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Transporting a SUP Board [ With or Without a Roof Rack ]

Getting the opportunity to paddle across a beautiful river is truly divine. But, transporting the actual SUP to the destination, however, is somewhat of an annoyance. They are quite long and wide. So, they require a bit of an arrangement to take them from point A to point B. Now, how to transport paddle board properly?

Roof racks are the best way to transport your paddle board. And if you don’t have a roof rack, you can use any sort of make-shift paddling to transport your paddle board. For example – foam blocks, pool noodles, etc. work just fine. You’ll also need proper and strong straps to make sure the SUP doesn’t fall off mid-journey. 

However, that’s not all that goes into safely transporting a paddle board across the country. Let’s have a look into various derivatives that play into this transition to get a better idea. 

Significance Of Roof Racks in Transporting A SUP

As mentioned just a while ago, roof racks are indeed the best way to load paddle boards on a vehicle. So, let’s see how it works to find out why it’s such a valuable asset in paddle board transportation. 

A roof rack is mainly composed of rails, crossbars, mountain feet, drip rails, and finally, the roof itself. Depending on whether your car has already some of these features pre-installed, the parts may change at times. 

For example – some cars come with a factory-made roof for package transportation purposes. You can use such roofs as a make-shift roof rack as well. And I’ll get to these non-roof rack methods too in a while, don’t worry. 

Again, if there’s a roof, it implies the existence of pre-assembled rails and mounting feet as well. The job of these feet is to help to unpack the load onto the roof. And by now, it’s quite obvious what the rails are for. They help to keep the SUP in place so it doesn’t slip off. 

If your car doesn’t come with any such features, you should definitely go for roof racks. The crossbars and the rails will keep your paddle board in place if you tie it down correctly. And attaching the mounting feet to the car will provide added protection. 

What more could you need for a pleasurable journey? And not just for paddle boards, roof racks are crazy good for pretty much anything. So, if you’re a travel freak like me who loves to paddle all around, invest in one right away. 

How To Transport a Paddle Board with a Roof Rack?

Now that you know why roof racks rock, time to find out how to actually transport the SUP. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you out with the ‘super intricate’ procedure. 

Step 1: Determine the Vehicle Type

Yep. At first, you’ll need to see whether you can make do with the roofing system that comes factory-made. There’s no point in putting an extra rack already on top of another doable rack, is there?

However, if not the rack itself, you can directly invest in some of its straps. They are super sturdy and durable and you’ll need them for transporting paddle boards. 

Step 2: Mount the paddle board

If your car has pre-installed crossbars, you can directly mount the paddle board onto it. But, before that, put a layer of paddings on top of the crossbars. 

Paddle boards are quite delicate and constant friction with the metal crossbars isn’t good for them. That’s why it’s important to keep soft paddings beneath them so that they are secure during the journey. 

Again, paddings will also help out with the transition by keeping your paddle board stable. It won’t move around much anymore with foam all around it. And as for material, you can go for the market-level crossbar paddings. Or, just use normal Styrofoam or hard foams. 

Step 3: Decide on The Perfect Set-Up Place

It’s not enough to just mount the board onto the roof. You’ll need to access the length of your paddle board and roof rack to see if it fits. 

Unless it’s a monstrous paddle board, it should fit in one way or the other. You’ll have to work out some adjustments then, that’s all. Just make sure that most of the board area doesn’t shift to the back of the car during placement. 

If that happens, you’ll create an imbalance in the center of gravity of the board. And the chances of the board slipping off slowly will get higher. Since there’s a slope around the back window shields of the car, it’s easier to get imbalanced than the front. 

So, to prevent this, take the correct measuring of both your paddle board and roof rack in advance. That way, you can stay aware of the correct middle point and maintain that center of gravity throughout the journey. 

Step 4: Tie-Down the Paddle Board

After you have decided where to perfectly set it down and whatnot, it’s time to tie down the paddle board. Stay very cautious during this step and get someone expert to do it if needed. Because if it’s not tied down properly and flies down the highway…

Well, let’s just say that it won’t take much to turn your journey into a real-life Final Destination plot. And mind that this rule applies to pretty much all transportable goods and not just paddle boards. Safety comes before anything. 

Anyway, for strapping down, you can find premium-grade tie-down straps on the market. Buy them i.e. straps with high-quality materials so that they will not slip off during the journey.

There are some specific ways of tying down the paddle board, by the way. As advised above, get the help of a professional to do that properly. There are also some great YouTube videos on the internet that you can watch to learn about the procedure. 

Step 5: Access & Enable the Mounting Feet

Last but not the least, make sure whether you have high-functioning mounting feet with your roof rack. They are the last piece of the puzzle in making your trip fully safe and secure.

So, there are two main things that mounting feet helps you to achieve. One – they can dissipate the moving vibration to quite an extent. And two – they provide good support. Remember how you used paddings so that the friction won’t get to the paddle board?

Well, mounting feet, by dissipating the vibration, creates a similar effect. They usually have neoprene in them that helps with vibration control. 

Also, since mounting feet are almost always directly attached to the car, they are great for maintaining stability. With them in your roof rack, you won’t have to worry about slippage or material damage quite at all. 

Is It Okay to Carry Inflatable Paddle Boards on Roof Racks?

Yes, you can indeed carry inflatable paddle boards on roof racks, or roof boxes work well also. In fact, the whole procedure of transportation becomes all the easier if you get to do so. 

The matter of constant inflation and deflation, however, is a completely different thing. I mean, I, for one, find it really annoying at times. People who love paddling can’t wait to try out all the new experiences as soon as they can. 

And having to take the extra time to inflate the board back really pulls down on that enthusiasm. Again, if you don’t have proper access to the right materials for inflation, it becomes even more intolerable. 

That being said, it’s definitely much safer to carry inflatable paddle boards in the long run. They impose much less of a threat than those huge paddle boards on the roof. 

You don’t even have to put them on the roof rack if they are folded down neatly enough. A simple backpack – that’s literally all the space that you need to put in a deflated SUP board.

However, since most paddle boards these days come with a rigid bottom, you can use the roof rack as well. The process of setting them down is the same as the previous one, with one major exception. 

You need to place some sort of paddings on top of the board as well and not just the bottom. When paddle boards are inflated, there’s a great resistant force due to the balanced pressure points all around. 

Deflated paddle boards don’t have that kind of inner resistance due to the lack of air in them. As a result, they are more susceptible to punctures and everything. That’s why make sure to keep a layer of soft paddings on top of the deflated paddle board while loading. 

How To Transport A Paddle Board Without A Roof Rack?

Let’s face it. Roof racks are pretty cool but they are also pretty expensive. So, here are a few ways how you can transport paddle boards without having to invest in roof racks. 

Soft Rack Systems

Soft rack systems are a viable substitute for roof racks if your car can support them. They are basically a very big cushion that provides good support while traveling. 

If your car has a smooth roof, then these systems are perfect for you. They are definitely not as expensive as roof racks which is a great plus point. Well, they don’t have that industry-grade racking system either if I were to be completely honest. 

But that’s not a reason for too much concern. They do come with protective straps and foam pads which is pretty much all you need for a safe enough journey. Again, the straps are customized to the interior of the car during placement which provides added protection. 

Purpose-built Foam Blocks

Next up, if you’re a hard-core foam fan, these kinds of blocks are just the thing for you. I, myself, love them to bits and constantly wonder how versatile they are in their usage. 

These foam blocks are like giant soft stickers. In roof racks, there’s a crossbar system where you can put down the protective layer of paddings. Whereas, in foam blocks, it’s possible to directly attach the paddings to the car roof. 

Yep. They come with some sort of a gripping mechanism that allows them to stick to the roof of the car. As a result, they don’t slide off or move around much during their journey. And the top part is similar to normal soft paddings that act as a cushion for your boards. 

You do, however, need to invest in some good straps to tie them down in place. The foam blocks might have a sticky surface but the paddle boards don’t. So, buy the good straps before going on a journey with foam blocks.

But, there’s a specific drawback to this method. If you buy low-quality foam blocks, chances are that they won’t come with a good sticky surface. As a result, a little rain might end up causing a lot of trouble for you. 

By doing massive damage to the adhesion, it can even take them apart gradually. Not to mention the external strapping system. Water can slowly drip down these lines and get inside your car causing an uncomfortable situation. 

What To Do When the SUP Becomes Unstable Mid-Journey?

First of all, it’s important to remain calm and composed if that indeed happens. Here’s what you need to check when the SUP board becomes unstable mid-journey. 

Check The Strapping

Most of the time, the issue lies with inadequate strapping when the paddle board becomes unstable during transportation. So, if it starts to feel wobbly, check on that promptly.

And as advised above, get an expert to do it for you if you’re not experienced enough. But you’ll eventually have to learn it yourself as you can’t carry a professional with you every time. 

Check The Speed & Wind Level

It’s important to check the speed and wind level for concise adjustments as well. Remember that an inflated paddle board is full of air in it. As a result, it adds to the overall aerodynamics of the car mechanism. 

Think of it like this. Having a fluffy paddle board is up there is pretty much like having giant wings. While these wings (or, wing? single?) cannot take your car off the ground, they can certainly mess up the speed level. 

So, the speedier that you’re going, the more problems you’ll have during traveling. This is also why it’s inappropriate to tie paddle boards vertically on the roof. That way, the wind is trapped alongside when traveling and that causes even more adjustment issues. 

To fix the issue, you can get better mounting feet, tail, and nose lines. By tapping down the vibration level, they can keep the board much more stable during the journey. And you won’t have to compromise on the speed either then. 

Tips For Carrying & Transporting A SUP Board

I have already mentioned plenty of carrying tips for transporting a SUP over the car roof. Here are a few more you can check out to get that extra assurance. 

Front & Back Matters

While tying down the straps, start with the rear end first. And that’s because paddle boards tend to slide off the backside if it’s not adjusted properly.

So, consider that and fasten down the knots properly in the backside first. Once that’s done, check-in with the front and fix that as well.

Cascade Them Down

If you are carrying more than one paddle board at a time, place the bigger one at the bottom. By bigger, the one that has the most width and length. 

That way, the bigger one will act as a second cushion for the comparatively smaller ones. Also, there are higher chances of instability if you keep the comparatively smaller ones on the bottom. 

Put Up Red Flagging

In several states, it’s compulsory to put up red flags or warning signs during transporting goods. That way, nearby drivers can stay cautious of the big package you have been hauling around.

Now, paddle boards indeed aren’t as heavyweight materials to cause substantial damage. But that doesn’t mean that you can leave any scope for mistakes. So, put up proper red-flagging or any other signs before setting out with a paddle board on your roof. 

Don’t Add Extra Tension

Many people think that tying a paddle board down vigorously keeps it safe. But that’s a great misconception. 

Your paddle board may not slip off the roof if you do that. But overly tight strapping will cause permanent damage to the SUP board. 

It can even cause it to get deformed at times. As a result, keep the straps tight. But not so much that the paddle board has no room to move around at all. 


Now you know how to transport paddle board properly. Turns out, it’s not that much of a headache at all if you have a roof rack at your disposal. 

But that doesn’t mean that you cannot go for any of the non-roof rack options. As the article states, there are plenty of ways to safely transport a paddle board without a rack. Just make sure to exercise proper precautions and you won’t have to worry about anything else.

Hope this write up has helped you with your transportation issue. Thanks for tuning in. 

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