How to Pack the Perfect Bag for Your Next Surf Trip

How to Pack the Perfect Bag for Your Next Surf Trip

Get your bag and boards in order for your surfing adventure.
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By Trey Leslie I Everyday California Head Writer & Resident DJ

Your surf trip is coming soon, and turns out packing the perfect bag for your adventure is a bit more difficult than it seems - especially if you’re finally starting to pack on the same day your flight leaves (we’re looking at you, Chris).

The problem in getting your bags packed for a surf trip is that there are a lot of factors to consider: water temperature, waves, climate, country, housing situation, to name a few.

Let’s break it down, starting with the essentials for any surfing expedition:

Your Board

All great surf trips begin with the right board, but choosing what to travel with isn’t an easy task. Whatever you bring, check out what your airline charges for bringing a board (check out this guide for reference) and make sure it matches your budget.

No board.  For a casual trip, where surfing is one of several activities you have planned, it might be best to travel board-less and hope for a decent rental. Renting is risky and never ideal, but if you have a short trip planned and need to travel light, or if you’re flying standby, then it may be worth the risk.

1 board.  A single surfboard is a good fit if you don’t want to take the whole arsenal along but want to make sure you have something reliable out on the water. Bring your best utility board along for the ride.

2+ boards.  If you’re serious about getting after it, then you’ll likely be bringing a couple boards. Having options in your quiver is great if you’re going on a longer trip or hitting a few different spots.

Whatever you bring with you, make sure you grab the right bag. I can’t imagine anything more tragic than taking your favorite board only to have it abused in transit. Here’s a list of travel bags to keep your precious cargo safe.

Your Clothes

Of course, the clothes you bring is largely dependent on when and where you’re going. Your bag for a surf excursion to France in the winter is going to look a lot different than a summer vacation in Bali. Either way, the following are worth considering:

Wetsuit.  Should you bring one? Look at the water temperature a few days before you leave. Your best bet is to bring whatever you’re comfortable in at that temperature. Just keep in mind a wetsuit takes up a lot space in your bag.

Swimsuit.  Always worth bringing, no matter how cold the water is. Since they’re light and easy to pack, I like to bring a couple of comfortable suits with me wherever I go. A rashguard can be useful too for a little extra protection from the sun or the cold.

Gear.  Once you’ve packed for the water, decide what other clothing you’ll take with you. Bring comfortable clothes for hanging out and relaxing after you surf, like a nice pair of sweats, a go-to hoodie, and plenty of t-shirts. Make sure you’re ready for the cold if you’re going somewhere chilly.


Prepare for the worst possible scenarios. You don’t want to stress during your trip, so it’s well worth bringing the following just in case:

Fins.  Take extras. It’s nice to have the option to change your setup, or backups in case of emergency. Don’t forget a tool or fin key (or two) to switch them if you need.

Wax.  Again, the water temperature will determine what kind of wax you’ll bring along, but it’s well worth having your own with you rather than have to go hunting for a bar. Bring a wax comb too, since you’ll likely need to scrape your board clean.

Leash.  Better safe than sorry when it comes to leashes. An extra one can come in handy if yours or your buddy’s snaps, and they’re easy to pack.

Sunscreen.  If you’re off to somewhere tropical, make sure you’ve got a couple small bottles of sunscreen with you (you can’t carry-on big containers on airplanes). Lather responsibly, bring reef-safe sunscreen to keep our oceans healthy.


Passport.  Leaving the country? If so, you’ll need your passport, plus you might get to collect some stamps along your journey. Also, you might need a…

Visa.  Depending on your passport, some countries require you obtain a visa prior to arriving. Check your country’s embassy website for exact requirements, and avoid getting caught up in customs. Trust me, it’s not fun.

Ticket.  Some people like their airline ticket all printed out, I prefer to load up the information on my phone and take a screenshot (or multiple screenshots if there’s a layover) so I don’t have to worry about connecting to the internet. However, phone batteries can die, so if you’re going far than a printed ticket might be worthwhile.

Toiletries.  Because nobody likes that guy without a toothbrush. Bring your daily essentials.


First Aid Kit.  You never know when you might need it. Gauze, disinfectant, band-aids, and ear drops are a good start.

Ding Repair Kit.  If you’re traveling with boards, take a small repair kit for any bumps along the way.

Surf Watch.  I personally can’t function without a watch, so I always have a waterproof one with me wherever I go. Something small and low profile works best for traveling. On the other hand, if you’re not running on a tight schedule, it’s nice to not worry about time for a while (besides lunch and dinner time, of course).

Charger.  I’ve left a lot of phone chargers behind in my life on various adventures, so keep it on your mind when you’re packing. Your destination might have a different kind of outlet than what you’re used to, so bring a plug adapter if needed.

Money.  Not a lot, but enough to ensure you survive the random customs fees that pop up when you’re moving across borders. Check online what previous travelers have paid, otherwise $50 both ways is a safe bet.

Camera.  There’s something awesome about bringing a little disposable camera on a trip and seeing what turns out in the end (a revolutionary thought in this digital age). Otherwise, a waterproof digital camera works, or you can always grab a dry-bag for your phone before you leave.


Each trip is different, so your needs will change depending on the nature of your adventure. Either way, I recommend you travel light (at least as light as possible, this is a long list) so you can stay agile wherever you end up. Have fun and stay safe out there!


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