How to Transport a Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP)
If you live steps away from a body of water, this article doesn’t apply to you. But if you don’t, like most of us, you’re most likely going to have to transport your stand up paddle board using your vehicle.
The type of vehicle you have will ultimately determine how you’ll be transporting your boards. If you have a truck, transportation is easy. Simply put your SUP deck-side down in the truck bed, with the nose of the board being supported by the tailgate. If you don’t have a truck, you’ll need to secure the SUP on the roof of your car. Keep in mind that if you’re transporting multiple SUPs, you’re going to need to stack the boards on top of one another.
If you haven’t yet chosen a SUP, then be sure to check out our guide to choosing a stand up paddle board.
How to Use Carrier Racks
Carrier racks, also known as roof racks, are the systems that are installed on the roof of one’s vehicle to transport gear. There are many different types of roof racks, but in this article, we’re going to be focusing on those used to transport stand up paddle boards.
SUP carrier racks sit on top of the factory-installed racks of your car, not directly on the roof itself. However, the hard carrier rack systems only work if your car already has them. If your car doesn’t have factory-installed racks, you can install soft racks. These are easier to install but they are less sturdy, so we don’t recommend traveling long distances when transporting a SUP via soft racks.
How to Install Carrier Racks
For Hard Carrier Racks
What you’ll need:
- Template with pre-drilled holes
- Electric drill
- Soft cloth
How to install the carrier rack:
- Assemble the roof rails on top of your car.
- Screw the side rails and the crossbars together.
- Position the entire roof rack in the center of the roof, leaving a good amount of space on both sides.
- Find the pre-drilled holes at the end of the side rail.
- Using an electric drill, drill into those holes through the roof of your car.
- Repeat for each hole at both ends of the rails. Be careful not to drill too deep into the roof, as this can cause serious damage to your car.
- Insert and tighten the screws at the end of the roof rail with a screwdriver.
- Using a soft cloth, wipe off any metal shavings.
Our Top Recommendation
Thule SUP Taxi XT Paddleboard Carrier
For Soft Carrier Racks
- Open all doors of your vehicle.
- Place the pads on the roof of your car and loop the straps through the doors to the inside of your car.
- Buckle both ends of the straps inside your vehicle.
- Tighten the straps.
- Repeat the steps with the second soft rack.
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Regardless of the type of car you have, you’ll need a few things to secure your SUP on top of your vehicle.
- Crossbars – Crossbars span across the roof of your car. Most attach to the factory-installed bars that run vertically on top of your car.
- Rack/ Padding – Some racks attach to the crossbars, but you can also use simple foam blocks as padding.
- Cam Straps – These secure your boards down. You’ll need two straps that are 12 feet or longer.
- Bow and Stern Lines – There are ratcheting lines made specifically to attach your board to your car. If you don’t want to purchase these, non-stretch, water-resistant rope works just as well.
For Shorter Vehicles
Follow these steps to put a SUP on top of a shorter vehicle, such as a sedan or a wagon.
- Place the board on the floor, leaning against the side of the car. The deck should be facing you and the fins positioned at the front of the car.
- With one hand, grab the hand well in the middle of the board. With the other hand, grab the upper edge of the SUP.
- Slowly lift the board up onto your knee. Use your hand that was previously holding onto the hand well to grab the lower edge of the board.
- Carefully lift the board over your head and place it deck-down on the rack or padding
For Taller Vehicles
Follow these steps to put your SUP on top of a taller vehicle, such as an SUV or a minivan.
- Place your SUP with the deck down and the fin forward against the back of your vehicle. It should be standing up– not on its side as is done for smaller vehicles.
- Center the board to align it to the middle of the roof.
- Grab the tail of the board and carefully lift it up onto the back of your vehicle.
- Slide the board on top of and across the roof until it’s centered in place.
Tying Down Your SUP with a Vehicle Carrier
Follow these steps to tie down your SUP to a roof rack system.
- Position your board so that it’s running parallel with the top of your vehicle. The widest point of your board should be between the crossbars of your rack.
- Take the cam strap and place the buckle on top of and near the edge of your board.
- Toss the other end of the cam strap over your board.
- Walk to the other side of your vehicle and grab the side of the strap that you just tossed across the board. Loop it underneath the crossbar and then toss it again to the other side of the board, where the buckle is. Double check that the strap is to the inside of where the crossbar attaches to your vehicle.
- Walk around your vehicle once more and loop the strap underneath and around the crossbar.
- Then, insert the tail of the strap end into the buckle and cinch it down. Again, double check that the strap is to the inside of where the crossbar attaches to your vehicle.
- Repeat steps one through five with the other cam strap on the other crossbar.
- Tighten both straps so that they’re snug against the board. Don’t make it too tight, however, as too much tension can ruin the shape of the SUP.
- Tie the loose ends of the cam straps underneath the buckles and tie any remaining strap to the crossbars.
- Grab hold of either side of the SUP and shake it to make sure it’s securely fastened in place.
If you have a long SUP or you’ll be driving in strong winds, we recommend tying your board down with bow and stern straps as well as with cam straps.
To install bow and stern straps:
- Hook the end of the stern line with the ratchet to a secure spot on the tail of the board. The leash loop is a good place to do so.
- Hook the other end of the line to a secure spot on your vehicle, such as the tow hook.
- Pull down on the free end of the line to tighten it. It should be snug, but not too tight.
- Tie the loose end of the line underneath the ratchet.
- Repeat steps one through four with the bow line.
Tying Down Your SUP Without a Vehicle Carrier
If you don’t have metal racks, it is still possible to transport your SUP, but you’ll need to get soft racks that come with straps.
Keep in mind that if you’re traveling for long distances or on a highway, transporting a SUP without a hard roof rack will not work and can be dangerous. You should not drive more than 10 minutes without a vehicle carrier.
To tie down your SUP without a vehicle carrier:
- Open all of the vehicle doors.
- Lay the soft racks across the roof of your car. Leave the bottom of the straps hanging off both sides of your vehicle.
- Position both pads across the roof of your car. They should be placed a few inches from the rear windshield and a few inches from the front windshield.
- Take both bottom straps from the soft rack and loop them through the open doors. Fasten both straps together on the inside of the car.
- Then lay the paddle board on top of the soft racks with the fins facing up, towards the rear windshield.
- Tighten the top straps.
- Grab the two straps hanging at the front and the back pads and toss them over the top of the board.
- Then tighten the straps.
Tips to Keep in Mind When Transporting Or Tying Down Your SUP
- Always be sure to transport your SUP with the fins facing upwards, not downwards. You should never transport it on its side, for when you drive, the board will act like a sail and can cause you to lose control.
- When lifting your SUP, be sure to use your core muscles rather than your back to avoid straining it.
- Never attach any straps to plastic parts on your vehicle. They will not hold and will potentially tear off the plastic parts.
- We recommend stopping approximately every 15 minutes to check that the boards are still secure.
Transporting your stand up paddle boards is simply a part of the activity (unless you’re one of the lucky few that live steps from a body of water). The most important thing when transporting them is to be sure that the boards are securely fastened. If they’re not secure, you’re not only putting yourself in danger, you’re also endangering other drivers on the road.
So, whether you’re using a hard roof rack system or soft racks, follow these steps to make transporting your stand up paddle board a breeze! For more guides, check out our paddle boarding how-to guides.