Surfboard Bags may not at first be considered an essential piece of surf gear. You can get your board to the surf easily enough without a bag. However the more you use your board, especially with any travel, and the more boards you have, the more you realise a board bag’s value. Surfboard Bags come in many formats and getting an overview of what’s available will make sure you get the best value and best features for your surfing.
Surfboard Bag Basics
There are several criteria that all bags have.
Surfboard Bags have a size. First, this is their length, this is how a board bag is referred to, in feet and inches. For example a 5’5, 6’4, 9’6 board bag is that length.
Your Surfboard Bag length should match or be slightly longer than the length of your surfboard. Most Surfboard Bag manufacturers add a little extra in the length so if you purchase a 6’4 board bag you may find it will actually be a little longer and may fit a 6’5 or 6’6 length board. It’s easy to check this in store and will save you hassle and cost and give you versatility.
The other size dimension is width. This is often not considered yet can be very important. Width initially refers to the widest point of your surfboard. If you have a Fish board it is likely wider than your performance shortboard even if they’re both the same length. Where this comes into play with your Board Bag is that most board bags, even if the right length, won’t fit an ultra wide Fish.
Check these two board bags from Creatures of Leisure. Their Lite Shortboard Cover is on the left and Fish Lite cover on the right. These are their day trip cover bags ideal for throwing in your car and going surfing. Note the difference in width of the cover on the right. It’s wider overall to cater for the extra width of your Fish. Width is not often a first consideration when choosing your surfboard bag yet a far Fish won’t fit in the board cover on the left
The width can also extend beyond the widest point of your board. For example with Hybrid boards you can get a very full nose and tail. Your board bag may have the length but your wider nose won’t fit up in the skinny nose area. Similarly at the tail you may not be able to do up the tail zip around the extra wide board tail.
You can use a surfboard bag that is oversize. The main drawback is that you end up with open areas inside the bag. These can flop around making your board bag unwieldy. Your board can also move around inside that can lead to rendering internal padding ineffective when hitting the side.
An all round snug fit is best. There are Surfboard Bag brands that have wider Fish style bags and these are worth checking out for your Fish and Hybrid boards.
This is often referred to as size as well, referring to the number of boards that can be stored in your bag. For example there’s a single board bag, double, triple, quad and five board bags. You may be able to squeeze in an extra board into a bag if you’re lucky.
You can’t see all the boards but there’s 5 boards in there. The Creatures of Leisure Multi Tour Cover can cater for your entire quiver. You can see the internal tie-down straps that are vital to keep your boards from damaging each other, damaging the cover, and being damaged by shifting loose. The second image shows the exclusive Creatures’ Diamond Tech fabric that is heat and water resistant, ideal for your boards. The last image show Creatures’ attention to detail and quality with external tie down straps to keep your boards super snug and as low profile as possible. Note also the skid plates on the bottom giving the bag and your boards extra protection
To get a single or multi board bag needs to be thought through. If you will ever only have one board then get the bag that’s perfect for it. However most surfers have at least a second board whether it’s a Fish or a StepUp. Some surfers have all of and several of these making 3+ boards in total.
You can easily get a board bag to fit your 2 or three boards as we mentioned above. However you want your boards to still fit snug in the multi board bag. Ideally your board rockers will fit complementary one on top of the other. In store you can check out how your boards lay up together in the bag. You don’t want the nose of one board sticking up into the bag.
As soon as you have more than one board you also need to check the internals of the board bag. There’s the padding between boards keeping each safe from damaging the other. Internal tie downs stop your boards from moving around inside the bag. There’s also optional gear pockets that can be internal and external for your wet wetsuit, fins, leashes, even to stash clothes in.
The more capacity your board bag has the more important the internal features like the tide downs and pockets to store all your extra fins.
Zips are the main way to seal your surfboard bags. They come as either partial with the zip starting from around half way and running to the tail. Then there’s bags that have the zip so it runs almost the entire way around the bag. This is super handy as it allows you to open your bag right up.
Quality, marine purpose zips are essential to give your board bag a good life. Your zips will likely be the first thing to fail. It’s worthwhile coming in store and giving the zips a good eye over and test
Zips are the biggest point of failure so special attention should be given to them. What tends to happen is that your board is put in your bag and some of the salt from the ocean seeps onto your zip. Over time this can degrade the zip so it doesn’t run properly. If you leave your board bag unused for even a short period this salt can corrode and ‘melt’ the zip teeth making it impossible to open your bag.
You may have seen some brand bags mention that they use YKK zips. This zip brand is specifically mentioned as it has a reputation for being ultra reliable, smooth running and strong. Also the best surfing brands like Ocean & Earth, FCS and Creatures of Leisure use their own brand zips that are created to handle the salt and ocean conditions.
Another problem with zips is that if they’re part open and you force your board in you can deform the teeth and you zip will stop working. Some surfboard bags have the perfect solution as mentioned above in that the bag can be opened entirely up.
Have you checked the material board bags are made of? There’s a very wide range from a plastic woven tarpee to high quality nylon and advanced materials with thermo properties. These materials have a wide difference in price so you may want pay more and get higher quality features.
Here’s two covers from Balin’s range. Balin make very durable and great value products. Both of these bags use a silver aluminium tarpee external. This plastic-like material reflects the heat keeping your board cooler. It’s also water repellant
Surfboard Bags get exposed to the elements. In direct sun, heat in your car, wet from your board and wetsuit, or rained and dusted on. Does any material cover all these uses?
This FCS Day All Purpose Cover is a heavy duty fabric and includes a large black section in the middle of the bag. This middle material is both stretch and air porous. The stretch provides extra good fit for your board keeping the cover super snug. FCS call this stretch 3D Fit. Allowing air movement prevents heat build up keeping your board cooler and safer. It also allows your wet board and the moist bag interior to dry reducing odour and other problems
The silver tarpee does have reflective properties that are noticeable in direct sunlight. Your board will stay cooler inside. However it is only thin plastic. Creatures of Leisure have a dark material called Diamond Tech with thermo properties to keep your board ultra cool. FCS board bags are made of a heavy duty fabric and includes a vent in the middle of the board bag so excess heat can escape.
In store you can feel the difference between these material alternatives.
Surfboard Bags Padding
You’d think that the thickest biggest padding would automatically give the best protection for your board. This is not the case.
The quality of the padding is most important and not all surfboard bags have dedicated padding as part of their design. Let’s look at these.
Board Socks are a great first line of protection. Some brands will pad the nose and tail with the rest of the bag unpadded. However even though unpadded these socks are super easy to slide your board in and out of. They provide protection from dust scratches and bumps. They’re great for your board in your garage or under your bed. They’re also great for use when you throw your board in your car protecting your interior from wax. They also work great inside the larger more comprehensive board bags
Board Socks or Sox are types of Surfboard Bags that are one layer of material and mostly don’t have any padding. They’re your first layer of defence for your board. They’re designed to be super convenient and slip on and off and protect from dust. They protect from wax from your other or your mate’s boards as when they’re all thrown in the car. They also protect from the odd light bump or scrape.
Some brands Board Socks include a heavier duty material at the nose or tail and may include a little padding here. These Board Socks are good board bags for their purpose. They’re also good to use inside the bigger board bags.
The bigger dedicated boards bags have padding within certain ranges. A day cover you might use for throwing your board in your car has a 5mm padding. A cover for more dedicated travel might have 10mm padding. Some bags go up to 25mm padding in places.
The Ocean & Earth Double Compact Shortboard Board Cover provides an exceptional example of padding and extra board protection. The padding is more than doubled to 25mm on the nose and tail areas. You can also see the padding is not cheap foam, rather a dedicated material ideal for defeating bumps. The other impressive feature is the rail protection that is a rubber strip that wraps the entire board. It is thick, wide and super effective in the protection it offers the fragile rail area of your boards. The Compact Cover comes in multi-board capacity for 2-3 boards
However it’s important to check this for yourself. The quality and density of the foam makes a huge difference in how it will protect your board. For example 10mm of low density cheap sponge will protect barely at all. 5mm of high density foam will absorb and dissipate the force of a bang so that your board is unharmed.
Where the padding is distributed is very important too. Your board receives most of it’s bangs on the nose and tail and on the rails. The tail does have extra protection as there’s normally more bag there around the zip to deflect or absorb a bump. The other areas need padding that wraps around them. You need to check does the padding stop on the top and bottom of the rail line and leave the actual rail exposed? What about the nose?
Ocean & Earth show their expertise in this area with their Double Compact board bag that has a thick plastic material on the rails. This will deflect most bangs so that the force doesn’t even reach your board. This material also gives your boardbag good form and shape.
Fin Boot – Slot – Wheels – Straps
A fin boot is an area at the tail of your board bag that rises up so you have more room to fit your board with it’s fins on. You don’t have to take your fins out. Nearly all board bags have these.
These two longboard bags from Balin on the left and Creatures of Leisure on the right have the slot for your longboard fin to protrude. The slot is normally velcro sealed and prises apart
In longboard and SUP bags a similar feature is the fin slot that allows your center fin to poke through without having to be removed.
Carry handles and shoulder straps are absolutely necessary. Your board may feel light in the run across the sand to the surf but if you have to carry it, and you’ve loaded up the board cover with a wetsuit, towel, fins, it will soon weigh under your arm. Carry handles allow you to transport the board by your side in a manner you’re used to. Having one handle on either side gives you more versatility as you can grab your board without having to move it first. The same goes for having handles at different places along your cover, both front and rear, so you don’t have to move your board to grab it.
Travelling with 2 longboards is a mission. This FCS Travel 2 Wheelie Longboard Cover makes it easy. The bag fits 2 longboards. It has plenty of grab handles so you can muscle the bag where needed. Most importantly it has wheels on the rear bottom so you don’t have to carry it! You can simply roll it along the road, in the airport reservation queue or on the tarmac
Shoulder straps take the weight out of your board carry too. You can sling your strap over one shoulder or across your body if you’re going long distances. Most board bags come with a shoulder strap, check and make sure that it has plenty of padding.
If you’ve got more than one board in your bag and you plan on going any distance with your boards carrying them, this can be around the airport or from hotel to hotel, then wheels are a huge help. The wheels are at the end of the bag. These allow you to easily drag the bag along from the front. With wheels you can cope with a lot of weight. So you can stash clothes and a lot of gear in your board bag and still travel easy.
It’s worth a check that your board bag has these features.
One Bag – What Works Best For You
From a value perspective having a multi board bag to care for your every day board and your Fish or StepUp seems like the right thing. One multi bag is not 3 times more expensive. In fact only a little more than a single bag, and it seems like it will cover all your needs.
You’ll have your key boards protected and ready for your surf.
However in terms of convenience nothing beats being able to just grab your everyday board and get it into your car and not having to worry about the extra boards, their weight and hassle. If you surf before or after work then time is a factor and being able to just grab your board bag and go, slide your board out and in, is all you’re after. You don’t want to be having to tie-down boards, etc.
Another option to consider is if you leave your boards in your car. For example if you want to have your ideal board to match surf conditions you may always have several boards in your car. In this case having a multi board bag could be a great solution. A multi bag that opens right up so you can easily select your board is perfect.
Whether you need a Sock may depend on how frequently you use your board. A sock is good for your Gun. It will keep it free of dust during those long down periods, and will keep it free from marks when you put it on your roof racks or in your car.
Come in store and see the different board bag options you have and get the best deal.