A piece of advice I read when I first started traveling seriously went something along the lines of, “When you pack, start with half of what you think you’ll need – then half it again.” These words of wisdom struck a particular chord with me given the fact that I am obsessive over traveling with only the things I absolutely need. I cringe when I see travelers in the airport dragging behind them monstrous suitcases on wheels, a backpack provisioned for an attempt at summiting Mt. Everest, and enough electronic devices to launch a small tech company – all for a weekend jaunt to Palm Springs.
Each time I pack for a trip, I challenge myself to travel lighter than the time before. This minimalist approach has spilled over into my preparation for surf trips as well, albeit in a rather extreme way. For surf trips lasting less than two weeks, I leave my quiver at home. Many surfers may scoff at the idea of leaving behind their precious shred sticks when traveling specifically for the purpose of scoring good waves. After all, we surfers spend hundreds of dollars on our beloved hunks of foam and fiberglass. Hours and hours of water time at our local spots are dedicated to dialing in our chosen sea craft. Why, then, would we want to leave them behind during what is likely to be our only visit to a far-off surfing paradise like Indonesia or Hawaii?
For starters, the fees that airlines charge to travel with a surfboard have become exorbitant over the last several years. The latest breakdown of boardbag fees conducted by the major surf magazines shows most airlines charging in the neighborhood of $50-$150 each way for a single surfboard. Those fees go up as the size and amount of boards packed increases. Of course, if you do decide to drop half the cost of your roundtrip plane ticket just to bring your boards along, you then have to worry about whether or not they will arrive in useable condition. Horror stories abound of traveling surfers forking over hundreds of dollars at the airport check-in counter only to have their favorite board arrive at the baggage claim of their destination mangled and unrecognizable. Assuming that your boards do arrive in decent condition, you now have to deal with the issue of transporting them from the airport to your hotel. Unless you have pre-arranged for a large vehicle to carry you and your oversized boardbag to your destination, finding a suitable vehicle at the airport can be a huge pain. If you are traveling with a nine-foot longboard, you can pretty much forget about riding in a normal-sized vehicle.
In addition to avoiding excess costs and aggravating inconveniences, leaving your stick behind can provide some direct benefits to the surfer willing to travel lightly. We all think that our local shaper makes the best boards out there, and for ripping at our local spots, that axiom is probably true. But for every local board-shaping guru hailing from San Diego, St. Augustine, or the North Shore, there is an equally talented shaper creating customized boards perfectly suited for their local spots in Bali, Mexico, and Peru. Most of the surfers I know stand behind the notion that supporting your local shaper is important. Why shouldn’t the same logic apply when those surfers travel? Going with a board made by a local shaper rather than lugging your own along gives you the chance to benefit from the knowledge of someone who has been dialing the local breaks for decades. You’ll also get that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from interacting with the local community and contributing to their livelihood. On top of all this, in some parts of the world you can get a brand new board for less than what it would cost to bring your own – a pretty sweet deal.