes seems like trying to paddle out at a big, consistent, walled-up
beach break: Endless Bummer. Then, all of a sudden, while waiting in line at the ticket counter, that
working stiff from Chicago asks you, “What’s in that bag?” and you realize that, hey, you’re on a surf trip,
and a warm wave of stoke massages you silly.
By the way, when you arrive in the Juan Santamaria Airport in San José, look for the oversize baggage
(Equipaje Especial) sign. That’s where your surfboard bag will appear. (Juan Santamaria is a well-
organized airport, with polite and helpful officials and assistance easy to locate. That’s on the arrival end.
When it’s time to leave it can be a horror it’s so crowded and disorganized.)
Excerpted from The Surfer's Guide to Costa Rica & SW Nicaragua, available at SurfTravelGear.com.
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