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Backpacking with a Surfboard?
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Kent Halliburton

Locale: Southern California
Backpacking with a Surfboard? on 12/17/2012 14:51:12 MST Print View

I'm heading south through Central and South America in February for about a year with a surfboard strapped to my pack. I haven't seen too many folks on the board taking a trip like this. Does anyone have a recommendation on a pack to use for such a trip?

I'll be looking to shed the board at different times to do some alpine climbing, but surfing is a key focus of the trip. Thanks in advance for any recommendations!

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Backpacking with a Surfboard? on 12/17/2012 16:08:51 MST Print View

How much jungle is involved? If height allows, I'd lash it to a frame pack using 1" straps from and try it in the backyard. The bottom might be too close to your feet for a comfortable stride. If so, use some foam blocks at the bottom of the pack frame to angle it more over your head (which is probably a better center of gravity, anyway).

If that works for you on a trial basis, then I'd put tabs on the pack frame in which to nest the board. They could be the reverse of the "torture tabs" on old Jansport packs. Or you could fab something out of plywood or fiberglass.

For a specific pack, I'd go to a classic frame pack from Kelty but with with a modern yoke suspension system and well-padded hip belts. Usually around $130-160 new or so. Get, or at least look at, the frame extender ("roll bar") to give you more attach points. Consider that you can make something that fits into the frame in the same way, but is somewhat more like a kayak or lumber rack with tabs the width of the board to help secure it.

I go out for a few nights in a frameless, 24-ounce pack holding 15 pounds like the rest of you. But when I'm hauling 30, 40, or 50 pounds, I much prefer a frame pack. Even more so in a hot climate because of the better ventilation against my back.

If you'd be areas with extended miles of low-overhead, then also rig up a shoulder strap (like on a big duffle bag), with webbing wrapped around the board so you can more comfortable carry it at your side when needed.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Backpacking with a Surfboard on 12/17/2012 17:07:16 MST Print View

I'd experiment with webbing straps and a pack that has some different daisy chain options on the back/sides of the pack that would allow you to strap the board to the back face of the pack and cinch it down. Probably the ideal carry option (when it's not too windy) is to have the board strapped to the pack with the nose pointing up and the tail hanging just a little below the bottom of your pack. I'd use at least two parallel straps across the lower mid-section of the board, but you could experiment with crossed over straps in an "X" or adding a strap that wraps under the center fin to help keep the board from slipping out of the other straps.

Assuming you're traveling with a typical shortboard, you're only talking about 5.5 to 6.5 pounds so it shouldn't take too much to get a secure carry system.

I've seen some guys who sewed daisy chain loops into their board socks to help better attach the board to their packs. A board sock that has a shoulder strap to carry it over your shoulder would be helpful for windy days.

Or... if you're game, you could try the UL surfing set-up. Ditch the board and grab a pair of swim fins and a hand plane or surf mat. Not as fun in certain conditions but certainly more packable. This is my choice for some of my own surfing oriented hikes...


Edited by NickB on 12/17/2012 17:10:50 MST.

Kent Halliburton

Locale: Southern California
Backpacking with a Surfboard? on 12/18/2012 08:24:58 MST Print View

Appreciate the great insights David and Nick. I hadn't been considering an external framed pack but given the weight, it might be the most appropriate option. The lashing style you recommend Nick is what I'd been thinking as well.

Surfing is a key focus of my trip and although the inflatable looks fun, I couldn't bear seeing epic waves roll through and not have a true surfboard. It's a 6'2" board and probably about 7-8lbs, although I haven't weighed it. I'd like to give myself the option to hop flights from time to time, which means that I'm also buying a travel board bag. All in, I can't imagine the board bag, board, leash, etc... will weigh more than 20lbs.

The rest of my gear will be very minimalistic, which is why I joined the backpacking light community in the first place. I much prefer the frameless packs, if I can get away with it, but my question now is: can you lash a 20lb, 6'3" object to a frameless pack without too much compression? Or do I need to be looking strictly at framed packs?

I'm still trying to figure this all out, but I'm guessing I'll be in situations where I'd need to max out at about 50lbs of weight and 35lbs would be about average...

So many factors to wade through for a year long excursion.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Backpacking with a Surfboard? on 12/18/2012 08:51:50 MST Print View


I think its a pretty big challenge to carry your surfboard on a pack in central america. A 6'2" board is just so unweildly on your back. Wind will likely make it tough to stay on your feet. Trails are not well maintained in most of central america and you're going to have a board sticking several feet above your head.

I would probably rule out a frameless bag if you're carrying that much weight and carrying an awkward load. I am a big fan of frameless packs, but not with much more than 25 pounds. I think a frame makes sense if you are going to try to carry it on your back.

I don't think I would carry it on my back at all though. I would rather carry a backpack (maybe frameless if less than 25 pounds total weight) and have a good system to allow me to carry the board under my arm, maybe with a shoulder strap. I just think carrying a board up high like that is awkward and will catch on things and act as a sail at times.

My experience of surfing in central america involves walking a lot of dirt roads, cow paths, and some beach walking and headland scrambling. And a lot of amazing surf spots. I bet you have a lot of fun. Always make room for a bottle of Flor while in Nicaragua.

Edited by alexdrewreed on 12/18/2012 12:37:16 MST.

Alex Wallace
(FeetFirst) - F

Locale: Northern California
If not carried upright what about on its side on 12/18/2012 13:08:08 MST Print View

The only other option I can imagine is to rig a sling and wear the board on your side like a purse (a cool man surfer purse at least). I'm not sure how uncomfortable it would be with your arm having to hang around it and your hip/leg possibly bumping it, but at least it eliminates 3+ feet towering over your head. Maybe a combo of both? Have a way to lash the board to your backpack vertically when conditions permit, but if it becomes too windy or overhead clearance becomes an issue, have a simple velcro strap that attaches to the board at each end (or close to it) and wear it like a purse.

Anyways, you'll have to post a trip report upon your return. Sounds like a cool trip.

**I posted this before reading the suggestion above, which I guess now makes it two.**

Edited by FeetFirst on 12/18/2012 13:09:35 MST.