SUV with Surfboard Racks traveling through mountains to surf.

Surfboard racks are critical for a successful surf trip. Secure even the most coveted freshies to your vehicle confidently with these five surf racks. Photo: Unsplash/Will Truettner

The Inertia

Whether you’re surfing, kayaking, snowboarding, or just bringing a lot of stuff with you on your adventures, you’ll probably benefit from a solid set of surfboard car racks. Unless you have a van or a pop-top camper that you ride solo in or want to be the person whose buddies hold the longboard out the window, you’ll want to have racks for your car.

What Makes a Good Surfboard Car Rack?

Choosing car racks can be a daunting task. There’s a bunch of known brands that all seem pretty good. Then there are cheaper ones that are, well, cheaper and may seem a little sketchy. The main thing you’ll want to decide on before you go out and get a pair of racks is what you’ll be putting on them.

Personally, I’m a big fan of overhead racks. They’re easy to use, versatile, and can hold a lot. There are tons of attachments that you can add to make holding anything from bikes, to kayaks, to luggage a breeze.

When looking for which rack to purchase, it may seem like each brand has so many options that it’s practically impossible to choose. In reality, your car is going to determine which option is right for you. If your car has rails already installed, it’s going to need a different system than a roof that has gutters or a roof that is totally flat. That’s the first consideration: get the system that fits your car. No one wants to shell out all that money for a system that’s not compatible.

Round vs. Oblong Surfboard Car Racks

Supposedly oblong racks are quieter when you’re driving. In my experience, quieter is a relative term when it comes to racks. But, they’re also more aerodynamic and fuel-efficient. Though, exactly how fuel-efficient isn’t entirely clear either, but anything helps if you’re going to be driving with them on your car full-time.

One true plus of the oblong style roof racks is that they give a flatter surface to place things on when you’re loading up. For me, it makes me feel like I’m able to get a better base when I strap a board down.

Overhang vs. Flush Surf Racks

Some racks end at the spot where they attach to the base. These are flush racks. Others, called overhang racks, continue past that base for a few inches. If you’re going to be strapping things to your racks I recommend getting racks that overhang.

When racks overhang, you can attach the tie-down to the outside of the tower and prevent your board or load from sliding around the middle. If you wrap both sides of the tie-down to the outside, your strap won’t slide around as you drive.

Plus, overhang racks are often a fair amount cheaper than flush racks.

Putting Your Surfboard on Your Car Rack

If you don’t have a special attachment and are just putting a board straight onto the crossbar, you should have some sort of pad. There are plenty of options, and it doesn’t have to be super fancy. But, you’ll want something to stop your board from being pushed into a hard, narrow rack and something that will stop wax from getting everywhere. Some sort of rack pad will help with this.

When putting a surfboard on a roof rack, put the board fins up and fins facing forward. You might think that it doesn’t matter which way the board goes, but fins back is for kooks. Your board probably won’t slide out from your straps when you go, but what if it did and the fin wasn’t there to stop it? Just think about it.

There are a ton of factors that go into choosing the best car rack. I mostly use racks for surfing, but pretty much any rack can hold a surfboard. To decide the difference, I looked at what else you can do with the rack systems and how easy they are to use. With that, here are a few that I really liked.

The Top 5 Surfboard Car Racks

If you don’t want to read the why and how, here’s the TLDR version for you. But do yourself a favor and read on to make sure you’re making the best choice for your vehicle and your surfboards.

1. FCS D-Ring Double Soft Rack
2. Thule Evo Wing Bar
3. Yakima Jet Stream Basee Rack System
4. Sea Sucker Surfboard Rack
5. Inno Racks
6. Rhino-Rack Vortex 

FCS D Ring Surf Rack

Locked and loaded. Purchase here. Photo: Courtesy FCS

FCS D-Ring Double Soft Rack

I’ve seen these racks a lot, and I was pretty skeptical at first. But, they’ve grown on me. If you have a small car, these can be pretty awesome and easy to use. And, if you have a bigger car, you can probably figure out how to get a board to fit in the car without racks.

For most surfers, you don’t need a crazy rack system to get to the beach. All you need is some pads that will keep your car roof and boards from getting dinged while you go to the beach. The FCS roof racks fit that description perfectly and they’re very affordable.

You can even load a couple of boards onto the racks if you’re driving with friends or if you don’t leave home without your entire quiver. The racks themselves strap to your car and you can then strap your boards to the rack straps.

Plus, these racks are easy to set up and take down so you don’t need to keep them on your car when you’re not using them. You can save your fuel efficiency and transfer them to another car if you have to with ease.

Though I do like this rack system a lot, there are a few disadvantages. You have to strap these around the roof of your car which means that you’re taking height away from your car’s headspace. If you’re a taller person this may make driving uncomfortable. I’m also not sure how much I’d trust these racks on a long trip on freeways. These seem more than suitable for a trip to your local break, but I don’t know how much faith I’d have in them for a drive down to deep Baja or something similar.

Cost: $
Ease of Use: 4.5 out of 5
Ease of Installation: 4 out of 5
Attachment Versatility: 0 out of 5

Check price on evo. Check price on Amazon.

Thule Evo Wingbar

Photo: Courtesy Thule

Thule Evo Wing Bar

Thule makes solid car racks, but they are expensive. The upside of going with Thule racks is that there are tons of attachments that you can add to make the most of your rack system. Their accompanying pads to protect the boards are great as well.

If you’re just looking to carry surfboards, you have a couple of options. You can get the board carrier system. It looks great for larger boards like longboards or SUPs, but I’m not sure how well it actually works for shortboards. Though it’s probably easier to strap a board down with this system, I’ve always trusted tie-downs as they are cheaper, and there is less that can go wrong with them.

If you want to haul any of your other toys around like bikes, ski gear, or straight up luggage, Thule racks are a great choice since there’s some sort of option for you. Personally, I’m a fan of the roof baskets since you can load it up with everything you need or just strap a board straight on it if that’s all you’re bringing.

Cost: $$$$$
Ease of Use: 4.5 out of 5
Ease of Installation: 4 out of 5
Attachment Versatility: 5 out of 5

Check price on Backcountry.

Check price on Amazon.

Yakima Flushbar System

Photo: Courtesy Yakima

Yakima Jetstream Base Rack Bar System

I like the flush bar racks since they can fit onto most cars that don’t have any sort of railing or gutter system. The downside of Yakima racks is that they don’t fit every type of car so you might need to look elsewhere depending on your car.

Like Thule, Yakima has a variety of gadgets that you can put on top of this rack system to carry all kinds of things. The modular system allows for easy installation of any type of addition for whatever trip your taking. Plus the Yakima system is generally the cheaper option.

This Yakima rack has a teardrop shape, so there are some aerodynamic benefits of having a flatter, wider bar. You can save some of your fuel economy which is always a plus.

Yakima also offers a rack tht can cover your SUP needs, and if you go with their base rack system just make sure you have pads over your racks.

Cost: $$$$
Ease of Use: 4.5 out of 5
Ease of Installation: 3 out of 5
Attachment Versatility: 4.5 out of 5

Check price on Backcountry.

Check price on Amazon here.

Sea Sucker Surfboard Rack

Sea Sucker offers a handy dandy quick fix that alleges to work on most all vehicles. Photo: Sea Sucker

Sea Sucker Surfboard Rack

The Sea Sucker surfboard rack is the only vaccuum-mounted option of the group. I’ll admit, initially, the proposition of suction mounts for surfboards sounds a bit worrisome. But from what we’ve seen these racks perform. And they’re extremely convenient – no additional hardware necessary and include pads to protect your boards and straps so you’re ready to rock. The vaccuum mounts lock in with bolted-on security. They fit up to two boards (even SUPS) and the manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty.

Cost: $$$$
Ease of Use: 5 out of 5
Ease of Installation: 4.5 out of 5
Attachment Versatility: 4 out of 5

Buy here.


Inno Surf Rack

Photo: Courtesy Inno

Inno Racks

Overall, the Inno rack system is just a little bit more complicated to figure out as a buyer. They provide options for towers and crossbars, but sometimes it’s just nice to get a prepackaged option and not get stuck deciding every part of the system.

One negative of the Inno rack is that it’s a square bar system. This kind of system is the least aerodynamic. It can also be a worry to strap boards straight onto since there is less surface which will apply more pressure to your board.

Inno has a sweet surf rack addition for its system that certainly makes it easier to pack your board to the beach. There are a few downsides with this system though as it can only carry 2 longboards or 3 shortboards.

Cost: $$

Ease of Use: 4 out of 5
Ease of Installation: 2 out of 5
Attachment Versatility: 3.5 out of 5

Buy here.

Rhino Rack Vortex Surf Rack

Photo: Courtesy Rhino Rack

Rhino-Rack Vortex 

The Rhino-Rack Vortex rack is another all-around solid roof rack that also provides options for other types of carriers. One plus about the Rhino-Rack system is that you can theoretically install these on your own. No need to go to a specialist and spend more money getting your car racks ready to go. Though, that also means you can mess up your installation.

If you’re looking at Rhino-Racks, remember that you need to get a base and a bar. Don’t make the mistake of just getting part of the whole set up.

Rhino-Rack has options for board attachments, but they’re mostly suited for SUPs. This shouldn’t be a problem though as long as you’re comfortable strapping your board directly to the crossbar.

The main downside of this system is that it’s expensive and doesn’t have as many options for different kinds of carriers as some of the other systems. It’s not bad, but it isn’t stellar either.

Cost: $$$$
Ease of Use: 4 out of 5
Ease of Installation: 2.5 out of 5
Attachment Versatility: 3 out of 5

Buy here.

Biking to your next surf session? Check out the best surfboard bike racks here, and view more Gear Guides and product reviews from The Inertia here.

Disclosure: The Inertia may receive a small commission if you make a purchase from the affiliate links included in this feature at no additional cost to you. Our goal is always to entertain, educate, and inspire, and we hope you find this feature useful.


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