Best Surfboard Car Racks, Pads, and Straps

Best Surfboard Car Racks, Pads, and Straps

Not all of us have the luxury of living within a rock's throw of our favorite surf break. A solid setup of surf racks, pads, and durable straps for your car roof are essential for safely transporting a surfboard from your house to the ocean. A set of rack pads also protects your surfboard from getting pressure dents when tied to the crossbars on a vehicle. Whether you’re on a shoestring budget or looking for something with a few bells and whistles, we’ve got you covered. Read further for our take on what options are available.

Surfboard Soft Racks

Pro Lite Single Soft Rack

If your vehicle isn’t equipped with factory or after-market roof racks, a surfboard soft rack is a great affordable option. Soft racks allow you to securely tie your surfboard to your vehicle. We stock two different types of soft racks: a tailgate surf pad and soft racks for the car roof. Depending on your vehicle type, both options will safely transport your surfboard or SUP.

Soft racks are recommended for short sprints to the beach but can hold their own on multi-day trips. We highly suggest that if you travel a longer distance, stop periodically to cinch down the webbing straps. A surfboard lost off the roof will quickly ruin any epic surf trip.

A surfboard soft rack is the most affordable “all in one” package with straps, rack, and pads built into one unit. FCS simplified the process by adding numbered “how-to” steps on the tie downs to ensure you’ve got your board safely secured to your roof. To prolong the life of your soft rack, remove it after each use and store it in a cool and dry environment.

FCS D Ring Soft Rack

Types of Surfboard and SUP Soft Racks

Are you a solo surfer on the go with a budget? The single surfboard soft rack is excellent for someone who needs to transport 2 longboards or 3 shortboards.

Are you looking to pack up the whole family or dash out to the coast with friends? Soft racks are also available in a double model, which can safely carry 4 longboards or 6 shortboards. The double model is identical to the single model, with the only difference being that each unit has a double-width design with the surfboards placed side by side on the roof.

Soft racks are also available for SUP enthusiasts. The FCS D-Ring tie-down system fits 1-2 SUPS. The last option is the tailgate pad. Simply place the surfboard in the pickup bed and rest it against the pad. From there, use the attached straps to securely hold the board in place.

Dakine Tailgate Pad
Pro-Lite Tailgate Pad

Pros and Cons of Soft Racks

  • Affordable
  • Long-lasting
  • Eliminates the need to purchase a $300+ roof rack setup
  • Not as secure
  • Not lockable

Surfboard Pads and Straps

Surfer strapping down two surfboards on his vehicle roof using the FCS D Ring straps.

Does your vehicle have stock or aftermarket roof racks? If so, a set of surfboard pads and straps are the perfect choice for you. You may see different variations of surfboard pads ranging from resued pool noodles to towels wrapped around the crossbars. However, these days, there are a wide variety of colors and styles to fit the specific type of crossbar on your vehicle. If you head out to the surf every day, leave the surfboard pad on your vehicle 24/7. If you’re someone who can only get out every couple of months, the pads are super simple to install and remove with a sticky velcro backing.

A set of surfboard pads securely fastened to your car provide more stability vs. the soft rack setup. Overall, it’s a cleaner, simpler, and more secure way to transport your valuable surfboards.

You’ll also have to grab a set of tie-down straps along with the pads. I’ve seen people use anything from rope to bungee cords, which can work in a pinch. That said, it's worth the few extra bucks to have peace of mind knowing my surfboards are securely fastened with the appropriate tie-down straps.

Dakine Rack Pads
Dakine Aeroblade Pads

Types of Surfboard Pads

Dakine, Pro-Lite, VEIA, and FCS make quality surfboard pads that fit various car rack systems. Does your vehicle have round or square bars? Check out the pads advertised as “round pads” or “rack pads.” Does your car have flat or aero blade bars? Check out the pads advertised as “flat rack pads” or “aero blade pads.”

The next decision you need to make is what length of pad to get: ranging from 18” to 34”. It all depends on the width of your board and how much space you have to work with on your crossbars. The 34” is recommended for larger SUPs, the 28” for wider longboards, and the 18” for shortboards and average longboards.

Types of Surfboard Straps


Pro-Lite Straps

Cleanline Surf stocks a handful of different types of surfboard straps. If you’re on a budget, the Pro-Lite Straps get the job done with sturdy metal cams encased in neoprene housing. The housing protects the board from getting dinged when cinched down. Grab the 10’ if you’re only strapping down 1-2 shortboards or the 15’ if you’ve got wider longboards.


Dakine Straps

The Dakine straps aren’t much different from Pro-Lite other than they are offered in 12’ and 20’ lengths. The benefit of the 12’ is that it gives you just a little extra room to work with whether you’re traveling with just 1 board or your whole quiver of 4 surfboards. I can fit 3 longboards and 1 mid-length with my 12’ Dakine Baja Straps.


FCS Kanulock locking straps

FCS also makes tie-down straps. The unique D Ring model is simple and strong, with numbered directions on the straps to ensure you’ve safely tied down your precious gear. FCS also makes a sleek cam lock strap and bungee tie-downs. Lastly, if you’re on a road trip and need to leave your vehicle unattended in a busy area, check out the FCS Kanulock locking straps. A few of us at Cleanline have invested the extra cash to protect our favorite toys while on the road. The lockable strap is reinforced with 2 x 2.5mm braided stainless steel cables, which is a great deterrent.

Pros and Cons of Pads and Straps

  • Simple to use
  • Available in fun colors and a variety of sizes
  • Lockable options
  • More expensive with multiple items required

Cleanline Surf’s Recommendations

We’ve made it simple for you to select the best option for your needs. As always, don’t hesitate to give us a call to chat about your specific situation.

Vehicle with no roof racks Carry 3 shortboards or 2 longboards Pro-Lite Single Soft Rack - $70
FCS D-Ring Single Soft Rack - $86
Vehicle with no roof racks Carry 1-6 surfboards Pro-Lite Double Soft Rack - $86
FCS D-Ring Double Soft Rack - $108
Vehicle with no roof racks Carry 1-2 SUPS FCS D-Ring SUP Single Soft Rack - $119.95
Vehicle with Square/Round roof racks Carry 1-3 surfboards
*4+ surfboards double up
Pro-Lite Round Rack Pads 19” - $30
Dakine Rack Pad 18” - $35
Dakine Rack Pad 34” - $50
Vehicle with Round roof racks Carry 1-2 SUPS Pro-Lite Wide Round Rack Pads 31" - $36
Vehicle with Flat roof racks Carry 1-3 surfboards
*4+ surfboards double up
Pro-Lite Flat Rack Pads 19” - $30
Vehicle with Aeroblade roof racks
*Fits 5.5-8" bar circumference
Carry 1-3 surfboards
*4+ surfboards double up
Dakine Aero Rack Pads 18” - $35
Dakine Aero Rack Pads 28” - $45
Dakine Aero Rack Pads 34” - $50
Pickup Truck Carry 1-2 surfboards or 1 SUP Pro-Lite Tailgate Rack Pad - $50
FCS Cam Lock Tail Gate Pad - $57
Dakine Tailgate Surf Pad - $50
Tie Downs Carry 1-3 shortboards or 1-2 longboards or 1 narrow SUP

VEIA Rack Tie-Down Strap Set - $29.95
Pro-Lite 10’ Tie Down Straps - $31
Dakine 12’ Tie Down Straps - $30
Dakine 12’ Baja Tie Down Straps - $35
FCS Cam Lock Tie Down Straps - $44
FCS D-Ring Tie Down Straps - $43.95
FCS Bungee Tie Down Straps - $58
FCS Kanlock 11’ Tie Down Set - $100.00*lockable

Tie Downs Carry 3 longboards, or 2 SUPS, or kayak Pro-Lite 15’ Survivor Tie Down Straps - $28.95
Dakine 20’ Tie Down Strap - $29.95 *Single
FCS Kanulock 13’ Tie Down Set - $110.00 *lockable

Staff Feedback

I use the Dakine aero blade pads, place my surfboard fin up with the fin near the front of my car, and then fasten it down with a pair of Dakine Baja locking straps. Make sure to tighten appropriately since loose straps will blow in the wind and be very loud. Pro tip: surfboard wax will melt onto the car roof on a hot day. If possible, throw your board in a surfboard bag to avoid getting melted wax everywhere."

- Sarah at Cleanline Surf

I like the straps with the little cushions on them. The Dakine Baja ones. As they are not abrasive to the board in the bag at all. I've been using the same ones for 4 years. Also, the KanuLock ones are good for traveling. They won't stop someone that really wants to steal your board bag but they will stop an opportunist.”

- Sammy at Cleanline Surf

Surfboard Racks, Pads, and Straps FAQ

Do soft racks damage your car?
When installed correctly and used according to the manufacturer's guidelines, soft racks are designed to safely sit atop the roof of your vehicle. Most soft racks are designed to transport 2-3 surfboards. If you try to pile on more than that, it will stress the materials and possibly wear on the paint in the areas where the straps make contact with the car.

How long should your strap be for a surfboard roof rack?
If you think about it, a surfboard is generally under 2’ in width. You need enough strap to double back around the board, thread the strap under the cross bars, and then have enough length to weave the strap through the locking cam or buckle. In general, if you’re transporting 1-2 surfboards, a 10-12’ will suffice. If you’re looking to transport multiple longboards and/or a wider and thicker SUP, you’ll want to consider the 15-20’ straps to give you enough length to securely fasten the surfboards.

How do you tie down multiple surfboards?
If you’re transporting multiple surfboards, always place the largest and longest board on the roof first with the fins facing up. From there, gently stack the boards in order from longest to shortest. If you’re traveling a long distance, sometimes it pays to fully remove the fins so that the boards stack more snug on top of each other.

Do you need rack pads for a surfboard?
Surfboard rack pads act as a soft barrier between your hard crossbar and your favorite stick. I’d hate to get to my favorite surf break and find clean pressure dents straight across the board from my roof racks.

How fast can you drive with a surfboard on the roof?
First off, if installed correctly, you can definitely hang right around the posted speed limit. You’ll quickly know if you’ve got a loose strap because the surfboard will start dancing on your roof. Also, the straps will vibrate in the breeze causing an ungodly sound that the world’s best sound system can’t drown out.

Which way should I place a surfboard on the car roof?
To be honest, there are no rules about the correct way to put a surfboard on your car roof: fins near the front or back? It all comes down to personal preference and taste. Some argue that having the fins forward might give you that extra second to save your board if it manages to come loose and start sliding backward. In that scenario, the fins could get caught up on the strap, stopping it from sliding straight off the back of your car. Pro tip: always place the board with fins up.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you have all the information needed to find the best surfboard rack setup for your needs! Whether you are prepping for that months-long road trip to Baja or the quick 10-minute drive to your local break, keep your favorite stick safe and secure.

If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact our team by dropping a comment below, call us at 1-888-546-6167 or email us at



Originally from the rolling hills of New Hampshire, Sarah now calls Oregon home. She started at Cleanline Surf in 2019 and, since then, has grown into the role of the Customer Service and Blog Manager. When she’s not at work helping dial in customers with surf gear, Sarah is happiest out adventuring. From mellow summer surf sessions to winter splitboard missions to ripping down her favorite mountain bike line, Sarah is always ready to go at the drop of a hat.