Whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned pro, packing for an overseas surf trip requires a bit more thought than your average holiday. This is especially true if you’re taking your own board. Exactly what you’ll need depends on how far off the beaten track you are going, and the climate of your destination.
This guide covers the essentials you’ll need to pack, a few more things to consider taking, plus how to pack everything so it all gets there in one piece. All you need to worry about, is having an amazing trip!
What to Pack
- Money/credit card
- Flight/accommodation documents
- Driving licence/international licence
- Shoes/flip flops
- Mosquito repellent
- Adapter plug
- Beach bag
Also Think About:
A long sleeve rash vest is good both for sun protection and for helping to prevent board rash. Try to get one with SPF 50+. Girls may also like to wear surf leggings for extra sun protection.
One for the guys. Not necessarily the height of cool, but when you’ve burnt your face and head surfing in fierce tropical sun, you’ll be glad you took a surf hat so you don’t have to miss any time in the water.
If you’re going to be surfing reef breaks, depending on how fashion conscious you are, you may want to take a pair of surf booties. Reef cuts can be nasty and difficult to heal, keeping you out of the water for days. Booties can also help protect you against urchins.
Make sure you have the right wax for the water temperature you’ll be surfing in. If you are taking a warm water surf trip, make sure you have removed your cold water wax before you go, otherwise you may find it (and you) sliding off your board.
Ding Repair Kit
If you’re heading to a popular or well established surf destination, you should be able to get dings repaired fairly easily. Even so, it is still handy to have a ding repair kit to keep you going until you can source a repair. Be aware that certain chemicals are not allowed on planes so check before you buy.
I dinged my board twice on my trip to Asia, both board rack related incidents (*face palm), and was saved by Session Saver Repair Putty. It’s really easy to use; just roll the putty, apply it to the ding, then wet, smooth it off and you can be back in the water in 20 minutes.
If you’re really stuck, duct tape is also good for covering minor dings until you can get them repaired. I covered one of my dings with Gorilla Tape and it probably would have lasted until the end of my trip!
First Aid Kit
How much of a first aid kit you need depends on how far off the beaten track you are going. At a minimum consider taking:
- Antiseptic wipes
- Plasters/band aids
- Butterfly wound closures
- Gauze dressing pads
- First aid tape
- Diarrhoea relief
If you need something to help heal cuts and grazes, I would highly recommend liquid Betadine. I sliced my toe on reef and this stuff healed it in no time.
Capture your surf trip on camera so you can relive the memories when you’re back home, slash cry about not still being there, slash brag about your trip on Instagram. Use the GoPro surf mounts to mount the camera on the nose of your board or use one of the many other mounts available. For surfing, wrist and shoulder mounts work well, or if you’re brave try a mouth mount.
If you’ll need to travel by car with your board at any point during your trip, check whether you will need roof straps.
Suddenly changing from surfing on evenings and weekends to surfing two or three times a day, every day, can really mess with your body. A tennis ball is great for self-physio and self-massaging tight shoulder and back muscles, keeping you in the water and enjoying your trip, rather than sitting on the beach taking photos.
If you are staying close to several surf spots, a set of small binoculars are super handy to have for checking the waves/crowds without having to walk to each spot.
Useful for everything from covering dings to holding board bags together. If you don’t want to take a whole roll, wrap some around a pencil or small toiletry bottle.
How to Pack
Travelling with a board means there is a little more to think about in terms of how you will transport your board and luggage during your trip, and therefore how you pack. Here are the most common methods:
All Checked Luggage
If you will have a large vehicle to transport you to and from the airport and will not have to carry your luggage, taking a normal suitcase and board bag will be fine, though you may incur a fee for an extra piece of luggage or sports equipment.
If you will have limited space in your vehicle or will need to carry your luggage, consider taking the bulk of your luggage in a travel backpack. This can also help you save a bit of money. With many airlines accepting surfboards as part of your checked baggage allowance, you can avoid extra charges by checking your board and taking everything else in a carry on backpack.
For my five month solo surf trip in Asia I packed everything in a 40 litre travel backpack, and checked my surfboard as part of my free checked luggage allowance.
Board Bag Only
If you have a suitable board bag, won’t need to carry your bag far and are happy packing light, you can pack both your luggage and your board in there. This again will allow you to save on extra luggage charges.
Packing Your Board
If you will be taking your own board, you will need to prepare it, and protect it from airport baggage manglers.
Preparing Your Board
Remove your cold water wax before packing your board if you are heading to a hot climate. You may end up with a melted waxy mess inside your bag and the cold water wax will be no good once you get there anyway.
Remove the fins and wrap them in something soft. Make sure you pack your fin key. If you have glass-on fins, protect them with a foam fin box or make one by cutting slits in a polystyrene block.
Remove the leash and check it for signs of wear. If you have had it a while, consider taking a new one. Sod’s law dictates that if your leash is going to snap, it’ll do it while you’re away and finding a replacement is not so easy. You may even want to pack a spare leash and leash string, plus spare fins if you have room.
Protecting Your Board
Flying with your board demands that you give it a little extra protection in addition to the board bag. Ideally for air travel, you will have a bag with a minimum of 10mm padding. The more protection your bag offers, the less crazy you need to go with wrapping your board up.
The nose is the most vulnerable followed by the tail, so at a minimum you will need to protect the nose and tail well, plus some protection on the rails, and some on the deck and bottom.
Put soft items like towels, wetsuits or clothes around the nose and tail and in the space where the nose curves upwards. Make sure you don’t put any hard items in the bag close to the board.
My board bag is quite basic so I put pipe insulation around the nose, tail, and rails, plus a layer of bubble wrap over the deck and bottom. I then put my surf booties in the bag around the tail and a towel around the nose.
Depending on where you are going, you may need vaccinations. Check with your doctor at least 6 weeks before your trip as some vaccinations need to be administered over the course of a month.
Check your destination’s visa requirements well in advance of your trip.
You should take travel insurance for any overseas trip but for a surf trip it is a no brainer. Make sure your policy covers you specifically for surfing. I have mine with World Nomads as they are well priced and cover everything I need. I actually had to claim on my policy to fly home early and they paid out quickly and with no fuss so I would personally recommend them.
Make copies or take photos of all important documents like your passport, credit card, and driving licence. In the event that anything gets lost or stolen you will have everything you need to arrange replacements.
What are your surf trip essentials?
Do you take anything I haven’t mentioned or have any random gems of your own? Share your tips in the comments.
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