For most surfers, there is only one option to get to the beach with their board, and that’s by car.
However, surfboards and surf gear aren’t that well suited to the inside of a car, with issues around the salty water, wax and sand, among others, to think about when trying to get to your surfboard by car, be it yours or someone else’s.
With this in mind, below are 6 of the best surf accessories for any car to keep it clean, free from sand and salt stains!
Let’s jump right in.
Use Soft Racks for Easily Carrying Surfboards on the Roof
To carry your surfboards on the roof, the absolute best option is soft racks. These are a kind of roof rack for surfboards but, as the name suggests, they are made from soft, padded foam.
However, as distinct from the standard roof racks that you might be thinking of, these can be put on and taken off a car in a few seconds.
Since they are made by surf hardware brands specifically for surfboards, you can be safe in the knowledge that they will do the job for your boards.
The instructions on these soft surfboard racks also state exactly how many boards you can carry, generally 3 boards on top of each other. They will also state what your maximum speed should be (usually not more than 70MPH, or 110KMH).
If you have many boards to carry then you can also get a double set of these soft racks, which usually allows up to 6 boards in two stacks of 3.
Just remember to tighten these down properly and not let your surfboards fly off the roof of your car at any point – I’ve seen this happen from an oncoming vehicle and it was both terrifying and dangerous so don’t take the speed restrictions lightly when carrying these boards.
Recommended Soft Surfboard Racks for a Car
The best set of these that I’ve had were the Creatures of Leisure ‘Wrap Rax’ over on Amazon. I found that these were simple to install and felt sturdy.
I never had any issues with them and had a lot of good use out of them.
If you are wondering why I am using the past tense, that’s because I had to ditch them at Ngurah Rai airport in Bali when leaving after living there for 3 years
Malaysia Airlines were terrible with surfboards and suddenly I had to ditch 20kg of stuff to be able to board, which was not cool but had to be done! I still plan to get some more of those same wrap rax again one day but for now I am making do with an inferior but cheaper pair, which I won’t mention by name since I just don’t recommend them.
As a second option, I’d recommend the FCS soft racks for your car, again on Amazon for the best price and service. These are the other soft racks that I have used, albeit briefly. I had a good chance to test these out while on holiday in the Canary Islands, where my wife and I rented a hire car that came with these in the trunk, pretty handy!
They were another quality option and are definitely recommended as a possible alternative to the Creatures of Leisure ones above if needed.
Keep Wax and Sand Out with a Surfboard ‘Day Bag’ Cover
No doubt you are aware of how essential a surfboard bag is for air travel but they are absolutely great for carrying your board in a car, too.
However, unlike flights, you only need a lighter version of a board bag (or even cover) to carry your board in a car since there shouldn’t be any cowboy baggage handlers in your car!
By far the best option here is a day bag for your board. This is because a day bag is light enough to use every day, offering enough padding to be extremely practical without actually weighing that much or being bulky.
I actually use one of these all the time since it came with a Santa Cruz surfboard I bought a few years back and it’s been a revelation, although Santa Cruz only provide these with their surfboards as part of the package.
Having a day bag for car travel to the surf will stop you getting wax on the seats and upholstery, which can rub off far more easily than you might think.
It will also keep the salty drips and sand on your board from getting on the inside of your car, leaving you with less to clean up later on.
Another good thing that most of these day bags do is offer a reflective surface, protecting your board from the harmful effects of UV rays.
As a great bonus to this piece of kit, I also use my day bag as a changing mat, too, which really helps for keeping sand off your wetsuit when you get changed in the parking lot or at the beach after a surf.
Tips on Buying a Surfboard ‘Day Bag’ for Car Travel
If you are going to buy one of these bags, just be sure to buy a bag that has the exact right length and shape for your board.
By this, I mean buy a day bag that is listed as being at least a few inches longer than your board and also states that it is for your type of board.
For example, if you have an 8’0 mini mal for learning to surf, then get yourself an 8’2” board bag that is also listed as being either for a longboard, mini mal of funboard.
If you don’t get the right one here, you might well find that your chosen day bag does not fit your board and is of no use whatsoever!
Recommended Surfboard Bag for Everyday Car Travel
If you want to get a board bag for car journeys, the FCS Day All Purpose bag is Amazon’s best offering. This is from a trusted brand in surf hardware and has a ton of great reviews.
My current surfboard travel bag is made by FCS and I’ve had it since 2003, a testament to its durability and which has been the same for all the FCS gear I’ve bought since.
As an alternative option, ProLite is another fantastic surf hardware brand that have a range of great day bags on Amazon for a good price.
You can also see the best of the day Bags on Amazon here, including results from DaKine, another trusted surf hardware brand.
Save Your Board Using a Sun Shade
This might not be ‘top of mind’ for most surfers but a good sun shade for your car when going surfing is a must!
I say this because these sun shades help to stop the sun’s rays from heating up items inside your car, including your surfboard.
Surfboards don’t handle the inside of cars very well, so it’s definitely worth getting yourself one, or more, of these sunshades so that you know you’re covered.
This is particularly important if you need to leave your board in your car on certain occasions.
Simply putting up these shades will keep the direct UV from surface of your board.
It will also keep others from seeing into your car. This can be a problem since some more ‘savvy’ thieves know to look for surf gear as a surfer is often considered an easy target. For this reason, it’s always best to try and block things from view.
Recommended Sun Shades for a Surfers’ Car
For the best option on Amazon, get this windshield plus two side sun shades for a great budget deal to cover 3 windows in your car. If you want to take it up a notch, get two of the above items to cover the rear windscreen and the other two remaining side windows for full protection!
Given that sun shades are pretty low-tech, you don’t really need to look for anything specific here, so just get something that does the job and is easy to use. You can see more sunshades for car windshields and side windows on Amazon here.
Carry Wetsuit in a TubTrug with Handles
Although there are lots of fancy surf bags for carrying your wetsuit, you can easily just get yourself a plastic ‘tubtrug’ flexible storage bucket with handles.
Using one of these can save your money since yet again there is no need for a surf-specific bit of kit.
You may also have one of these
Get a tubtrug that has a capacity of at least 6 gallons (27 liters) to be able to hold your wetsuit and all the gear that you need.
You can then reuse this tubtrug for all kinds of things as well, making it versatile and cheap item to have for your car trips to and from the beach.
Again, you can see the best options for highest-rated tubtrugs here (Amazon affiliate link), with most of the ratings reflecting durable tubs that will last for years.
Keep the Sand Out with an Upholstery Brush
Sand will still get into the upholstery of any car used for surfing, no matter how careful you are and even if using all of the tips above in this post.
To combat this, one thing you can leave in a car or take in a friend’s car is a practical upholstery brush.
This will help you to get sand out of the car and off the seats as much as possible, being good practice for your own car or a nice gesture if riding with a non-surfer.
Again, there’s nothing much technical about these but you can see the highest-rated upholstery brushes for cars on Amazon here.
Key Saving Options: Lock Box or Waterproof Key Pouch
When driving to and from the beach, an absolute essential with modern cars is a good and secure key holder or key pouch.
This is essential for keeping your keys safe from water damage. It only takes a little bit of water to ruin the electronics inside a car key so going surfing without a proper place to keep your key is not an option.
Personally, I would recommend the waterproof key pouch option. I say this because it’s what I have been using for the last 8 years and it has worked well.
I also had a key lock box for my car for a few weeks but just couldn’t trust it.
Having had a bicycle stolen in the past, I always felt like a combination lock was too easy a target, with just about any barely competent thief able to crack the code if they thought it worth a car!
Fortunately nobody did break into the lock box but the sand got into the mechanism and the it just did not work well enough for long, meaning I had to get something else in place of it.
From there, I got a waterproof case for my car keys and it’s been great.
Although it feels a little odd putting one of these down your back the first few times, you will get used to it and it will soon become part of your surfing experience.
I can recommend the Aquapac waterproof cases available on Amazon since they are durable, work well and most importantly, are waterproof!
Extras: ‘Nice to Have’ Surf Accessories for a Car
OK, so I am not going to pretend that the following items are ‘essentials’; they are not! However, you might find that some of them are really handy and help when you are surfing and traveling by car, so let’s have a look at a few in turn.
Wetsuit hanger handle
One issue with going back and forth to the beach by car is having somewhere to hang your wetsuit, especially if you want to go back out for another session without going home.
If you hang it on the rear-view mirror like most, then you risk the salt water from your suit dripping off onto the paintwork and likely causing issues over time. The same goes for hanging your suit elsewhere on your car.
So, to get around this, you can use a portable wetsuit drying rack; this simple device will hold your wetsuit far enough away from your car to keep it from getting wet and also folds up flat when not in use.
You can get the Malo’o portable wetsuit drying rack on Amazon for the best option.
Although there are other similar designs out there, they mostly involve suction cups which you don’t want the hassle of having to stick on and take off each time, thinking about it falling at every moment.
Winter wetsuit gear:
If you surf in colder water and through the winter months, then you can add an extra wetsuit hanger to your wetsuit drying rack above, or just to hang inside your car over your tubtrug bucket or similar.
The best option here is actually the XS Scuba X5 Accessory Hanger (Amazon affiliate link); this has multiple options and can be used at home as well.
It’s actually a really useful piece of kit since it is a nightmare trying to hang up all your wetsuit items and accessories otherwise, so well worth a look.
Waterproof Seat Covers for ‘Wetsuit Drivers’
If you are one of those people who drive in a wet wetsuit or wet surf gear, then waterproof seat covers are a must to save your upholstery (or even friends or relatives!).
This front seat cover that is actually designed for pets is waterproof, detachable, non-slip and Amazon’s top choice.
Having this on hand means you don’t need to worry about jumping in the car on those days when you simply can’t face getting changed in the parking lot or directly at the beach.
Handy if you have pets, too!
Locking Cable for Boards on the Roof
If you will need to leave your board on the roof of your car, then you will need to add some form of locking mechanism to your roof racks.
By far the most highly reviewed are the extremely reliable and robust Kanulock Locakable Reinforced Stainless Steel Tie Down Straps (also Amazon’s top choice). However, before purchasing these, be sure to check that they will work with your given roof rack system. It doesn’t look like the would work well with soft racks, for instance, so be sure to check all of the above before purchasing.
As another option, Amazon has the Seattle Sports Cradle Cable Lock which looks like a solid cable locking mechanism, although again it doesn’t look like this would work with soft racks.