The Transporter

Moving Your Board to the Beach

This feature originally appeared in our 2016 Skills Guide. This article is the first installment of a weekly six-part series focusing on six equipment solutions for six different scenarios. 

Unless you're one of the lucky few paddlers who live right on the water or can bike there, your need a car to paddle. And just as importantly: that car needs racks. Those racks will need to make it easy to load, transport, and unload your board(s) safely and securely, regardless of their size … and yours. Simple. But if that's the case, why does the act of loading standup paddleboards onto the roof of a car seem to cause more trepidation to more paddlers than a rough day on the Molokai Channel? Simple: both present a very real potential for disaster. But at least with roof racks, your destiny is in your own hands.

For SUP transport you're basically faced with two choices (this includes pickup drivers, for whom a number of bed racks are available):

1. Square, round or aero-shaped crossbars affixed to the car's roof, to be used in conjunction with one-inch cam straps (soft crossbar pads optional).

2. SUP-specific carrying attachments affixed to existing crossbars.

Fancy first. The two leading sport rack manufacturers offer SUP-specific rack attachments: Thule has the SUP Taxi and the Board Shuttle, while Yakima offers the SUPDawg and SUPPup. All are variations on the same theme, a padded cradle with built-in straps that bolts down onto the rack's crossbars. The board is cinched into the cradle via a ratchet system, locked down and ready to roll. Pluses include adjustable widths, locking straps and super-secure attachment. Downside: expensive, somewhat complicated at first (read: easy to use improperly) and can only be used for two boards.

The traditional route is the basic crossbar rack/strap method. Again, start with the basic stock, Thule or Yakima roof rack, but instead of the add-on cradle, you simply cinch your board(s) right to the rack with long cam straps (available from NRS, DaKine, Thule and Yakima). Place the board(s) on the rack, fins forward, deck down. Loop the strap under the crossbar on the far side of the board(s). Bring both ends of the strap back over the board(s) to the side you're standing on. Loop the free end of the strap under the crossbar on your side of the board(s), then thread through the clip. Adjust the position of the buckle so that when you cinch it down it doesn't grind into the board rail. Tighten down—not too hard—then tie up the loose slack or close it in your door. Repeat on the other rack.

Crossbar pads add a little softness to the system, which we recommend. Not only do they protect your board but, just like the more sophisticated cradle systems, they also immediately identify you as a water person when you have to leave your board at home. And who doesn't love that?


Informative six-part series with standup paddle advice from the pros.

Stroke technique tutorial videos from paddling guru Jay Wild.