How to Put a Surfboard On your Car – Hard Racks Vs. Soft Racks
September 12, 2011

Chances are at some point or another you will need to mount a surfboard to the roof of a car. In order to do it properly and depending on your vehicle you will need 1 of 2 different types of systems to fasten down your prized piece of fiberglass. Below we will take a look at Rack Pads & Straps vs. Soft Racks.

Rack Pads ( aka Hard Rack Pads or Auto Rack Pads) & Straps (aka Tie Down Straps) – Get these only if you already have aftermarket racks on the roof of your car. The pads will fasten over your car’s hard racks and you will use the straps to secure the boards down. Scroll Down for Rack Pads & Straps Instructions

Soft Racks – Get these if you do not already have any type of racks on the roof of your car. They will fasten your boards down securely on anything from an SUV to a small sedan. Scroll Down or Click here to go to Soft Rack Instructions (must click post title first)

Mounting a Surfboard with Rack Pads & Straps:

Surfboard auto rack pads and tie down straps

Attach the Rack Pads:

First you should measure your car’s racks and get some Auto Rack Pads that will properly fit across the length of each rack**. These pads come with fasteners on the bottom and will mount securely around both the front and back racks. The pads will keep wax from getting onto your car and more importantly keep the racks from dinging your boards.

**Just want to make sure they aren’t too big for your racks

Put Your Surfboard on the Racks Fins Forward

Once you have the pads in place, you’ll want to put your board (or boards) on top with the bottom up, wax side down, and fins pointed up and forward towards the front of the car. You will want your fins forward so if your board does slip, the fins will catch on the front strap and possibly save your stick from sliding out and onto the road behind you.

For longer trips it’s a good idea to keep your board in a sock or board bag while mounted on the racks to protect it against rocks or debris from the road. But if you’re just traveling down the street you can just ditch the bag and mount your board without –just remember to wrap your leash tightly or take it off altogether before doing so.

Strap Your Surfboard Down

After your boards are on top of the racks, you will need to secure them down with Tie Down Straps. For both the front and back racks, you will slide the strap under the hard rack on one side, go over the board, back under the rack on the other side and back over the board. See below animated picture for clarification.

Then alls you have to do is pull the end of the nylon strap through the buckle, cinch it down and voila! Your boards are mounted! Just make sure not to tighten the straps it too hard as you can ding your boards pretty easily this way.

Mounting Surfboards with Soft Racks

Double and Single Surfboard Auto Soft Racks

Soft racks come in either double or single type racks. Double means you can mount 2 sets of boards (1-6 shortboards or 1-4 longboards) side to side while single means you can mount one set of boards on one side (up to 3 short boards or 2 longboards). These racks will have the single/double pads attached and two sets of fastening straps for a total of 4 loose ends. The bottom set of straps will fasten to you car while the top set of straps will fasten to your boards.

Fasten the Soft Racks to Your Car

Start off by opening all the doors where you will mount your racks. Soft racks work best when spaced well apart on the roof, so 4 door vehicles are usually ideal for soft racks. That doesn’t mean they can’t be mounted on other types of cars, as I’ve seen them on pick-up trucks, 2-door rice rockets and even mini vans, it will just take a bit of tinkering and creativity to get them working on these other vehicles.

Next you will lay the soft racks across the top of your car so that the bottom straps will hang off at both side of your vehicle. Try to space the pads out comfortably so that when put your boards on top, the racks will touch the two thickest parts of your board. Note – If they are spaced too far apart your boards can easily slip out and if they are too close together your boards will rock violently with fast acceleration or any bumps on the road.

Once you have the spacing dialed, take the two bottom straps from the soft racks, thread them through the open doors and fasten them together on the inside of your car. Think of it as the soft racks bear hugging the roof of you car.

Set your boards on top fins forward

Put your board or boards on top fins forward. See Above Rack Pads & Straps mounting instructions for tips and more info.

Cinch down the top straps.

Next you will grab the two hanging top straps at the front and back pads, pull them over the boards, and cinch them down. It’s that easy!

Follow these steps in securing your boards, as explained by one of Swell’s own.

Something you’d never want to see roll up to your break, but an impressive tie-down job nonetheless. Pictured are Double Soft Racks mounted on a 2-door car.

Double Racks on a Small Car

So there you go! Let us know in the comments section if you have any questions, but hopefully this will help you keep your board safe during transport!