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October 12, 2021 15 min read

Getting Started with SUP Roof Racks

Paddle boarding is one of the most fun activities you can do out on the water. It's a great workout, it's full of adventure, plus it's also a great chance to spend some quality time with your friends and family!

But first things first, before the fun begins, you'll need to get your stand up paddle board to the ocean or lake you plan on paddling.

To do that, you’ll need a SUP roof rack. However, there are all kinds of different types to choose from, and different models might be better for different vehicles. How can you know which one to pick?

We’ve done the research so you don't have to. In this complete guide, we’ll examine the best paddle board roof racks in detail, explain which one is best for your ride, and answer many commonly asked questions.

Ready to begin? Let’s get started.

Best paddle board roof racks

What Are the Best Roof Racks?

This depends on the type of roof rack your vehicle has, (as outlined below), but generally, we recommend the StoreYourBoard Removable & Universal SUP & Surfboard Rack, Woowave Universal Roof Rack Pads, and Paddlesports Roof Rack Sets for Cars & SUVs. These are great options if you’re looking for something reliable, easy to install, and secure.

Our Top 2 Picks for the Best Paddle Board Roof Racks

StoreYourBoard Removable & Universal SUP & Surfboard Rack

 

SUP and Surfboard removable roof racks

 

This removable, universal system is a perfect stand up paddleboard storage solution for the road. The bars come with foam padding to protect your boards and roof. Plus, the kit is easily adjustable to fit a wide variety of SUP sizes.

Woowave Universal Roof Rack Pads

WOOWAVE Universal Surfboard and Surfboard Crossbars roof racks

This set includes waterproof racks and strapping, making it a great choice for all-weather SUP transportation. Additional benefits include a one-year warranty for manufacturer defects and easy adjustability – the SUP rack pads included in the kit are designed for aerodynamic stability and flexibility to accommodate tons of different paddle board sizes.

What is the Best Way to Transport Your SUP?

In truth, there is no single "best" way to transport a stand-up paddle board. It all depends on whether your car or truck has a roof rack system that you can use to secure your SUP in the first place. If it does have a rack installed, you’ll need to determine what kind of rack you have so you can figure out how to safely transport your SUP, as well.

Ultimately, safety is the most important thing to consider when transporting any stand-up paddle boards and accessory gear.

How to Safely Transport a Stand-Up Paddleboard

Safely transport stand up paddle board on a roof rack

Safely transporting a standup paddle board involves determining several key factors, including:

  • How far you typically travel to go paddle boarding
  • How fast you usually drive
  • The type of SUPs you bring
  • How many SUPs you'll be hauling

Therefore, you’ll need to think about all these factors and whether or not you have a roof rack to safely transport a SUP to your paddle boarding location.

Is it okay to transport an inflatable paddle board on the roof of a car?

Yes, it is safe to transport an inflatable paddle board on the roof of your car or truck. For improved security and safety, strap your iSUP with the deck facing down and the tail at the front of your vehicle. If you’re storing more than one paddle board on your roof, stack them from the biggest to the smallest.

How to Transport Paddle Board on Roof Racks

When transporting a paddle board on a roof rack, you have two main options to pick from: SUP carriers or transport systems, and SUP rack pads or straps.

For starters, ensure that your rooftop rack has crossbars. If it doesn’t already have crossbars installed, you can purchase some from manufacturers like Yakima and Thule. Or you can order a separate roof rack system that already has crossbars installed by default.

Then you can decide which of the two transportation options above you want to go with.

SUP rack carriers and transport systems are great picks for longer trips and for traveling at faster speeds. They tend to be more durable and suitable for bigger SUPs as well.

On the flipside, rack pads and strapping combos are better for short distances. Only use these for trips to bodies of water within about 50 miles, and that doesn't require you to travel at highway speeds for long periods of time.

More Secure & Durable: SUP Carriers & Transport Systems

Best paddle board car roof racks

As mentioned, SUP carriers and transport systems are a little more secure and durable than the alternative. SUP carriers and transport systems are characterized by secure slots and bolting systems that can even hold more than one standup paddle board at a time. They’re excellent choices for highway travel since you don’t have to worry about your SUP falling off at any point.

Easy & Budget-Friendly: Rack Pads & Straps

Rack Pads

Rack pads and strapping is used in conjunction with one another. The pads protect your car's roof from being scratched by your paddle board and vice versa. They offer some cushioning and help the rack traps secure your paddle board to your vehicle's roof more tightly.

Straps

Meanwhile, rack straps are the actual securing ties that you use to fix your SUP to your car's roof rack. Strap and pad combos are generally much cheaper than purchasing a full-on SUP rack system or installing additional crossbars on your existing rig.

Additionally, pads and strapping comes in two major types: round and aero (or flat). Round pads and straps are for round crossbars. Flat pads and strapping are for square or flat crossbars instead.

How to Tie Down Your SUP with Rack Pads & Straps

Another big benefit of using SUP rack pads and straps is how easy it is to secure your SUPs to your car.

All you have to do is place your pads around the crossbars of your car's roof rail system. They will prevent your board from rubbing against the roof or the cross bar itself as you drive. Next, take the strapping and attach the padded lock buckle on either end to cinch the paddle board securely to the roof of your ride. Each strap can usually be loosened or tightened depending on the size of your board.

How to Transport a Stand Up Paddle Board on a Car Without a Roof Rack

What if your car doesn’t have a roof rack system fitted? Then you’ll need to either install a system yourself, or rely on a separate, all-in-one style solution. The former is good if your whip already has rails, while the latter is better if you don’t have a rack system or rails at all.

Install Roof Racks Yourself

Choosing your car roof racks

Installing roof racks by yourself is relatively straightforward. First, you'll need to identify a compatible model for your automobile. Use manufacturer guidelines to make sure that a given roof rack system will work.

Once you’ve determined this, follow these steps:

  • Assemble the base rack system. You may need to connect your mount and crossbars
  • Attach any clamps to your car’s rail system if applicable
  • Mount the racks using the claims
  • Add any accessories and test the weight of the racks before going on any long-term drive

This installation process will necessarily vary based on your car’s make and model, and whether or not it has rails already. Again, be sure to consult official manufacturer guidelines when installing a rack system to make sure you don’t damage the rooftop of your vehicle.

All-in-One Solutions

All-in-one solutions are great choices if your car doesn't have factory racks installed or any rails whatsoever. These packages use vacuum mounts that can quickly be attached to your car's rooftop. They also usually come with wraparound pads and extendable aluminum board bars. All-in-one solutions also include cam buckle straps that can help you lash down your board securely.

How to Transport Paddle Boards Without a Car or Truck

So, what if you don't have a ride to get your SUP to the water?

In that case, you can rely on the standup paddle board pull-cart method. SUP pull-carts are maneuverable carts that you can strap a board and paddle to. Then you can wheel your SUP across a road or another short distance.

However, these should only really be used for transporting your SUP for very short distances. You can also use them in conjunction with a roof rack system to transport your paddle board from your car to a beach or another water entry point.

What You Should Consider When Buying a SUP Car Rack

No two SUP racks are alike. Now that you know what sort of rack or SUP transportation solution is best for your needs, you should consider these major factors when purchasing one. This will ensure that you don’t waste your time and money buying something that won't work.

Rack Compatibility

Any pads, straps, or other SUP transportation components must be compatible with your car's rack. Check that any rails or rack systems can work with any manufacturer-installed racks in your ride before purchasing.

Car Compatibility

Naturally, you should check to see that any given rail or rack system is compatible with your car. When shopping for the ideal SUP rack, go to the manufacturer website to double-check that their paddle board transportation solution can be combined with your car before purchasing.

Ease of Installation

A great paddle board roof rack should be simple to install. Don’t purchase something that you can’t install quickly and easily; otherwise, you might damage your car’s rooftop.

Ease of Loading & Unloading

Similarly, great SUP racks should allow you to quickly and easily load and unload your SUP.

SUP Capacity

Car rack with stack paddle boards

Check to see how many SUPs a given roof mount can carry at a time. The board capacity and board widths are critical to consider to ensure each SUP is properly secured during transport.

Rooftop SUP carriers and transport systems can generally hold two boards or more at once, making them good choices for families that like paddle boarding together.

Type of SUP Rack (Hard vs Inflatable)

If your SUV already has rooftop rails, a soft board rack attachment may be a better choice. Soft racks are also easier to load and remove. But hard rails can also be a good choice, since they work with vehicles that have pre installed roof racks and are sturdier overall, though they do take a bit more effort to install and take off.

Security & Safety

Be sure to see whether the roof rack includes any security aspects, like a locking mechanism. This can prevent your paddle boards from being stolen when you’re at the beach.

Additional Equipment

Check to see what sort of additional equipment your chosen racks come with. Many racks come with ratchet straps or utility straps, plus pads and other accessories. Some models even include a loading system that assists in rolling the board up onto the top of your vehicle, which is ideal if you have trouble reaching up that high or lifting heavy weight above your head.

Mounting Systems - 2 Types

There are two systems that a paddle board roof rack can be mounted on. The first system is one that can be installed on an already existing roof rack, which is generally easier. The second system is one that can be installed on a vehicle without any roof racks.

Before you begin shopping for roof racks, check to confirm if your car has a mounting system in place. If there is a mounting system installed, determine whether the system is reliant on crossbars for loading or consists of two parallel rails. This will narrow down your options.

Lock System

A secure locking system is paramount for both safety while driving and prevention of theft. If you have to hit highway speeds while driving to your SUP spot, opt for a roof rack with a more heavy-duty locking system. This will also slow down thieves if you have to stop off in an unfamiliar area for fuel.

If you paddle board in areas within close proximity to your home, or spots that don’t require you to jump on the freeway, a soft rack is generally okay. Just know that soft racks are easier for potential thieves to steal your SUP. Ultimately, use your discretion and opt for safety and security.

The Best Stand Up Paddle Board Roof Racks

While we’ve found plenty of great car SUP roof racks during our search, these top three picks are excellent choices for a number of reasons.

StoreYourBoard Removable & Universal SUP & Surfboard Car Rack

StoreYourBoard’s universal car mount for paddle board and other outdoor equipment is an excellent choice regardless of vehicle type. It’s made of durable foam to protect your board and is sturdy enough to work at highway speeds.

This adjustable and removable roof mount is ideal for those who switch up the vehicles they use to transport their paddle boards to local lakes or beaches.

SUP and Surfboard removable roof racks

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • Made of durable foam
  • Easy installation
  • Works for just about any type of vehicle

What we don't love:

  • Requires existing rails to be installed

Woowave Universal RoofRack Pads

Woowave also offers a universal set of soft racks. This is a set of waterproof padded racks that you can quickly and easily strap to the top of your vehicle. They're designed to be aerodynamic so they can protect your cargo. Plus, they're lightweight and very easy to store. The kit comes with two waterproof polyester utility straps and padded metal buckles for extra strength and security.

WOOWAVE Universal Surfboard and Surfboard Crossbars roof racks

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • Made with waterproof materials
  • Very easy to install and tighten
  • Can fit a wide variety of vehicles

What we don't love:

  • Not as secure as full rail systems

Paddlesports RoofRack Sets for Cars & SUVs

Paddlesport provides a full mounting system that works with regular cars and SUVs. The J-bars can be mounted on typical crossbars and each bar comes with pads. You can, therefore, protect both your car top and your paddle boards as you set the kit up. The kit overall comes with a pair of racks, an additional pair of safety straps, and all the other installation pieces you need for set up.

Paddlesports Car and ATV Kayak Roof Rack Two Sets with Straps

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • Ideal for paddle board and larger equipment like kayaks
  • Fits most cars and SUVs easily
  • Comes with protective pads

What we don't love:

  • Requires lengthy installation

Best SUP Carriers & Transport Systems

Thule SUP Taxi Carrier System

The Thule SUP Taxi Board carrier system is ideal for cars that don’t have existing racks or rails. The bars here have a telescoping design that allows you to fit a custom-sized deck up to 34 inches wide. Each piece is made with heavy-duty steel and locking cams. Therefore, the Thule SUP Taxi is incredibly sturdy and safe, even from theft.

Thule SUP Taxi XT roof racks

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • All pieces are exceptionally durable
  • Fits most Thule rack systems if you already have one installed
  • Has a pushbutton lock system
  • The telescoping design allows you to fit multiple deck sizes

What we don't love:

  • Thule SUP Taxi only works with existing Thule systems

INNO SUP Locker Rooftop Carrier

INNO also provides a versatile carrier that can support a wide range of paddle boards. It's a universal mounting system that fits square, flat, rounded other factory-installed cross bars on your ride. It also comes with a ratcheting strap system that can connect over your SUP and tighten them for added security. But it’s also easy to load and unload your SUPs thanks to the intuitive design of this strap system.

INNO INA446 Surf-Wind-Long Roof Locking Board with Board Pads

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • Relatively easy to install
  • The rubber coating on the straps and corner pads can protect your truck and boards from damage
  • Very secure overall, yet it’s easy to remove boards

What we don't love:

  • Taller boards/more boards mounted on your car may not fit

Best Roof Rack Pads

Orion MotorTech Universal Soft Rack Pads

These soft rack pads are ideal for a variety of paddle board sizes. They fit most vehicles with or without gutters and are equipped with very long strapping and aircraft buckles for added security and easy SUP securing and releasing.

Orion Motor Tech universal car rack

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • Very lightweight and easy to install
  • They're antivibration to prevent damage
  • Straps are long to help you carry boards in a variety of sizes

What we don't love:

  • Not strong enough for highway travel or long-distance travel

Dorsal Aero Crossbar Pads

This soft rack system is easy to install and made with EVA foam. Each pad is secured in a weatherproof nylon sleeve and both included pads are suitable for flat, factory-installed cross bars on the roof of your car.

Dorsal Aero, Car Roof Mount to Transport Kayak, Surfboard, Paddles

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • Super fast to install
  • Made with durable and weatherproof materials

What we don't love:

  • Very limited weight capacity
  • Not good for long-distance or highway travel

Best Car Roof Rack Straps

Dorsal Paddle Board Tie Down Straps

These tie down straps are a great accessory to combine with existing rack systems. The buckles are made to resist corrosion and each strap is built to last.

 DORSAL, pair of tie rods to hold Kayak

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • Resistant to water damage and rust
  • Very compact and versatile

What we don't love:

  • Straps are a little thin for heavier SUPs

VAMO SUP Rack Tie Downs

Vamo also makes high-quality stand up paddle board tiedown straps. These feature integrated bungee material and a pull tab. Therefore, these straps are easy to organize and are guaranteed not to stretch or snap. The set comes with a lifetime guarantee as well.

VAMO SUP rack tie downs

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • Made with excellent materials
  • Very stretchy without breaking
  • Comes with a lifetime guarantee

What we don't love:

  • Buckles are not as durable as some others on the market

Best All-Around Paddle Board Roof Racks

Block Surf Roof Rack

This all-around stand up paddle board solution can fit most cars and SUVs without roof racks. It includes strapping and pads and can fit up to three SUP boards in total.

Block Surf wrap-around surfboard holder

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • Very easy to install
  • All attachments are heavy-duty and long-lasting

What we don't love:

  • Not secure enough for fast highway speeds or particularly heavy boards

TMJ J-Bar HD Kayak & Paddle Board Roof Rack

This mounting system uses steel cross bars with adjustable pads so they can carry a variety of sizes. The hardware is relatively quick and easy to remove compared to others of its type. The J-bar shape has a wide mouth to facilitate fast loading and unloading.

TMS J-Bar Rack HD Kayak Carrier Canoe Boat Surf Ski Roof Top Mounted

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • Not too hard to install
  • Can quickly remove and load SUPs
  • No rack system needed

What we don't love:

  • Need to buy additional straps, pads and lock systems in most circumstances

Best All-in-One SUP Board Roof Racks

BEST Marine Roof Rack

This kit has everything you need to mount any SUP board on your car's rooftop. While it doesn't include racks, it does include long straps, several tie downs, stainless steel loops, and buckles. All of this means you can secure watersports and other equipment to the roof of your car even if it doesn't have existing roof rails. Everything in the kit is built with durable materials and designed to flex for different deck sizes.

Best marine kayak roof mount accessories for kayaks, canoes and SUP paddles

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • Stainless steel materials resist corrosive damage
  • Very easy to mount and remove when necessary
  • Can stretch to accommodate different paddle board sizes

What we don't love:

  • Not ideal for highway traveling or long trips

HandiRack Universal Inflatable Roof Rack Bars

HandiRack’s universal refractive bars are inflatable and made with heavy-duty 400D nylon material, so they should last for a long time to come. They aren't the most durable SUP mounting kit solution overall, but they fit practically any vehicle size and are incredibly easy to mount in about five minutes.

HandiRack Universal Inflatable Roof Rails

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • Superfast one person installation
  • Each tube is inflatable and secured with ringed anchor points
  • Comes with a drawstring travel bag

What we don't love:

  • Not all that durable in the long run
  • Small board capacity
  • Not tough enough to hold several SUPs or survive long-distance travel

Best SUP Pull-Carts

SUP Wheels Evolution SUP Carrier

The SUP Wheels Carrier here is ideal for pulling your paddle board via a bike or on foot. It fits a standard size SUP and is made to withstand beach environments, including high exposure to sunlight and saltwater. The carrier doesn't use any rust-vulnerable materials, and the wheels never go flat.

SUP Wheels Evolution standup paddle board Carrier

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • Relatively durable design
  • Comes with a built-in holder for drinks or mobile devices
  • Very easy to pull along sandy beaches

What we don't love:

  • Doesn’t fit a wide range of board sizes

COR Surf Adjustable SUP Cart

This adjustable SUP pull-cart can work for just about any size of board and the plastic tires don’t use air so they will never go flat. The carrier overall is made from lightweight aluminum. This prevents it from corroding and ensures that it isn’t too heavy for most users.

COR Surf Adjustable Stand Up Paddleboard Cart

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • Pretty easy to move due to its light weight
  • Reasonably durable for outdoor transportation
  • Features foam bumpers to protect your board in transit

What we don't love:

  • Wheels are a bit flimsy and may fall off over time

Best Paddle Board Truck Racks

Vamo Longboard Stand Up Paddle Board Truck Rack

This mountable truck rack is made of raised foam and weather-resistant nylon, so it's fairly durable. The rack works with super strong straps and includes silicone wrapped cam buckles. These can protect both the surface of your truck and your standup paddle board.

Vamo Longboard SUP Stand Up Paddle Board Truck Tailgate Surf Pad

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • Comes with a lifetime guarantee for replacement
  • Can fit up to 3 paddle boards at once
  • Very fast installation
  • Reasonably tough

What we don't love:

  • Not quite strong enough for highway speeds or heavier paddle boards

Alfa Gear Universal Folding Lightweight Anti-Vibration Roof Rack

This last pick is a perfect roof rack for trucks. The main bars are made of multilayered foam to reduce vibration on the road. The foam is surrounded by heavy-duty fabric and strong nylon lashing straps. The resulting kit is reasonably durable and simple to install, but it’s not suitable for heavier paddle boards.

Alfa gear universal folding lightweight anti-vibration roof rack pad

Where to buy:

What we love:

  • Fairly durable overall
  • Very quick to install
  • Can fit almost any size of truck

What we don't love:

  • Heavier boards will fall off too quickly

The Wrap Up

In the end, the best standup paddle board car racks for your needs will work with your vehicle, require quick and simple installation, and provide enough room for all your SUPs you plan to bring. Try to find something among all the choices above that fulfills all of these criteria. Then you'll be set to have an effortless SUP experience, no matter where your launch point takes you.

Bookmark this page if you need help finding great paddle board roof rack systems or accessories in the future, and let us know what you think of our favorite choices! Or, if you have a personal favorite that isn’t listed, let us know in the comments below.

Jay Regan
Jay Regan

Chief Paddler - Jay has been surfing and paddling for over 5 years. When he's not dreaming up new stuff at GILI, he's writing articles about paddling, out paddling, or often traveling.


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