March 3, 2014
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

If You Want A Sympathetic Ear About Traveling With Your Race Board: Talk To A Pole Vaulter

Allison Stokke One of the biggest hurdles facing international stand up paddlers is travel, or rather: traveling with your race board. Flying with a SUP race board is a nightmare, as anyone who’s ever attempted this mythical feat can attest.

Apart from a handful of rare exceptions – JetBlue and United (on occasion…) are pretty safe bets with boards – most airlines say they won’t take even a 12’6, let alone a 14 footer or beyond. Sure, some will take your board if you’re lucky or if you know the right person, or if you’re simply willing to pay a shitload in excess baggage fees. In general though, if you turn up at the check-in counter with a 12’6, 14, or, heaven forbid, an unlimited race board, the airline won’t wanna know you.

It’s such a mission that there’s now an informal game being played when paddlers rock up at an airport: Scan the check-in line and try to find the friendliest-looking service agent, because often your only chance of getting your board on the plane is if the check-in guy/girl does you a favour.

Yes, having trouble checking in your expensive race board on your way to some exotic destination is probably the definition of a first world problem, but still, in the stand up paddling world at least, it’s a serious pain in the ass.

But we’re not the only ones who struggle…

All of this reminds me of an article I read in the NY Times a couple of years back about how pole vaulters have such a hard time traveling with their equipment.

>>> For Pole Vaulters, Travel May Be Hardest Part (

The basic story is: No airline wants to know you if you try and check-in a long, narrow, expensive piece of sporting equipment, no matter what story you give them about you being a professional athlete on your way to some important competition.

Sound familiar? In fact you could almost replace the word “pole” with “race board” in that article and re-print it as a story about globe-trotting Stand Up Paddlers.

At least we’re not the only ones that airlines roll their eyes at. And pole vaulting is an Olympic sport…

So there you go paddlers, next time you’re looking for a shoulder to cry on, try a pole vaulter.

(And yes, this was just an excuse to post that pic of Allison Stokke… but in my defense, she is a paddleboarder as well