Traveling with your Surfboards as a Digital Nomad
The logistics, pros & cons based on our experience over the past 9 months.
My boyfriend, Andres, is an avid surfer from Southern California. So naturally, when we decided to embark on this Digital Nomad journey he wanted to bring his surfboards. He decided to bring two: his Seaside and SKX (both made by Firewire). Based on our travel locations this year, he decided these two boards would give him a nice array of waves. (To see our complete itinerary for this year click here). He purchased a 6' 7" FCS board bag, and we were on our way.
For the past seven months, we have traveled to Bali, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, England, Gibraltar, Cape Verde, and Brazil. Here is what we learned along the way. The three main concerns in traveling with surfboards are:
The board's safety- are they going to show up at the other end of the flight broken?
The cost of traveling with the boards
Storing the boards when we aren't using them
The Board's Safety
So far, knock on wood, this hasn't been an issue at all. The FCS board bag has kept the two boards completely safe. In fact, it has been a blessing traveling with the extra bag since we are able to stash a few extra packing cubes and jackets in there to make more room in our suitcases. We have traveled on GOL, Eva, Jet Star, and TAP airlines, and they have all seemed to treat the board bag well.
The Cost of Traveling with Surfboards
On average it has been about $100USD per flight to add the board bag as an extra checked bag. Eva Air did have a problem with the length of the bag, and we had to use a rope to tie down the nose of the board to make the bag a bit shorter. So if you can purchase maybe a 6' 6" or less that would keep you in the clear. When you are booking the extra checked bag most airlines ask you with the dimensions of the bag are in centimeters so I would recommend just having that info saved on your phone in a note to make it easier.
Storing the Boards When You Aren't Using Them
For the most part, we travel as "slowmads" staying in place for 2-3 months at a time with a home base where we can store the boards with no problem. There were a few times however during our travels when we decided to move around more quickly, and that required some logistical planning to store the boards.
During our time in Europe we were planning on hoping countries every week, and at some points, every couple of days. So we knew we didn't want to travel with the board bag for that leg of the trip. The board bag is bulky and awkward to walk long distances with so it isn't ideal for rapid travel. So instead of suffering trying to cart this massive bag around and boards we weren't even going to use, we decided to look for a place to store them. We had a couple of options. First, we could rent out our AirBNB longer and pay for accommodation just to store the boards (that ended up being too expensive and didn't make sense in Europe, in other countries it might). Second, we saw some "luggage storage" companies online that said you could store a bag for about $5-$10USD per day (this would have been what we chose except we got lucky and found option 3). Third, our AirBNB host who is amazing offered to store our board bag for free at his house for the three weeks we would be gone.
[Shout out to Victor, he is an awesome AirBNB host, and if you ever find yourself in Lisbon, I highly recommend staying at his place, it is so beautiful. If you do, tell him we say "hi!"]
The benefits of traveling with your boards are:
Having the board you know & love with you
Not having to find, pay for, and orchestrate renting boards all the time
Spontaneous surf adventures
Having the Board you Know & Love
This is a big one, when you are traveling you are already going to be experiencing new environments. The new wave breaks, currents, and overall circumstances. It is really nice to have your board that you already know. Plus if you are madly in love with you surfboard like Andres, you really can't image traveling the world without your companion anyways right? Haha...
Not Having to Rent Boards
It is actually quite a buzz kill when you look on Magic Seaweed or Surfline, get excited about the conditions, and then have to spend the next hour driving to the board rental place, filling out paperwork, and paying for your rental. This is also quite bothersome when you only have a couple hours to commit to surfing in the first place. For example, we like to go out and surf in the mornings before work and in true island style most board shops don't open until around 9 or 10 AM, and then move in slow motion to get you your board. Also, it can be quite expensive to rent a board often. For example in Florianopolis, Brazil, it was costing about $15USD per day to rent my board. So if I rented it for a long weekend that was almost $50USD each time. So I decided to buy a used board for $200USD and call it a day.
Spontaneous Surf Adventures
You know the best surf adventures are the impromptu ones! Like the picture above, we woke up and decided to go hike in and check out a new surf spot on the South of the island in Brazil. If we didn't already have our boards, this wouldn't have been possible.
Overall, it is completely worth it to travel with your boards as a digital nomad. The convenience and comfort of having your own surfboards far outway the costs and logistics planning. In fact, I am planning on traveling with my new board moving forward!