Corky Carroll

Luggage fees shred Surfer's pockets

Have any of you gone on a long-distance surfing trip lately? One that requires you to fly somewhere and take along a surfboard or two? If you have then you know that the once "friendly" skies have turned on us. They are not surfer friendly at all anymore.

When I was first flying places, taking along a board was not such a big deal. You just checked it in as baggage and they stuck a "fragile'' sticker on it and a claim tag and that was that. Of course this was in the days before board bags so the likelihood of your board getting there without a ding or two, a broken off skeg and at least a ton of scratches was very slim.

The good thing was that those boards also had a zillion layers of heavy fiberglass so they could take a thumping and keep on pumping.

With the advent of lighter boards and surfboard travel bags it became safer on your board. But as more and more surfers were taking surf trips, the airlines decided that a good new source of income would be to charge a fee for taking the board. It kinda bummed everybody out but at the same time you can understand that a board bag takes extra handling and time and, as we all know, time is money.

So a small fee was not welcomed but was understood. Everybody whined about it but paid it.

But in recent times many airlines have become extreme in their fees and policies. Many airlines don't take boards at all during peak travel times and some, never. More than a few surfers have been unpleasantly surprised at an airline check-in counter with the cost of getting their board on a flight or of being told that surfboards are not allowed.

I bet there are some great horror stories told among ticket agents working the counters about angry surfers going off on them. Everybody seems to have a shallow vein of rage in them when traveling and having things go bad anyway. A traveling surfer being told his board cannot go on the flight? Argh.

As some of you know I do surf adventure trips where people book a week to come stay with me at my casa near Zihautanejo in Mexico. I have many people who come down often and have taken to just leaving a board there, as it is cheaper to buy a second board than taking it back and forth each time.

I have extra boards that I loan guests to avoid them having to go through the airline hassle. My partner Rick does the same thing at the surf school in Costa Rica. A friend of mine operates a surf camp in Panama and has had to invest in a fleet of boards to use as rentals because it has become so expensive to take a board down there. It's gotten crazy.

If you are getting ready to take a surf adventure it's a really good idea to research the different airlines flying to your destination before you buy a ticket - especially with flights that have connections using more than one airline. We have had guys coming down to Mexico from East Coast locations that had connections in Houston. Continental is the carrier that flies from there to Zihautanejo, and they do not take boards on that flight. But they don't tell you that when you check in at New York or where ever it is you take off from.Zihuatanejo, Mexico

These are the kinds of problems you do not need.

Here is one example of current fees for surfboards. Other than the carriers that don't take boards at all, the worst seems to be Delta Airlines. The fee is $175 per board each way for domestic flights and $300 per board on international flights. That means if you wanna fly Delta to say, Panama, and you have two boards, for the trip you are looking at a $1,200 charge.

This is the same airline that recently offered me a "healthy snack" on a direct flight from Orlando to Los Angeles. I was given a choice of potato chips, some sort of nuts or a box of raisins. I like raisins so I choose that. I was expecting the normal size box of raisins that is about the same size as a Crayola box. But nooooo. They gave me a box the size of a postage stamp that might have had four raisins crammed into it.

So if you're gonna travel, check out the fees first. You can do that online. has a good listing of most of the airlines that service surfers. 

Originally posted November 7, 2008