How to Transport a Paddleboard Without a Roof Rack

So you want to travel your paddleboard to a nearby beach to have some fun. But how do you transport it without a roof rack on your car? Here are 4 pretty cool ways to do so.

Okay, so you don’t want to go through the hassle of installing a roof rack onto your vehicle. We totally get and understand that. But when it comes to the activity of paddleboarding, the following question then needs to be addressed and assessed. How to transport paddleboard without roof rack? Can it be done?

Yes, but we’re not going to beat around the bush when we say that your options aren’t going to be incredibly diverse. Probably the best way is with a roof rack and if you do want some help figuring out what roof rack will fit your car if you still are open to that option, check this out.

However, avoiding that path, you have a few other methods you can employ such as:

  1. Buy a soft rack
  2. Use a truck bed for transport
  3. Use a trailer for transport
  4. Buy an inflatable SUP board

We’ll address that last option in a minute, but you can still pull this off if you have a hardboard (or hardboards) or would rather buy a hardboard SUP.

1. Buy a soft rack

pair of black soft roof pads
Image credits: Kite Denmark

It seems appropriate that the first option of how to transport paddleboard without roof rack is to just use a soft rack. In the simplest of explanations, soft racks are fabric pads (that are shaped like cylinders) that can be attached to the top of your car through the doors.

The straps run through the doors of your car, and then you can secure your SUP board on top of the pads. The concept is quite similar to that of a roof rack, but it needs to be mentioned that it’s nowhere near as stable and reliable as that option.

As a matter of fact, using a soft rack to transport your SUP board is only recommended if you’re traveling locally and don’t have to travel far distances at higher speeds. Minor highway travel should be okay but if you have to travel an hour on a highway, a soft rack may not be the best option.

The last thing you want to do is have your SUP board fly off and become damaged, or even potentially cause an accident with other vehicles on the road. With that in mind, here are some important tips to remember if you do decide to go this route:

  • Ensure that the rack is as secure and tight as possible on your car.
  • Be sure that the leash plug is over your windshield (tail first) when placing the board on your car.
  • Over the board, add two more car rack straps on both ends. Open the side doors of your vehicle and thread the straps through them. Tighten as much as possible and for enhanced security, tie the loose strap ends in a knot.

2. Use a truck bed for transport

white surfboard in the back of a truck bed
Image credits: VAMO

Clearly, you have to own a truck or the person in your group of paddleboarders has to own a truck in order for this one to be feasible. If that’s not an issue for you, then this is arguably going to be the best option if you’d prefer to avoid using a roof rack.

Now, if you know anything about SUP boards and truck beds, then you know that most (if not all) truck beds will not be long enough to lay down most SUP boards with the tailgate being up. So, the best way to pull this one off is to lay down your SUP board (or boards) in your truck bed with the tailgate down.

Understanding how to properly strap down your board or boards will be vital to ensure that they don’t fall out and to ensure that they don’t rattle around in the bed and get damaged. Speaking of damage, it’s a good idea to place some padding down on the top of your tailgate to protect your SUP board from it.

If you plan to stack a few boards on top of each other, place some padding in-between them to, again, protect them from damage. All in the meanwhile, and this can’t be stressed enough, be sure that the boards are strapped down securely. Using ratchet tie-down straps can do the trick very well.

3. Use a trailer for transport

lots of surfboards on a trailer
Image credits: Nugent

As with the last method of how to transport paddleboard without roof rack, this one’s going to be limited to certain people (this time to those who own a trailer). Additionally, you have to own a vehicle that can pull the trailer. Needless to say, this option’s not going to be for everyone. Plus, if all you need to do is transport one board, a trailer may be overkill.

However, if you need to transport three, four, or maybe even five boards at once, a trailer becomes a great choice. You could even make or buy a system to better store the SUP boards inside. Again, as with the truck bed option, be sure to properly pad and strap down the boards you transport inside of a trailer.

4. Buy an inflatable SUP board

woman laughing next to white and blue paddle board
Image credits: Reed Naliboff

Ah, yes, the fourth and BEST option if you fear that transporting your SUP board is going to become an issue for you. Instead of trying to figure out the best way (in limited ways) how to transport paddleboard without roof rack, you could just buy an inflatable model to trivialize the entire struggle.

As you’d assume with such a SUP board, when planning to travel with it, you could just deflate the board to save a bunch of space (though you will need to fully deflate it for best results). Inflatable models will get quite compact to the point where you could even carry them in a large carrying bag or even a backpack. From there, you could place them in the trunk of your car, in the backseat, and really anywhere inside that convenience’s you the most.

Yes, this means that when you arrive at your destination, you’ll have to inflate the SUP board in order for it to be used. This process can take some time, but it still beats the hassle of having to haul a 10-foot board around with limited options.

Of course, we know what you’re thinking right now. What about the performance and experience that an inflatable SUP board provides on the water? Well, just like Pumped Up SUP points out, these types of SUP boards can actually be better overall than hardboards.

Outside of the clear and obvious advantages of portability and storage, they can also be extremely durable, versatile, and are also harder to get injured on. Honestly, after you read that post from Pumped Up SUP, you’re going to see why so many people love their inflatable SUP boards.

How to transport paddleboard without a roof rack OR even a vehicle?

Depending on how far you need to travel to the water, you may not even require the use of a vehicle. Still, though, if you have a hardboard, you might not want to carry the paddleboard directly to the water. And even with an inflatable board, you’ll still need some sort of carrying bag with the accessories you’ll need to inflate it.

For the record, with an inflatable board, you could just buy a backpack large enough to fit the board plus any accessories you need with it. You’re probably not going to fit a hardboard in a backpack (probably), though, so consider the following options for non-vehicle travel.

  • A paddleboard bike trailer – If you have a bike and know an easy route to get to where you need to, you can buy a paddleboard bike trailer. Essentially the same concept as an actual trailer, this can be great for a solo board. It’s probably going to be a good workout too.
  • A handheld trailer or SUP trolley – Both of these options involve you pushing or pulling your SUP board around with the use of a “trailer” or trolley. This can be terrific if you need to travel a few miles and really don’t want to carry your SUP board the entire way.

Final thoughts

If we had to come up with one answer to the question of how to transport paddleboard without roof rack, we’d go with buying an inflatable SUP board. Perhaps you already own a hardboard and have no interest in switching. Totally fair and understandable. However, if you’re just doing a bunch of bulk research trying to figure out how you’re going to pull everything off, we recommend buying an inflatable model.

It just makes all of this a non-issue, and inflatable models have their own benefits such as great durability, ease of storage, ideal performance, and their softer and more forgiving nature.

That said, it’s not as if this was a post detailing why you should buy an inflatable SUP board. Options such as buying a soft rack, using the bed of a truck, and using a trailer are more than feasible if you need to transport a hardboard without the convenience of a roof rack.

With hardboards, though, going with a roof rack is probably going to be the easiest and best, long-term traveling option. It’s just a lose-lose if you don’t have an inflatable board or a roof rack, isn’t it?

No, that’s not the case at all. It’s just potentially going to be a lot harder and more complicated is all. Anyway, before you go, on the topic of hardboards, would you like to learn how to hang a paddleboard on the wall? If so, click that link!

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Tyler Jones

Tyler is much like a swiss knife. Even though he has a degree in Computer Science, he knows almost everything there is to know about camping. He has been writing for HeadlessNomad since 2021 and has contributed with over 100 articles. If you have an outdoor-related question, then Tyler much likely knows the answer.