Surfing and travelling go hand-in-hand, with surfers often working their way around the most popular spots across the world. Even the casual surfer is likely to want to take their surfboard on a plane from time to time.
Air travel with your board needn't be a hassle, as long as you know what you're doing, and as surfing has increased in popularity over the years, most of today's airline staff understand that surfboards are fragile and must be handled with care.
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Do your homework!
You don’t want to turn up for your flight, only to discover you'll be charged a hefty fee for your surfboard - or even worse, the airline won't take it at all! It's an absolute must that you check the airline’s surfboard policy before booking.
This can vary greatly from place to place, with some airlines charging travellers per board and others limiting the number of boards. Weed out the ones who straight up don’t accept surfboards and make sure you understand the guidelines before you book your flight.
This can seem a complicated procedure because there are so many different airlines operating in all parts of the world, each with their own policy. There is no uniform set of guidelines and they can vary drastically, depending on where you are and who you fly with.
If you're planning on taking your surfboard travelling with you, read on to find out some tips on keeping costs down and getting your board there in one piece...
As a priority, you should ensure your surfboard is packed as safely as possible by getting a fitted board bag. Careless handling can cause damage, ruining not only your trip but also your surfboard. Leave nothing to chance and get a proper bag: a lot of surfers advocate low profile triples as being the best option to present to airline desk staff.
If you're flying to or from countries in the European Union, legislation doesn't permit bags that weigh more than 32kg, so make sure you don't exceed this weight. Some European routes limit travellers to 20kg, or 23kg if you're travelling further afield.
Sometimes, you're allowed more if you're carrying sporting goods, as long as you pay extra. Always check with your individual airline before travelling. Get the name of the person you spoke to before booking and if possible, get the details in an email.
It can seem like a minefield when you check out the number of airlines and realise they all have different rules. Here goes!
Ireland's national airline is often used by surfers travelling farther afield, as Dublin is a handy stepping stone for flights to the United States. The maximum weight permitted is 23kg. The maximum length of luggage is 2.77m for an international flight and 2.05m for a regional flight. If you're travelling in North America, the surfboard can be taken as part of the standard baggage allowance. For other destinations, the fee is €40 (around £34) per leg of the journey.
Known as a budget carrier, Air Asia is commonly used for connecting to Indonesia and beyond from Malaysia. According to the publicity, it's the official airline of Surfing in Australia, so it should have some advantages. One surfboard goes free, to a maximum weight of 15kg. Travel cheaper by pre-booking bags: it costs between £12 and £27 per leg, depending on the weight. The maximum weight, when you pre-book, is 32kg. Without pre-booking, you're limited to 20kg. The maximum length is 2.77m. You can travel for real prices, rather than crazy ones.
Air New Zealand
Historically, Air New Zealand is legendary when it comes to international surfer travel. You can board with surf bags without any bother, as long as they're within the regulations. One is free if it's under 2m long and weighs less than 23kg. Travellers can pre-book a surfboard bag as an extra bag. There's a fee of £27 for domestic flights for the first extra bag, up to a weight of 32kg and length of 2.5m. The fees vary for long-haul flights and it's better to check with the airline.
Air Tahiti Nui
The Tahitian islands are a surfers' paradise, so it figures that their local airline is surfboard-friendly. Surfers can take a surfboard bag on-board for free, as well as a normal hold-all bag. The maximum length is 2.5m and the maximum weight 23kg.
It seems ironic that many surfers think of American Airlines as being anti-surfer, considering the world's idea of surf culture was born in California! Some US airlines ban surfboards altogether. While American Airlines permit them on-board, there's a steep charge. Surfboards are permitted with a maximum weight of 32kg and length of 320cm, but at a fee of £115.
British Airways will consider a board bag as regular baggage, as long as it's within the weight limit of 23kg. However, it isn't generally thought of as a surfboard-friendly airline, according to a lot of surfers, since it imposes a length restriction of 1.9m, which will mean a lot of boards will fall outside the size limit.
The British budget airline makes it simple to pre-book a surfboard bag and also an extra hold-bag if required. They will also carry windsurfers and canoes, so the size of the surfboard is rarely a problem. Flights to European surfing destinations allow one piece of sports equipment per person. The maximum weight is 20kg for small sporting equipment and 32kg for large sporting equipment. The fee is £37 for small and £45 for large sporting equipment, each way.
Experienced surfers suggest you can never go too over the top when it comes to packaging your surfboard safely, so remove the fins and use large amounts of bubble wrap to keep the board free from damage.
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