What to Pack for a Surf Trip – The Best Surf Travel Checklist

What do I need to pack for a surf trip? Likely, your flight is a day or two away and you’re staring into an empty suitcase asking yourself this very question. The report looks good, you’ve got the time off work, you’re headed to surf the waves of your life, but what should you bring?


Unless you’re a body surfer, you’ll probably want to remember to bring boards on your trip. If you’re spending the time and money to travel somewhere to surf, you’re likely invested in the sport and have got your own surfboards, or are staying at a surf camp with decent rentals. That said, no matter how nice the rentals, most experienced surfers prefer to surf their own boards. However, travelling with your own boards can get pretty expensive. Most airlines are upfront about surfboard costs and fees, but it’s always worth calling to double-check. There’s nothing worse than showing up at the airport and being told that checking your boards is going to cost more than your entire plane ticket (which happened to me on a trip to Morocco)! Bring the right board(s). If you have multiple boards, its best to bring a few for different conditions, and in case one breaks (or is damaged in transit). If you’re only bringing one, choose a good all-arounder that you’re comfortable riding; having a familiar board under your feet can be comforting when surfing new and unfamiliar breaks.

Surfboard Travel Bag

No matter what your board is made of, it’s definitely not airline-proof. Airlines are notoriously brutal to surfboards and it’s often a huge hassle to receive compensation for a broken board (not to mention the inconceivable cost of a ruined trip)! If you’re bringing your own boards, make sure to pack them in a thick, protective travel bag. It’s also worth getting a surfboard bag that’s slightly larger than your biggest board, so that you can pack each board in additional bubble-wrap and foam, and still fit it in the bag.


Even if you’re a longboarder who refuses to wear one, it’s worth bringing a leash (or a few) on your trip. No matter what kind of board you ride, bring back-up leashes in case one snaps. Bring new or very lightly-used leashes. It’s better to buy a few solid leashes from your local surf shop before you leave, than to have to anxiously see if Amazon can rush deliver to your remote surf camp in the tropics. If you typically surf without a leash, reconsider this. No one likes to dodge a fiberglass log careening through the lineup. Also, you don’t want to end up swimming a mile to shore to a broken board and a crowd of laughing locals.

Fins and Fin Keys

Like leashes, you’ll need to bring a few back-ups. You might break or lose a fin in the water and don’t want to be stranded without an extra set. Fin keys are essential for all of you riding Futures, and optional, but good to have, for you FCS II folks.

Ding Repair Kit

As you probably know, surfboards are fragile and can get dinged no matter where you’re surfing. Having a proper ding repair kit can be the difference between a ruined surf trip and a slight inconvenience. Not all surf destinations have local shapers or offer ding repair services. If you don’t know how to fix your board, bring along a copy of this handy ding repair guide, along with the right materials. When choosing a ding repair kit, make sure to get the correct one for your surfboard construction (i.e., epoxy). If you’re not into the idea of conducting extensive ding repair while on vacation, there’re a few, great quick-fix solar and heat-activated options like Sun Cure and Session Saver.

Wax and Wax Comb

You can never bring too much wax on a surf trip…period. While there might be piles of Sex Wax and Sticky Bumps on display at your local surf shop, many surf destinations surprisingly do not have the same access to major wax distributors. Bring more wax than you think. You’ll use up your supply faster than you expect, and will likely find yourself handing out bars to friends or local groms. Make sure your check the water temperatures of where you’ll be surfing, and get the appropriate wax. Generally, you’ll use harder wax for warmer water, and softer wax for colder conditions. It’s also worth bringing a wax comb to strip old wax or clean up your board.

Wetsuit, Swimsuit, Boardshorts, Rash guard

Pack for a range of conditions and occasions. Even if the ocean temperature requires a wetsuit, you probably won’t want to wear it in the hotel pool. Bring a swimsuit or a pair of boardshorts. If you’re headed to a warm-water destination, bring a rash guard along with your swimsuit. A great barrier between your chest and the wax on your board, Rash guards also offer your skin dependable protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays. If you’re going somewhere colder, pack a pair of booties, gloves, and maybe even a hood just to be safe…nothing stops a session faster than hypothermia! Thinner booties also offer useful warm-water surfing protection from sharp reefs and stinging sea creatures.


Whether you’re headed somewhere sunny or cloudy, UV rays are always present and can do some serious skin damage during those hours in the water. However, not all sunscreens are made equal. Sunscreens with harmful chemicals can harm you and the local environment. Make sure to choose a reef-safe sunscreen that will protect you and the ocean.

First-Aid Kit

Even though the surf-camp or hotel you’re staying at likely has one, it’s always worth packing a first-aid kit. You should include items like the following in your first-aid kit: pain relievers, bandages, antiseptics, gauze, stitches, liquid bandage, anti-inflammatory medication, indigestion/diarrhea medication, ear drops, eye drops, insect repellant, and antibiotics.


You should use these year-round and especially on surf trips. Exostosis, or Surfer’s Ear, is a common issue for many surfers. Along with ear drops, using earplugs is one of the best and easiest preventative measures a surfer can take. Dirty, bacteria-infested water is abundant worldwide, and is a major cause of illness and infection. Unprotected, the ear canal is a vulnerable and ripe environment for bacterial growth. Ear plugs can greatly reduce the risk of bacterial infections and are certainly worth wearing at home and abroad. There’re a range of effective ear plugs out there. Whether using your basic Mack’s, or pro-endorsed SurfEars, it’s worth throwing something in your ears!

Now that you’ve got the rundown, go ahead and pack your suitcase, grab what you need, and put on a smile. Most importantly, remember that no matter where you go or what the waves are like, as Bob McTavish once said, “You can take a surfer out of the surf, but you cannot take the surf out of a surfer.”

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