what to take on a surf trip
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Surf trip packing list

Going on a surf trip can be amazing fun, but before you go, make sure you have everything you need to make sure you don't miss anything on your trip.

The prospect of having surf trips is quite fun and, hell yeah, rightly so! Imagine traveling to an exotic new beach, discovering overlooked surf destinations, and going on boat trips when you're not surfing. It's impossible not to get excited over these and smile all the time.

But... every rose has a prick, and that smile might be overshadowed by the need to prepare a travel bag and the anxiety that accompanies it.

What's the weather going to be like? Will there be mosquitoes? Will there be ruthless insects or greenery that won't agree with me? Will there be vampires, sharks that developed a taste for surfboards, ghosts of the surfers past who haunt the shores? How many boards do I really need? Do they have the ocean there or do I have to pack that, too? Well, I can't carry the ocean, can I? Oh, what about the sun, though?

Okay, you can stop and calm down now because we're here to tell you about all the essentials of surf packing and put your mind at ease. When preparing for your surf trip, you can just open this article, tick all the boxes, reintroduce that smile to your face, and board your plane proudly because you're not forgetting anything. Probably for the first time in your life, too!

Packing Your Surfboards


We can hear you saying: "Oh, did you think I was going on a surf trip without the most essential surf gear? What do you think I am? It's a goddamn no brainer!", but you're traveling, and you probably have a nice little collection of boards. Then, the question is, which one or ones you are going to carry?

Well, that kind of depends on where you're on your surfing journey. If you're only a beginner surfer, no one can expect you to carry a fun board or a step-up shortboard on your first surf trip as you've probably only ridden thick long boards so far. But hey, don't leave the page yet because the recommendations we have for advanced surfers might just come in handy when you're on your next surf trip as a more experienced surfer.

Wherever you might be going, you need at least three types of boards. Of course, you can bring along your favorites or the one best suited to your riding skills, but if you're not sure about the wave conditions, the three below will help you be ready for everything:

  • A funboard: Funboards are called fun because they're designed to be fun. Even when you're advanced enough and want to test yourself on challenging waves with boards shaped just for you, having a funboard on a surf vacation is definitely recommended.
  • A shortboard: If you're going on a surf trip, you probably want to ride unbroken waves that you cannot get on your local breaks. Then, a shortboard is a must because they're the best when it comes to catching unfamiliar waves.
  • A step-up: You don't know what kind of breaks you're going to visit or how much you'll need to paddle? In case things get serious, reefs get dangerous, and you need more paddling power and speed, your step-up shortboard will be there to help you.

Surfboard Travel Bag

A surfboard bag is essential because how else are you going to carry your precious boards safely? Just packing them in any board bag won't help.

Especially when you're going to travel long-distance with connecting flights and you don't have a rental car, the dangers you put your boards through multiply with a board bag that's not chosen carefully. First and foremost, these bags will be handled by baggage handlers, whose labor is too repetitive, whose moves are somehow mechanized, and who hardly care about what they're handling anymore.

Moreover, you never know how much you're going to have to walk or in what conditions you're going to carry your boards once you're off the plane. Therefore, having a surfboard bag that'll endure the hardships long-distance traveling will throw your way is of crucial importance unless you don't want to surf and you're okay only with sightseeing.

The safest board bags are those that are sturdy and only a few inches bigger than your board: not too tight and not too loose either. Also, you need to be careful about the padding that the bag provides. If the already-present padding of the bag doesn't allow you to have peace of mind, you can always provide extra padding by using your beach towel, wetsuit, and rash guard.

Surf Racks

How do you plan to travel once you're off the plane? Are you going to take a taxi and scandalize the local taxi drivers with the sheer volume of your luggage? Because, believe us, no matter how much they're used to carrying surfers around, they're going to act shocked by those and demand more cash.

Are you going to rent a car and have an endless debate with the lady at the car rental that has a strict policy against strapping luggage on the roof of the car and threatens you with declaring your rental contract null and void? Because believe us, that's a common way of conduct all around the world.

The best-case scenario is your friends waiting at the airport with their car that can carry anything, but still, there's the possibility that their cars don't have any installed racks. If you pack surf racks, though, you will be comfortable with any of these scenarios.

Just make sure those are soft racks so that the cars don’t get damaged. Also, keep in mind that the car rental companies will still have a problem with your racks no matter how soft they are. So, if you're renting a car, make sure you strap your boards away from their eyes.

Other Surfboard Items You Need to Pack

Just because you successfully packed your boards, it doesn't mean that you're ready to go yet. Unsurprisingly, you need your fins and some other items for taking care of the board as anything can happen at any time.

However, you probably don't want to pack everything related to your surfboard, either. Here’s a comprehensive list of items that you'll definitely need.

(Extra) Surfboard Fins

Yes, it's obvious that you need them, but the need to pack some extra fins as well might not be that obvious. Especially if you're going to surf reef breaks in a remote location. Anything might happen to your first-choice fins and you might find yourself in a situation where it's impossible to buy replacements.

In addition to fins, you can get a fin wallet to carry them in a well-organized manner. Also, you might think that bringing only one fin key will suffice, but even if you're famous due to your impeccable attention to detail, fin keys have a way of getting lost. So, it's better to pack a few extra just in case.

Ding Repair Kit

Again, we wholeheartedly wish that nothing uncanny happens to your precious boards, but you pretty well know that dings happen. They might happen during the trip, they might happen because you dropped your board, they might happen because some local kids didn't like your face, or they might happen because your partner is bored with your surfing obsessions and wants you to spend some time with them.

If you pack a ding repair kit (or a solar easy fix kit), you won't have to depend on others in surfing spots where you don't know many people. That way, you can easily repair the small dings by yourself and drive your relationship that's already on shaky ground toward the edge of a reef.

Surf Wax

We're not only going to tell you not to forget your surf wax and leave it at that here. You should also pack a couple of extra blocks of wax and pack different water temp waxes so that you're not surprised by a foreign climate.

Wax is easy to remember, but like fin keys, your wax comb can easily escape your attention. You can easily pack these small items in a little compartment of your duffel bag.


To put it shortly, you're going to a place you don't know (probably). You don't know what kind of surfing conditions you'll have. You might ride small waves but you might need to engage in some bigger surf, too.

Moreover, leashes tend to break whether due to constant friction or an unnoticed mistake on the production line. Therefore, it's better to pack at least a few of them so that you have at least two which you can use depending on the wave condition.

Other Essential Items for Surf Packing

Now that we have secured your most essential surf gear, your boards, and what you may need to carry and take care of them, we can delve into other items you'll need on your surf trip.

  • Rash guard: You might like being topless, but sun exposure and tropical or cold water will certainly take a toll on your skin. To prevent that, a rash guard is a must for any surf packing list.
  • Surf helmet: You don't know if the waves will be dangerous or the wave lineups will be crowded by beginner surfers who can ditch their boards any time. Being prepared for those with a surf helmet will definitely not hurt.
  • Reef booties: It totally depends on where you're going, so you don't need to pack a pair when you're going to walk only on sandy beaches and gravel roads, but for those who're going to visit reef breaks, reef booties are a must.
  • Dry bag: We don't know where you're going, but let us tell you that you never know when tropical climates will surprise you with a rain shower. In such conditions and also on boat trips, a dry bag will be a lifesaver by protecting the wet gear inside.
  • Beach towel: Well, it's not one of the items you cannot find on your way to the airport or in your surf destination, but why pay extra money if you already have one? Also, as we said, they may provide extra padding for your board bags.
  • Wetsuit: It depends on the water temperature where you're going, but pack a pair of them regardless.
  • Sunscreen: Needless to say, you'll be exposed to a lot of sun when surfing, so don't forget to bring along sunscreens for your body and face. Also, make sure they are waterproof!
  • Water bottle: As a surfer, you carry a responsibility for the ocean and preserving its habitat, so you know that buying water sold in plastic bottles is not good for our planet.
  • Ear plugs: It's obvious why you would need them, but it's another one of small objects that you might easily forget.

Essential Items for Any Trip

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is not a must only for surf trips but for every time you travel abroad. However, it might be even more important for surfing trips since the most popular surf spots are in exotic places with different sorts of climate conditions and biodiversity. Even the local cuisine might give you some hardships.

Yes, it's one of the most boring parts of packing, but if it's any relief, getting travel insurance is quite easy and affordable.

First Aid Kit

Another boring but incredibly essential item on our list is a first aid kit. These are some essentials that are to be included in any first aid kit: antiseptics, antibiotics, painkillers, rubbing alcohol, spray plaster, lots of bandages, waterproof medical tape, sun protection, and so on.

However, you need to personalize the contents of the kit based on your medical needs, too. Needless to say, if you need to take a certain medicine due to a particular condition, make sure you have enough of it to last for the entirety of your trip.

Even though your trip might not coincide with your period, you never know what long-distance travel does to the constitution of a person, so don't forget to bring along tampons, or better, menstrual cups.

In addition to specific medical needs, you should pack stuff in accordance with your surfing needs as well. For example, if you're surfing on reef breaks, you need to plan ahead for potential shallow reef cuts you might suffer and pack skin closures, saline solutions, blister protectors, and medical-grade glues.

Other Items You Might Need

Maybe the sole reason behind your trip is surfing, but nobody is going to drop you off the plane on a wave break and pick you back up once you're tired, right? You still need to pack certain other items that are not necessarily related to surfing. We don't need to remind you that you need to pack your passport and driver's license, but there are still some items worth reminding:

  • Duffel bag: They have lots of compartments and lots of space, and they're a must for any long-distance traveler.
  • Duct tape: When it comes to securing things into their places, there is no better option. They can also save space and make life easier.
  • Clothing suitable for any weather: As we repeatedly said and implied, you don't know how the weather can turn during your visit. Being ready for that is crucial, especially if you're visiting colder climates.
  • Sunglasses: You are invincible in your sunglasses.
  • Socket adapter and portable charger: Foreign countries sometimes have weird sockets that your current charger cannot fit into, so it's better to pack a socket adapter. Also, you might have some time away from power sources. In that case, your portable charger will run to your help.
  • Mosquito net: Mosquitoes caused many sleepless nights and swollen feet and arms for us surfers. Don't let them ruin an otherwise perfect trip for you.
  • Cross: So that you can ward off vampires and werewolves.

Wrapping Up...

Okay, now that we're at the end of our article, we can talk more candidly: packing for any trip anywhere is absolutely dreadful. We know many surfers who tried to travel abroad while their passports were back at home. As a result, they ended up helping their friends who were moving into a new house. In all honesty, that's a fate to be scared of! So, if you don't want that person to be you, make sure that you pack all the items on our list and tick all the boxes.

There's a commonsensical approach to packing: "Well, no matter how careful you are, things will get lost and you'll forget this or that, so don't sweat yourself..." That is wrong. Impeccable packing is possible, and you can totally pull it off!

Written by
Jeremy Dean
surf coaching