Surfboard Roof Racks: A Guide for Transporting Your Board

Getting your surfboard to the beach is really a big deal for most surfers and doing it right can save you hours of hassle and stress. It means getting more people in the car to share the surf with and have a better day out.

But how you do it can be tricky. So let’s have a look at surfboard racks for transporting your book to the beach to get some waves.

In this in-depth guide, I’m going to run through all the questions you might have about surfboards and roof racks. As well as how to put them on, which are the best ones, and much, much more.

So, let us get started now.

Photo Credit: Brandon Hoogenboom on Unsplash

How Do You Transport a Surfboard with a Roof Rack?

Put your surfboard in a bag face down on your car’s roof (nose forward) far enough forward that you can see the nose when in the driver’s seat of the car. Wrap the straps around the board and roof racks. Finish with the straps inside the car to stop them flapping, and off to the beach you go!

However, I wouldn’t recommend using a surfboard roof rack very often. It is not designed specifically for surfboards and putting them on can be really frustrating.

All roof racks, whatever you carry on them, increase your fuel consumption so they will make things more expensive, and beware of that. On top of that, roof racks that are on your car permanently just look really ugly!

So, they’re just not a great thing to have, but the solid metal ones are definitely something that will last a long time.

So you can use these racks for a whole variety of uses, but they’re not great for day-to-day surf usage, however, there are better options as I’ll talk about below.

Put Your Surfboards on Your Roof Rack Properly or Lose Them

I speak from experience when I say that surfboards on roof racks can come off.

Back when I was on holiday with friends driving behind them, they exceeded the 70 miles an hour speed limit. Their surfboard came off the roof rack and nearly hit me, in the car behind.

It was a bit of a scary moment because the eight foot surfboard combined with the five foot metal roof rack looked like a flying cross of death. So don’t overdo the speed limit and follow the instructions.

To properly put your surfboards on a roof rack, the nose should be about a foot or two in front of the front roof rack and that the tail is nicely on the back. You want them in the middle of the two roof bars.

So you’ve got about a foot or so at either end, depending on the board. Be sure to get the roof racks so that they are as close to evenly spaced near the middle as you possibly can and you will be fine.

Remember to have the nose pointing down so that the curve of the surfboards points down and doesn’t try to lift them off with the aerodynamic flow when you start to go speeding down the freeway.

You can leave the fins on, but definitely put your surfboards in a board bag when you put them on your roof rack. This will protect them from getting dinged or scratched and you have to tie them down tightly.

And also, you’ll want to pad the metal bars so that they’re not too harsh on your boards. However, a soft rack surfboard rack set is much better than a standard roof rack, and I’ll explain more on that shortly.

How Do You Put Two Surfboards on a Roof Rack?

Either put them next to each other or put them one on top of each other with the one on top being slightly further forward. Follow the instructions from the manufacturer if you’re using soft racks, as they will tell you the maximum load.

Again, any boards you put on your roof rack should be placed in a padded bag of some kind to prevent from getting damaged on the way to the beach.

If you’re using soft racks, they will show you the best way to put several boards on. You would also need a double soft rack system to have two side by side, which would cost extra money.

You would know if you’ve got that, because it says it directly on the packaging or the carrier back.

How Do You Attach a Surfboard to a Car Without a Roof Rack?

You can do this with EVA foam blocks and ratchet strap. That is effectively recreating a soft rack system, which you could buy for $40 and have the peace of mind of using that.

Otherwise, put your front passenger seat flat down and you can fit your board in there, even putting the safety belt on it. You can get eight foot boards in tiny cars using this, and it’s the way I always use.

I try not to use the soft racks often because I much prefer to have the board in the car. By transporting your surfboard this way, you only have one less passenger and all your boards are much more secure and safe.

How Do I Lock My Surfboard to My Roof Rack?

You need locking straps by specific brands like the ones made for the canoe by the brand KanuLock. Otherwise, there is no other way to do it. You just really have to be careful about your board if you ever leave your surfboards on the car roof. Better would be to put them inside.

Video Credit: KanuLock on Youtube

If you have to leave your surfboards on the car roof, use one of those locking systems or just keep your car in sight at all times.

Some people do steal surfboards off the top of cars, it does happen!

Soft Racks to Carry Your Surfboard on Your Car

As mentioned above, soft tracks are my preferred way of carrying surfboards on the roof of my car. I’ve had hard metal roof racks in the past and they’re just not as nice.

Whereas soft racks are easy on and off. You don’t need to leave them on. They go in a bag. You can travel with them. You can put them on higher cars and they’re just so simple and easy, and they work brilliantly.

I would say better than the metal roof bars that you can attach to your car. So a great option.

Best Surf Soft Racks

Go buy soft racks from a good surf hardware brand, as I often say. For example, the soft racks by FCS on Amazon. As a budget option, Wonitago do some really good soft racks that are highly rated as well.

I’ve traveled with soft racks and also hired cars in surf spots that have soft tracks to go with them, which just shows how versatile they are and easy to use. They all come with simple instructions on the carry bag so you’ll never forget, either!

How do you attach soft tracks to your car for your surfboard?

  1. Put the racks on the roof
  2. Open the front 2 doors and wrap the straps around the sides of the car
  3. Put the straps in through the front doors on each side
  4. Inside your car, pull the straps tight above your head (they won’t touch your head, don’t worry).
  5. Then put your boards on the pads on top
  6. Pull the other straps around your boards and tighten them
  7. Put the straps from your boards in through the car doors, too
  8. Twist the loose straps to reduce noise and flapping
  9. Tighten these straps inside the car and close the doors
  10. Head to the beach!

Do soft roof racks scratch your car?

No, they don’t, provided that they’re clean and the roof of your car is clean. They’re all padded and soft. You just need to be careful with the buckles because they are either made of metal or silicon. So avoid dropping them and chip the paint.

But otherwise, soft surfboard racks won’t damage your car. Put your straps in the windows and doors so they don’t flap around either and then damage the paint.

Also, look out for any zips on your surfboard bags that might flap around and nick the paint as has happened to the roof of my car in the past when I was careless.

Will a Surfboard Fit in My Car?

If your surfboard is less than eight foot long and your car has a trunk that you can access from the back and you can flatten the passenger seat, then yes. I’ve got an eight foot surfboard in a tiny car in the past with ease.

However, it depends if you can flatten the back seat or the parcel shelf as well for bigger boards. Anything over about 8’2 in length, you’re going to find it difficult to fit in your car.

But anything below eight foot should fit in most standard cars, even tiny cars. I had my wife’s Chrysler Pacifica, and we fitted an eight foot two surfboard in that with the passenger seat flat.

So you can get a lot more in than you might think, but if you’re struggling, also go for soft racks, as we’ve talked about in this article, and you will still get your surfboard to the beach.

Best Surfboard Roof Rack for a Car with Three Doors

Go for soft racks every time from Amazon, because they will fit on your car easily and you can take them off when you don’t want to have them. FCS are the best premium option, while Wonitago are a good budget option. In general, soft surboard racks are $50 and up and they will do the job very well.

Decide on whether you need single soft surfboard racks (up to 3 boards usually) or double (up to 6 boards). I would say that single racks will be fine for most people but you know what suits you best!

Vertical Surfboard Car Racks

You can get these, but they are usually for off-road or four by four cars, and they’re not very common. They come in over $200 and you can see the vertical racks by Front Runner Outfitters if you are interested, but I have not used them, so can’t fully recommend them.

Products Mentioned

FCS Double Soft Rack – Cam Lock

Wonitago Soft Surfboard Roof Racks

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