How to Transport a Paddle Board WITHOUT a Roof Rack

Transporting your paddleboard to and from the water can be a real chore. Unless you live right on the water, transporting is perhaps the least enjoyable part of the hobby. Not having a roof rack for your car complicates this quite a bit but there are solutions. Same goes if you do not even have a car!

So, How to transport a paddleboard WITHOUT a roof rack? First, You need paddling, like foam blocks, also known as pool noodles, and straps. You place the pool noodles on the roof of your car and put the board safely on them. Secure the board using the straps by running them inside your car while the doors are open.

Performing this can, of course, get a little bit more involved than that. Many do not feel safe with this strap arrangement and worry about stability etc. Today we will go over all aspects of being out and about with your SUP but without a roof rack. Don’t even have a car? We will have you covered as well as there are many other options for transportation available.

How to transport a paddleboard on a car without a roof rack

If you are a happy, or not so perhaps, owner of a car you and want to go to the waters with your SUP, this is what you will need.

No rack equipment

  • 2 (or more) Foam blocks (pool noodles)
  • Strap

For your foam blocks, you will want a proper block designed with this use in mind if you can find them. Surf and paddleboard stores sell these blocks, but ordinary pool noodles will do the trick. The important characteristic is that they are not too thin. The foam creates distance between your car roof and the paddleboard, and that is what we are going for.

If you use pool noodles, some experimentation may be needed. An easy solution is to buy these inexpensive Neolite Soft Roof Rack pads on Amazon. This premium set of Yakima SUPup rack pads is available at the outdoor gear store The House.

Put the foam blocks where the roof of your car is more durable that is close to your windshield and close to your rear window, backdoor or hatch. The center of your roof is less structurally stable, and if you put foam pads there, you may cause a buckle or dent.

You will want a proper strap to secure your paddleboard. Preferably a ratchet strap, but at least a lockable PVC strap. Many people avoid ratchet straps because they seem so hard to work with, but they are always the safest choice.

Ratchet straps are versatile and easy to use

Again, the ratchet strap is relatively simple once you’ve learned the tricks (and as long as you have at least two of them).

  • Place the foam blocks carefully on the roof of your vehicle evenly apart
  • Lift up your board onto the foam pads. (Get help if you need to)
  • Lay the board facing down, the fins upright. 
  • Place the fin at the front end of your vehicle
  • Center the board evenly over the two foam blocks.
  • Put the straps over the foam, so that they are on top of the paddleboard but over the foam itself.
  • Open the doors of your car
  • Put both ends inside then car and loop them out the opposite window.
  • Hook the strap together and make sure it locks,
  • If you are using a ratchet strap, remember that you can pull too hard with the strap.

An excellent tip for security is to leave the attachments of the straps inside your car. This way, a potential board thief at least has to have a knife to steal your board. That being said, leaving your board like this for longer periods is not recommended. Not only thieves are a danger, but the sun and heat on the roof of your car are not suitable for your board either.

15’ long with soft extensions should work for most.

What to do if it feels unstable?

If this arrangement feels very unstable, either just by looking at it or after trying it out, there are things you can do. The first thing to modify is speed. Going down a country road at a leisure cruise speed and tearing down the freeway are of course two totally different things.

Things that make your board attachment less stable

  • High speeds
  • High winds
  • Placing you board other than flat

When you drive with your car, your paddleboard becomes like a little wing. Depending on the size of the rocker, that is how much your board “bends” across its length, this wing effect will vary. Also, if you place your board a bit away from your car, the less wing effect, you will get. 

This is also the reason why you should never drive with the board placed vertically on your car. This can be very dangerous, and you may lose control entirely. The wing effect will now tip your vehicle over instead of trying to lift it off the ground.

There are multi-board racks that place the boards vertically, but these can only be used when you several boards. The boards are then placed opposite each other facing different ways. This way, they cancel out the wing effect.

The faster you are driving, the bigger this wing effect gets. Like so many other things in physics, it is a “function of the square.” If you double your speed, the impact on your board quadruple, so stick to driving smaller roads if you are worried or if the board shows any vibrations or instability. 

This soft paddle board rack system is Amazon #1 choice

Another thing you can do is add nose and tail lines to your board. This can, of course, be done even if you have a roof rack. Nose and tail lines are lines that put downward pressure on the nose and the tail of your board. This will stop the board from vibrating and moving, making it far more tolerant of higher speeds or bumper roads. Nose and tail lines can be purchased in some stores, but you will probably have more luck finding them online.

To use nose and tail lines, you need to have some sort of attachment in the front and rear of your car. In the front, you can usually use the tow-cable attachment. It is sometimes hidden in the bumper, but most of the time it is below the front of the car. If you have a trailer hook in the rear of your vehicle that will work fine. If not, you will have to go looking for something else.

If you use nose and tail lines, make sure that the lines do not run over anything breakable like a plastic front spoiler or a rear wing on your car. The tension of the lines may break these.

Nose and tail lines are extra important if you transport your inflatable this way. Yes, there is a reason to transport your inflatable stand-up paddleboard inflated!

What about my inflatable board?

If you have an inflatable stand up paddle board, you can just deflate it!

Ok, couldn’t resist that one.

Quite a few people do, however, not deflate their inflatable stand-up paddleboards. This practice improves the life of the board significantly. The reason for this is that it is the inflation and deflation process itself that causes most wear on the inflatable board.

Naturally, this depends on what you do with your board. If regularly fly down white water rapids, the rapids will probably be the death of your inflatable board. For many less demanding paddleboard activities, the actual inflation and deflation is, in fact, the biggest load and causes the most significant wear.

The inflation and deflation put a lot of stress on the seams of your paddleboard. This is the area of the board that is most sensitive to breaking. Well, other parts of the board can develop holes and punctures, but they are fixable. The seams, on the other hand, can generally not be repaired. 

So, the tips in this article do apply to inflatables that are continuously kept inflated. Having nose and tail lines can be a good idea too as the inflatable boards are not as rigid as solid boards and can start to vibrate in the wind while driving.

Remember though that inflatables are sensitive to overheating. They can explode! Usually, it’s not dangerous, but when the inflatables do break this way, they often break in the seams. Keep your board on the roof only for transporting. Don’t leave it out in the sun to impress your friends.

How to transport your SUP without a car?

Of course, if you live nearish to the ocean or your favourite waterway you don’t need to use the car. Many nature lovers today opt for car-less transport even of things as big as stand-up paddleboards!

For quite some time, there have been surfboard racks for bicycles, scooters, and motorcycles. These smaller racks usually do not fit a stand-up paddleboard, but sometimes they do indeed work. Lately, racks that are adapted, or somewhat adapted, to paddleboards have become commonplace as well. 

Given the relative size of a paddleboard, it is a different matter compared with a surfboard. Even if there are racks that hold the weight of a paddleboard, it’s width is the biggest challenge. For boards more than 30″ it is tough to fit one on a bike. The board has to fit in the rack but under the handlebars of the bike. Steering is a necessary function for biking, especially with your big paddleboard in tow. This is only possible with a bigger bike or styles of bike where the handlebars are higher.

With adapted racks, that is racks originally intended for longboards, and some modification might be necessary to fit the often thicker paddleboard.

A universal beach dolly could be used

Commercial soft racks

A middle way for transporting your board with the car can be soft car rack kits. These are straps, and foam cushions bundled together and sold. These are very good quality and very price set of Dorsal Aero Roof Rack on Amazon.

They often come with attachment straps that attach the foam cushion to your roof. This way there (may) be less issue with the cushions moving around while you are loading. 

The process is the same as with only foam blocks and strap. It can, however, feel and act, quite a bit safer. The reason for this is that the soft racks are designed to do the job; there is a bit of room for user inexperience and such. The whole process of using these soft racks is just that bit simpler.

If you have no worries about your skill with a strap, then, of course, the soft rack is just added stuff you don’t need.

Storage of the soft racks tends to be easier. One thing with one function whereas your pool noodles might get borrowed for pool adventures, particularly if you have smaller ones in the family.

What about my friends, girlfriends, neighbors and their boards?

If you are not going alone and have only one car, fear not, the pool noodle to the rescue yet again.

Start by placing pool noddles, or proper foam blocks, on your roof again. Place the first board as normal, fins up. If you have the fins to the rear of the car, place the board a bit further back. If you have the fins to the front, put it a bit more forward.

When this is done, place the foam where you would typically place the strap. That is, right over the first foam blocks. After this, you can lift the second board up on top of the first one. Fitting it with regards to fins as possible. Now place the straps over the foam blocks and tighten hard, as hard as you can. 

I have already made a case that ratchet straps are better than cam straps, for a double board setup cam straps really do not cut it. The load will be double compared to one board and having two boards flying around really is not good on a freeway.

Need advice on lifting? Some good tips here.

No Car, No Bike, and Hate Carrying your Board?

To long a walk from the beach and don’t have a car or a bike? There is still the option of public transportation!

Long-distance coaches/buses and aeroplanes have dedicated baggage compartments, if you pay up, of course, that will perfectly well house your board.

City buses and trains might be a bit harder. While you can probably get your delated and folded up paddle board onto a city bus chance are the driver or other passengers will give you a funny look for taking up two seats of blocking the gangway. A paddleboard is a big thing, and it will take up all the space for people with disabilities or an entire aisle. But if no one protests, it could be an option. Just think of that freshwater at the end of your journey.

Trains, on the other hand, is probably stretching it a bit far. Unless the train has a special big luggage door, getting your board on to the train will present a real challenge. In most countries, mainline trains, excluding commuter trains, do have big luggage compartments and in that case, it will work. 

Of course, this is more doable with an inflatable paddleboard packed up on your carry bag.

As for other public transport, subways, cycle rickshaw and tour buses might also work, but that would quite an adventure and not easy transport.

Also, if you successfully navigate public transport with a SUP send us some video proof!

Not transporting your board is also an option!

Not transporting your board at all is also an option. You can find waterfront storage facilities in many different water-sports settings. This can be in clubs of various kind as well as professional at stores, rental places or even dedicated facilities at bigger resorts.

If you mostly paddleboard in one place this can be an option for you. You will have a lot less hassle every time you go out, less transporting as well as lower fuel costs. The board has, after all, big wind resistance and can turn a modern, streamlined car into a fuel hog for that reason alone when being transported on the roof.

Brighton city beach huts

Here in Brighton, England, you can buy a very trendy beach hut for around £12,000 (approx $15,000). That may solve your transportation issues. But remember, these beach facing huts don’t have any electricity fitted, and you’re not allowed to sleep in them. So they can only be used for storage of your beach equipment (and maybe a Portable Gas Cartridge Stove, so you can make a cup of tea). But, these old seaside shacks are very well located just meters from Brighton city beaches. Perfect for storing your paddle board, as long as your stand up paddleboard is inflatable or shorter than 10 foot as the beach huts are in-depth.

The last option for escaping your paddleboard transport: buy a waterfront home! You know that big thing with so many zeroes in its price that the price itself is hard to pronounce. This way you will not have to worry about your paddleboard transport at all. With that big beautiful oceanfront villa, you truly save a buck or two on your SUP transporting. The waterfront villa might have other benefits as well, but that is well and truly outside the scope of this post. But if you already own a beach home or property on a lake, it’s time to get started with paddle boards if you haven’t already. Our complete introductory guide can help greatly.

Final Thoughts

All you have to do is get the board into the water and out on adventures. You can also leer a bit at the inflatable crowd that does not keep their board inflated and, of course, do not have a solid board.

Stay safe! Remember that a wrongly attached stand-up paddleboard to your vehicle can be very dangerous, both for you and other people. If you are unsure, ask a professional at a store or your rental agency.

Now get out there and enjoy the waters!


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Carlo Raffa

Carlo Raffa is a blogger, stand-up paddleboard enthusiast, water lover and local to Brighton city in the South of England. Paddle boarding is my escape and this is only the starting point. Being a larger guy at 260lbs I am finding it very good exercise as well, especially for building core muscles. This is something that believe it or not cycling 16 miles a day at 6 miles per hour doesn't seem to be doing. Paddle Boarding allows me to just grab my board and walk right through the busy bar filled beachfront between the two piers in Brighton and head straight out of shore. It's not long before the shouting and cheering of our buzzing beach fade into just the lapping waves and the people to just small dots of the Brighton shoreline.

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