LAST UPDATED: December 5, 2019
Best Surfboard Roof Racks: Carry Your Board Safely and Conveniently
Surf without stress. Get a roof rack to protect your board and your car
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PUBLISHED ON December 5, 2019
Surfboards, paddleboards, and longboards are a whole lot of fun, but they’re not exactly portable. Trying to carry one in a regular-sized car is inconvenient at best. Even if it does somehow fit inside, it’s going to have a serious impact on your visibility and ability to carry passengers (not to mention the sand that you’ll be cleaning up forever). Without a doubt, a surf rack is a must-have for any surfer or water sports enthusiast. Check out our top three and the key features you need to consider when buying one.
This innovative soft rack has a single loop to easily hold a surfboard in place. It also has one-inch foam rack pads for extra cushioning.
It is versatile and can be connected through the doors or mounted on the roof rails. It can hold the boards tightly, even at high speeds.
The installation of this surf rack can be a bit difficult. You might find that the straps are too short to hold more than one board.
This set of two soft pads has a universal fit for both cars and SUVs that do not already have an attached roof rack. The pads are 19 inches wide. You can hold 2-3 surfboards with it.
The straps are heavy-duty and capable of withstanding highway speeds. The entire rack is easy to use and takes minutes to install and remove.
The stitching isn’t as durable as the rest of the construction. The straps make a loud, buzzing noise at higher driving speeds.
This hard rack has a universal mounting system to fit most car roofs. It is also easy to load with a free-floating strap system.
It has ratcheting straps and hand knobs to keep the boards tightly secured. It also has the security option of locking the board to the top of your car.
There have been complaints about customer support. This rack system is also very bulky for some people.
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Benefits of a Surfboard Roof Rack
- Convenience. When you have your own surf rack, you can pack up and go whenever you like. Just velcro down your board, throw your wetsuit in the trunk, and you’re ready to go.
- Extra space. Watersports are more fun with your friends and having a surf rack on the car roof means your backseat is free to carry more passengers.
- Versatility. Even if you’re not a surfer, you’ll find most surf rack systems will accommodate longboards, short boards, stand-up paddleboards and, in some cases, even a kayak.
- Safety. Just because you can squeeze your surfboard into your car, doesn’t mean you should. Its size and shape means it’s probably going to obscure your view while driving, no matter where you put it. At least if it’s on top of your roof, you don’t have to worry about the safety aspect.
- Cleanliness. Even the most hardcore surfer is unlikely to want a wet surfboard getting sand, wax, and possibly seaweed all over the interior of his or her car. A surf rack will protect your surf furnishings and save you all those embarrassing apologies every time you take a fellow surfer for a ride.
Types of Surfboard Roof Racks
Hard Roof Rack
Hard surf racks are roof racks that are specifically designed to carry surfboards or paddleboards. They need to be properly installed onto the car’s roof rails and are a much more permanent option than a soft surf rack. Check the size and setup of your rails and crossbars before buying a hard roof rack because most are not designed with universal fittings. More secure and durable than straps or a soft rack, they are also taller and heavier with a higher load capacity.
Soft Roof Rack
Soft racks are generally designed to be a universal fit, meaning they are largely compatible with any type of car or SUV. They don’t need roof rails either because they use a strapping system to secure the surfboard to the car roof. Usually made out of neoprene and webbing, they are lightweight, affordable, and much simpler to install and take down.
The roof strapping models require roof rails and crossbars onto which they can be attached. Because this type of surf rack is just straps, it’s cheap to buy, super lightweight, and easy to store and replace. They are not, however, the most secure option, and they leave your surfboard a little exposed. You might want to think about purchasing a carrying case (if you don’t have one already) for your board and roof rack pads for the crossbars.
The Thule Group operates in 136 different countries, but the original brand was established in Sweden in 1942. It is at the top of the list when it comes to cargo solutions for cars and trucks, and one of its products for transporting surfboards includes the Thule 531 Express Surf Straps.
A division of Car Mate USA, Inc. that deals specifically with cargo transportation solutions for sports and outdoor enthusiasts, Inno has been around since 1976. It has manufacturing sites in China, Japan, and the United States and first broke into the American market in 2003. It makes a lot of surf racks, including the Inno Locking Surfboard Roof Rack.
Named after the surfboard fin setup Fin Control System invented by Brian A. Whitty, FCS specializes in surfboards, fins, and surfing accessories. Based in Queensland, Australia, it has a strong online presence and retail outlets all over the world. Its roof racks include the FCS Premium Doubt Soft Surfboard Rack and this cam-locking Hard Rack System.
Surfboard Roof Rack Pricing
- Under $30: The cheapest way of carrying your surfboard is with tie-down straps that are secured (usually with velcro) on the underside of your roof and pass through the car windows. They are basic, and you might get wet, but they are definitely functional.
- Around $75: You’ll find a lot of high-quality, well-cushioned soft roof racks in the middle price range. Higher price points will reflect extra features and premium construction materials.
- Around $150: Due to their solid construction, hard racks are generally more expensive than soft racks, but you don’t need to pay a premium for a decent model. Those at the higher end will likely offer locking features, adjustable hardware, and other innovative extras.
Carrying anything on your car roof is going to add height that wasn’t there before. It doesn’t matter if you’re carrying a pile of surfboards in a soft rack or attaching a hard rack to your crossbars, those extra inches are going to mount up. Be particularly aware of how much roof clearance you need when entering parking lots or garages while using a surf rack.
What are you going to be using the roof rack system for? If you’re looking to carry more than one board, you need a rack with a suitable load capacity. Maybe occasionally you’d like to carry a kayak or a pair of ladders. It may be worth considering a specialized SUP rack or a more comprehensive roof rack that will carry your surfboard as well as other non-surfer-related items.
Any cargo that’s carried on your roof, not just surfboards, will rattle and hum in the wind and at high speeds. If you spend a lot of time on the highway, or you’re worried the noise is going to bug you more than you’ll be able to bear, select a hard rack over a soft rack. The more aerodynamic design and a tighter hold on your surfboard will be much quieter overall.
It might be the best surfboard roof rack in the world, but if it’s not going to fit in your car, it’s no good. There’s no point in buying a surfboard car rack that comes with crossbars if you don’t have rails, for example. Check the compatibility before you commit to a purchase and if in doubt, choose a surf rack that is designed to be a universal fit.
- Durability: Saltwater and sand can quickly eat through cheap, low-quality materials and straps if you’re not careful.
- Wet Weather: Even the most avid surfers usually don’t want to get wet on the way to and from the coast, so if you live in a rainy climate, basic roof straps that need to come through the car windows might not be the best idea.
- Versatility: Are you just carrying one lone surfboard or do you need a more versatile roof rack system that is also compatible with SUP boards, longboards, or even a snowboard?
- Security: If you’re going to leave your watersports equipment on the car roof while you are elsewhere, it might be worth investing in a hard roof rack with locking features. And you’re probably not going to want to leave the windows open on an unattended car, either.
- Accessories: Check whether you need extras such as roof rack pads, extra tie-down straps, as well as a carrying case (to protect your board and your car roof from scratches) if you don’t already have one.
Best Surfboard Roof Racks Reviews & Recommendations 2020
The Curve Lockdown is a soft roof rack with a difference. Instead of being just a pad and a strap, this innovative design features extendable foam padded loops, which surround the board at both ends. Wrapped in its “cocoon,” the board can be strapped to the roof either directly through the doors or via roof rails, so it won’t shift or flap around in the wind.
Both the straps and the loops are cushioned with one-inch of foam padding and a soft neoprene lining, offering maximum protection for your surfboard and your car roof. The extendable loops should hold one longboard or a maximum of three shortboards. You can adjust the tension on the straps with the zinc cam-buckle, which is super strong and plastic coated to protect it from corrosion.
However, it’s a little tight for comfortably carrying more than one board. It’s also a little complicated to install, particularly if you’re used to regular soft racks. And, like all soft racks, you’ll experience some noise and vibration, but the manufacturer advises that twisting the straps to increase the tension should resolve this issue.
This portable surfboard roof rack is perfect for carrying 2-3 surfboards on the roof of your car or SUV. The pads are 19 inches wide and have universal compatibility as long as your vehicle doesn’t have a permanently installed roof rack. The rack comes with two soft pads that each have straps for securing it to your roof.
The strap material is heavy-duty and capable of withstanding highway speeds. The entire rack is user-friendly and only takes minutes to install on the roof of your car or take off when not needed.
Unfortunately, the stitching on this rack isn’t as durable as the rest of the materials, which can lead to it coming undone. The straps also make a loud, buzzing noise when you drive at faster speeds.
This hard rack from INNO describes itself as having a universal mounting system, but buyers should be aware that this is in relation to the type of roof rails you have. It cannot be mounted directly onto the roof like a soft rack, but it does fit easily onto most factory-fitted rails using the included clamp-on hardware.
This surf rack will carry up to three shortboards or two longboards, which can be easily loaded onto the innovative floating strap system and secured via a ratcheting mechanism. Tension can be increased for extra stability with the use of integrated hand knobs, and the whole thing can be securely locked with the included set of keys. The ability to leave your boards on your car without the risk of theft is a massive plus, and it’s genuinely easy to install. It’s a total pain to remove, however, and we suggest that this rack is used as a permanent addition to your vehicle.
Be aware that this model requires a minimum crossbar length of 31.5 inches, so it may not be suitable for some crossbars. However, extra-long bolts are available to increase compatibility as much as possible. It’s also not wide enough to carry SUPs, according to the manufacturer, which has other models available that are specifically designed to do so.
- Carrying a surfboard on the roof can be noisy. If you are easily irritated by noises and rattles, you might prefer a more aerodynamic rack system.
- The height of your vehicle will increase when you have a surfboard roof rack. For safety and security, be mindful of the height increase when driving.
- Surfboards on your car roof are exposed to direct sunlight and flying dirt and can be easily scratched by straps and buckles on your rack system. Always transport your board in a carrying case, especially on longer journeys.
Q: What’s better: a hard rack or a soft rack?
A: Hard racks are sturdier and can carry more weight but require your car to have roof rails. Soft racks don’t require any rails, as the straps run through the car, securing the surfboard onto the roof. Soft racks are recommended for shorter distances because the board will vibrate more and the windows of the car can’t be fully closed.
Q: What safety precautions should be taken when securing a surfboard?
A: The rack should always be checked for damage, such as sharp edges, frayed straps or broken buckles. It should be securely mounted before you add the boards and should never be overloaded.
Q: How easy are surfboard racks to install?
A: It depends on the individual roof rack and whether it’s a hard rack or soft rack. Hard racks are generally more difficult to mount and remove, while soft racks are easier to install.
Our pick for best surfboard roof rack goes to the Curve LOCKDOWN Roof Rack for its innovative design and all-round versatility.
For a more affordable option, consider the DORSAL Wrap-Rax Surfboard Roof Rack.