I’m the kind of person who thinks about board bags. Yes, that’s a little obsessive, I know, but these things matter to me. I prize my boards, and I want them to be in good condition. So I bag them. Yet all bags are not built the same. There are a few different kinds of bags, so let’s go over them to discuss their advantages and disadvantages.
Stock Board Bags
Most boards can be purchased with a bag made for that particular board. The advantage to this sort of bag is that you’re assured a good fit with the bag on the board. You won’t have a loose fit, which can make a board hard to pick up. There’s also the swank factor — having that board logo on the bag, which can be cool. Unfortunately, this tailored fit can also be a problem. I have a bag for my Amundsen 12’6” TR. It’s well cushioned, but the fit is a little strange. It’s so tight that I sometimes have trouble squeezing the board into the bag. It’s like every time I put it in, I have to fight the lip of the bag over the tail of the board.
That’s annoying, but it isn’t the only issue. The zippered fin opening is small. Way too small. It tore it badly after I installed an Allison Hybrid fin on the board. My guess is that the bag designers took the fitting of this board too seriously and designed it really for the stock fin. Anything bigger just doesn’t fit. But here’s the kicker: even the stock fin doesn’t fit well. I keep the fin at the rear of the fin slot to help with tracking, and now that too has to be squeezed into the now mutilated fin opening. So not only does the bag only want the stock fin, but it wants the fin in a specific position.
The bag itself has another issue, one which you wouldn’t know until you bring it up to 65 mph. At that speed, the rear part of the bag will wump,wump, wump against the board. Can you imagine going on a long car trip with this sound constantly in your ears? It drives you crazy! Nuts, I tell you! The only way to stop this is to wrap the bag with a bungie, which is also annoying. I’ve already gone through the trouble of putting the board in the bag. Must I do this too?
Epic Board Bags
Epic board bags are an adjustable style. These are good if you have multiple boards of different sizes. I got this bag almost ten years ago for my Kona Windsurfer, and now it protects my various SUPs. It’s quite tough, and if I pick the bag up by the edges they don’t get all floppy on me. I also like how I can fit any board from about ten to twelve feet into it. There’s even a small pocket for multiple fins. The fin opening is a good size too, so I don’t have to remove the fin unless the board is part of a stack.
Yet all is not perfect in bagland. The very adjustability is its Achilles heel, especially at 65 mph. The adjustment straps tend to flop wildly in the wind, slapping against the bag and your car. Also, the fact that this bag is really two, one inside the other, creates problems. It too will go wump, wump,wump, so make sure you position the gap right on top of your car’s crossbars and strap it. And those of you who like to mount your board tail first? That arrangement will channel the wind right into the sleeve, creating all kinds of crazy billowing. (I tried that once. Learn from my mistake, you smart people.)
Keep it Simple
Sometimes simpler is better, like this bag for my NSP 9’8”. Besides the handle and the shoulder strap, it has no special features. The board fits well inside the bag, not too tight or too loose. There’s enough extra space to keep the leash attached inside the board. (There’s enough space even for a second small board. Not that I would put two boards in a bag, especially when embarking on a road trip.)
The zipper goes about half the length of the board, which makes taking it in and out pretty easy. Not that this is an especially hard task with an eighteen pound SUP, but it’s worth noting. The fin slot works fine. The only thing worth noting with the slot is that this kind of board is usually ridden with three fins, not just the one. The bag will tend to bulge with the side bites installed. I worry they might tear the inside of the bag when it’s strapped tightly to a car roof.
FCS Board Bags
FCS makes some high-quality bags, and I have to say their race board bag is no exception. It’s hard to make a bag for large boards. They tend to vary in shape, width, and thickness. I bought it for a cheap Craigslist NSP 14’ board, Which was almost an extravagance. It’s not though. Even a used board will last longer with protection. If I do eventually upgrade the board, the bag will stay with me. They’re a long-lasting investment for your boards. And when I mean investment, I mean just that. These big FCS bags are in the $250 + range.
The bigger the board, the harder it is to get it into the bag, but fortunately the FCS bag works pretty well. It passes my “roof bag” test, which is my lazyman’s way of seeing how easy it is to put the board back in. The test is simple: take the board out of the bag while it’s still strapped to the roof of your car. I mean, you have to loosen the straps, but don’t do anything else. Now, can you slide the board back in the bag without taking it off the roof? I’m happy to say the FCS bag does pass my test, which saves me several minutes each time I go paddling.
Yes, the bag looks completely idiotic lying limp on my car, but teaching middle school has taught me to stop caring about such things. My students helpfully point out every dumb thing I do, so adding one more dorky thing to my day is no big deal.
No question the FCS is an excellent bag. There’s no wumping or billowing at highway speeds. The bag has a plethora of cinches along the edges which allow you to tighten it. There are lots of handles, and a shoulder strap. It even has a little red tag in the back, which is a rule in many states when you’re carrying long things on the roof of your car. My only issue with it is the pale color. It’s pleasant, but I could hardly pick a worse color for dirt. What about a pleasant green or teal instead? That will certainly look distinctive, and wouldn’t be a showcase for dirt stains. It also has all sorts of cinches along the side to help tighten the bag for various shapes of boards.