May 09, 2022 8 min read

SUP Transportation

Paddle board strap on a car roof rack

You’ve just purchased a shiny new paddle board, but you’re unsure how to transport it to your desired SUP location.

If you aren’t a member of the inflatable paddle board crew, then you’ll need to install some kind of rack or pad system to your vehicle to securely fasten your SUPs in place while driving. Inflatable boards can be packed away and transported in the back of your car, but hardtop boards need an alternative transportation option. 

For cars, you have the convenience of installing a roof rack system. Pick-up trucks require a tailgate pad, and for those with numerous boards, a trailer can be attached to the back of your vehicle. All are easy to install and will keep your prized possession(s) safe while in transit. 

If you’re on the hunt for a system to transport your SUPs, then keep on reading. We’ve covered different transportation systems for both cars and trucks and we’ve also included some of the top products in each category!

Mounting Your SUP by a Roof Rack System

A hatchback car with a roof rack

A roof rack system is the first way you can mount your stand-up paddle board to a vehicle. Roof rack systems such as the ones we are about to mention fit onto most cars and trucks with large enough roofs. 

Temporary Roof Rack

Some rack systems are temporary, meaning they can be installed and removed before and after each paddle. These racks don’t require previously installed roof crossbars and can only be used for short distances when you won’t be traveling at high speeds. 

If you only take your board out to local waterways a few times a year, then a temporary rack could be an excellent option for you. 

To install, you simply place the pads on top of the roof and thread each strap underneath. Once the straps are threaded through the doors, tighten the straps, so the pads aren’t able to move. When you close the car door, you will further secure your rack in place.

Permanent Roof Rack

Permanent roof racks, on the other hand, do require crossbars. Some cars or trucks come with factory-installed crossbars, or you can have them installed yourself. 

If you paddle board frequently or travel to locations further out that result in you driving at higher speeds, then you’ll need a permanent system. These racks will ensure your boards are safe and secure while driving.

Although we call these systems “permanent,” you can remove them off the crossbars fairly easily with different models attaching in different ways. Some screw-on, and some clip-on, so the installation process will vary depending on the type that you buy. 

For more details about how to secure your board to rack systems, check out our article How to Strap Your Stand Up Paddle Board to Your Car.

Now that we’ve covered the two types let’s get into three of the best rack systems for mounting a SUP to a car. 

HandiRack Inflatable Roof Rack Bars

Handirack inflatable roof rack

The first roof rack is a fantastic example of a temporary rack. The HandiRack Inflatable Roof Rack Bars come in a two-pack and include everything you would need to strap your SUP to your vehicle. 

Each pad is made from 400D non-abrasive nylon, which can be inflated and installed in as little as 5 minutes without the use of any tools.

The pads feature 5 metal D-rings and the included 10ft tie-down straps can be used to secure your board in place. For longer boards or for extra precaution, HandiRack also supplies you with 11ft bow and stern lines that clip onto the front and back of the car. 

You won’t even need to worry about damage, as the pads are inflatable, they cushion your boards and your car, preventing any scratches to dents occurring during transit. 

Rhino Rack J Style Carrier

Rhino rack folding j-style mounting bracket

Next, we have a J-style carrier by Rhino Rack. Although they designed the rack with kayaks and canoes in mind, you can also fit one or even two paddle boards on their carrier system. 

What’s special about J-style carriers is that they hold the kayak or SUP on its side, meaning you can fit a second system on the other side of the crossbars. 

The easy side-loading design makes it extremely convenient to strap your board in place, and they even feature a cradle for carrying your paddle. Rubber padding protects your SUP from any damage, and you can securely fasten it in place with a cam strap on either end of the board.

Also included with the carrier are all the necessary hardware that you’ll need to install it onto your crossbars. 

Thule Dock Grip Carrier

Thule dockgrip kayak carrier

A different type of permanent carrier is a saddle carrier. Saddle carriers work as flexible pads to hold your stand up paddle board horizontally on your roof. They can be adjusted along the crossbars to fit a wide range of watercraft, and their cushioned design protects the hull of your board from dents, dings, or scratches. 

You can truly customize the saddles to fit your specific board, meaning once the tie-down straps are in place, your board won’t be moving an inch. 

The load straps included have protective buckle bumpers to prevent scratches to your car or board. Thule's saddle carrier also comes with bow and stern straps for added security. 

We’ve also covered a larger variety of kayak roof rack systems. Although they’re classed as kayak roof rack systems, many can be used for SUPs, canoes, and other personal watercraft. You can find the full list at The 19 Best Kayak Roof Racks.

Mounting Your SUP to a Truck With a Tailgate Pad

If your truck has crossbars on its roof, you can also use a roof rack system like the ones we mentioned earlier. For trucks that don’t have crossbars or if the crossbars are already in use, you can also purchase a tailgate pad to transport your stand up paddle board from A to B. 

A tailgate pad is exactly what it sounds like, a pad that goes over your tailgate. They are secured in place by straps threaded underneath the tailgate and provide a padded surface for your board to rest on. 

Vamo Longboard SUP Tailgate Surf Pad

Vamo longboard tailgate surf pad

The first of two pads that we recommend is the Vamo Longboard SUP Tailgate Surf Pad. As the pad is extremely versatile, it fits a wide range of board widths and tailgates. 

The pad itself is made from weather-resistant ripstop nylon and although it is only 30” wide, it can still hold wider boards. 

Vamo claims that you can fit up to 3 stand up paddle boards on the pad as the straps included are 96” inches long. 

As you’re simply threading two straps under your tailgate, pads of this type are extremely quick and easy to install. 

The straps feature silicone buckles for SUP and truck protection, so you’ll never need to worry about damage while securing your board in place.

COR Surf Tailgate Truck Pad

COR Surf tailgate truck pad for SUP

The second pad follows the same concept and design as Vamo’s Tailgate Pad. COR created their pad to be 23.5” wide and able to fit on mid-size and full-size truck tailgates. 

Silicone cam buckles offer a layer of protection on your board's deck and also stop scratches from occurring on your truck. 

Usually, tailgate pads come with a strap attached to the pad, but the COR Surf Pad, however, has a separate strap that runs under the pad and over your SUP. This means you can transport numerous boards by purchasing a longer strap. 

For durability, COR designed the tailgate pad with heavy-duty UV-resistant materials that won’t fade in the sun. 

Mounting Your SUP to a Car With a Trailer

The final way to mount a stand up paddle board to a vehicle is by the use of a trailer. A trailer is the most expensive transportation method; however, it can carry numerous boards simultaneously. If your entire family has a stand up paddle board and you enjoy taking them out regularly, then a trailer may be a great investment. 

Trailers attach to the back of your vehicle and allow you to pull your SUPs along on any journey. 

Ironton Personal Watercraft Trailer

Ironton personal watercraft and boat trailer kit

The first trailer option is the Ironton Personal Watercraft Trailer. Its bed is 77 inches long and 40 inches wide, meaning it can hold boards of all shapes and sizes. In total, the trailer can hold up to 610 lbs, so you really can stack as many boards as you wish. 

Ironton created the trailer with 12-inch tires, protective fenders, and backlights which pair up with the lights on the rear end of your car. 

The design of the Ironton Personal Watercraft Trailer is extremely simple but has everything you’d need to transport your SUPs. Before heading out, however, you will need to purchase cam straps to keep your boards in place. 

Malone Kayak Trailer

Malone Lowmax V-rack kayak trailer package

The Malone Kayak Trailer has a slightly different design to Ironton. Malone designed their trailer with removable kayak carriers to secure both kayaks and SUPs to the frame. 

Made from marine-grade galvanized steel, the wide crossbars can hold up to 600 lbs, so you can transport all your SUPs and other gear safely. 

Each crossbar has D-rings on its ends so you can attach your tiedown straps and clip them in place. The pontoon-style tires can tackle most roadways, and the backlights link up to your car to prevent any accidents while on the road. 

Krypt Towers Trailer

Krypt Towers Multisports trailer

The final trailer on our list is the Krypt Towers Trailer. Although it is a fairly simple trailer, sometimes simple is really all you need. 

Suitable for watercraft up to 300lbs, the adjustable trailer can fit SUPs up to 11’ in length. Krypt designed the trailer with beach tires so you can easily transport your boards on many different surfaces, and you also have the choice of a T Bar hand dolly at checkout. 

How to Further Secure Your Board in Place

For further security, while transporting your board, you can also purchase locking cam straps that come with a key or a combination lock. These straps work in the same way as regular cam straps, just with the added benefit of locking them to prevent theft.

We’ve covered 5 of the best locking tie-down straps in our article.


🏆 How do you transport a paddle board on a car?

Transporting a SUP on a car can be achieved by using a roof rack system. There are temporary and permanent systems on the market that attach to your car's roof and secure your boards in place.

Temporary pads, like the HandiRack Inflatable Roof Rack Bars, are a great option if you don’t take your board out often, or if you’re only traveling short distances. If you plan on traveling at faster speeds and over long distances, you’re better off installing a permanent rack system.

Permanent systems like the Rhino Rack J Style Carrier attach onto crossbars on your car's roof, which then allows you to fasten in a SUP or other personal watercraft. 

👍 How do you transport a paddle board in a truck?

Tailgate pads are the perfect solution to transporting a SUP on a pick-up truck. If your pickup truck already has roof crossbars, you can take the same approach as a regular car and install a carrier like the Rhino Rack J Style Carrier

For trucks without roof crossbars, tailgate pads like Vamo Longboard SUP Tailgate Surf Pad and COR Surf Tailgate Truck Pad slot over the tailgate and allow you to rest and fasten your board on top. The pads prevent damage to the SUP and also have straps to keep the board in place. 

🏝️ How do you transport a SUP without a roof rack?

If you don’t have crossbars installed on your car to attach a roof rack system to, you can purchase temporary roof pads that take minutes to install and can be taken off after each adventure. 

The Handi Rack Inflatable Roof Rack Bars are a great example of this. You simply thread the straps through the doors and tighten them. Once the vehicle doors are closed, they will further secure the pads in place. You can then fasten down your SUP with tie-down straps. 

It’s important to note that you should only use temporary pads like these for short journeys while driving at slow - moderate speeds. 

❓ How do you strap a paddle board to a car without a roof rack?

Temporary roof pads can be fitted and removed from your roof in a matter of minutes. They don’t require prior crossbars or special equipment, so they are perfect for those without an existing roof rack system. 

To attach temporary pads to your roof, all you need to do is thread the straps through the vehicle's doors, tighten them, and close the doors, securing them in place.

Megan Bryant
Megan Bryant

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