If you ever wondered how to transport a stand up paddle board on a car, today you’re going to find out some of the best sup roof racks that available!
[ In a hurry? This is the Paddle Board Car Rack we Love and Use ourselves ]
Table of Contents
Why a Paddle Board Car Rack?
The reason you’ll want to carefully pick out the right type of roof rack for your SUP is simple:
Sure there are other factors, including cost. But, you’ll find that the safety of your paddle board becomes a major factor when transporting your prized SUP around the country. And it’s hard to dismiss the convenience of modern sup and surf car racks. There are some rack manufacturers that are doing a killer job in this field.
Gone are the days of trying use some makeshift rope and a hodgepodge of janky bungee cords a top your car. I mean you can use a DIY solution to transport your paddle boards, but it gets old fast. After a season of tying boards on and untying them you’ll be thinking of all the time you could have been in the water paddling. But instead you spent much of your precious time during the warm months trying to secure your boards to the top of your vehicle with some homemade setup.
Just quit that!
Not to mention, the worrisome feeling you have driving down the road with a few thousand dollars strapped to your roof. Anybody who has done this knows the feeling. You turn the music off and you’re constantly looking up and out the windshield to see if the boards are still there! Yikes, I hate that feeling.
If you feel like you work too hard to let all these annoyances get in the way of your fun time out on the water maybe it’s time to level-up your paddle board car mount?
Let’s get serious.
Paddle Board Roof Rack Options
There’s a handful of features that you’ll want to consider before deciding upon a roof rack system:
- Quick Release
- Front Stabilizer Strap
- Board Capacity
Let’s briefly go over each option, so you have a better understanding of what to look for when choosing a paddle board roof rack. Then we’ll review a few of the popular SUP rack systems available.
It might sound obvious but you want your paddle board to be very secure on the roof of your car while travelling. If a poorly designed system nearly gives you a heart attack each time you need to transport it, what’s the point of going paddle boarding to begin with. The whole point is to get away from the stress, not pile on more stress.
Most racks designed specifically for paddle boards will work great for both paddle boards and surfboards. But I would be hesitant to use a surfboard-specific rack with a paddle board. Paddle boards are larger in every dimension and surfboard racks never come with a front strap stabilizer.
Let me tell you, that front stabilizer strap is gold! It works so well in making sure boards do not shift when hitting bumps, driving into the wind, what ever. It makes a huge difference, trust me.
When I was younger I learned the value of a quick-release strap system when I used to do a ton of surfing. During the summer months I surfed any and every day I could. If there was a ripple to be caught in the Atlantic Ocean I was there trying to ride it. My first surfboard roof rack was a homemade type of system. The straps were just a pair of nylon ropes. It was really, really strong rope it was never going to break.
The problem was time.
It took a long time to tie the surfboards onto the top of my car and even longer to take them off. When I was trying to eke out a quick session right as the sun came up before work in the morning every minute counted. Every minute I wasted tying on my boards and untying them was time I could have spent in the water.
My first quick release system was a rubber-bungee roof rack system made by Yakima. At first I was worried it wasn’t going to hold, but after years of use I discovered that that simple little quick-release roof rack system had made my life soooo much more convenient. I felt like an idiot for manually tying boards onto my car!
The good news is they make really strong quick-release straps for paddle boards too.
Front Stabilizer Strap
I’ll admit it, I didn’t think this front tie-down strap would make that big of difference when transporting our paddle boards on top of my wife’s car. Boy was I wrong. I did a few test rides to the beach. A couple with the front strap in place and a couple of journeys without the front strap.
A can say without any hesitation that having that front stabilizer strap in place and attached to the tail of the paddle board makes a world of a difference. My wife’s tiny little Subaru Impreza wagon doesn’t leave much space between the front and rear rack bars. This means that the majority of the paddle boards are exposed to the front and back of the car.
Have you ever measured a paddle board?
Those things are enormous!
While driving without the stabilizer strap on the highway the rear of the boards bounced up and down significantly while on the highway going 60 MPH. It made me nervous. I don’t like testing fate, especially while transporting several thousands of dollars worth of our summer fun on the roof. I will always use those front tie-downs, even if they take a few extra minutes to secure.
The thing about paddle boarding is you often end up doing it with other people. It’s a pretty contagious sport. Before you choose a SUP board roof rack you should consider the maximum capacity it can safely hold. I haven’t seen any straps/racks that hold more than 2 boards at a time, but there are some systems that only hold one. Choose wisely!
Going to be stacking two paddle boards for transport. We add an old yoga mat between each board for some added protection. (Zoe hates scratches on her SUP!)
Because roof racks for sups do have a bunch of parts, some being plastic parts, you’ll want to pay attention to the manufacturer warranties offered by each brand. Placing 40 – 100 pounds of paddle boards on your roof and then driving in harsh weather can really test the limits of your roof rack system. Most reputable brands should have a decent warranty. I’m adding links to each manufacturer’s warranty at the bottom of each SUP Rack review.
SUP Rack Reviews
Now that you know what to look for in a paddle board car roof rack, it’s time to review some of the finer points concerning the available rack systems.
All three racks need to mount onto existing crossbars. At the end of each rack review I’ve linked to the various manufacturers “fit guides” which will let you quickly determine whether or not the specified roof rack system will fit to your current crossbars.
We only looked at racks that offered a lifetime warranty and these three SUP rack systems fulfilled that requirement. Each has limited lifetime warranties.
It can sometimes be unclear what the racks look like and what they come with or what will need to be done to install them on the top of your car. For this reason I’ve also included links to each rack system’s instruction manual. This is great way to see what you are getting before you make the purchase!
Yakima SUPDawg Paddle Board Carrier [best option]
The Yakima SUPDawg roof rack is one of the easiest ways for transporting your paddle board to that distant body of water! After looking at many makes and styles of car racks for paddle boards, my wife and I finally settled on the Yakima SUPDawg.
The SUPDawg holds boards up to 36 inches wide which is perfect for even the largest paddle boards which rarely get that wide. It also lets you tuck in the board straps so that nothing is dangling or blowing in the breeze while your on the move. This also makes it look sleek and not like a science experiment sitting on top of your roof when you are not actually taxing SUPs around!
Yakima recommend a minimum distance between the crossbars to be 24 inches or more. With the exceptional length on some boards the wider the spread the better. You’ll thank me when your doing 65MPH down the highway and get blasted with a 20MPH headwind.
One of our favorite things about the SUPDawg was the installation. It comes fully assembled out of the box. There was zero assembly required and no tools what-so-ever required to install the roof racks onto my wife’s Subaru Impreza wagon.
For installation I was actually thinking… “That’s it? Really?”
These are all added perks but one of the main reasons we decided to go with the Yakima SUPDawg roof rack was due to it’s Integrated Rollers. These little gems exist on the passenger side of the racks and provide a safe and reliable way to physically place your paddle board onto the roof of the car. If you are a tall man with plenty of upper body strength, placing a paddle board onto the car’s rack system is no big deal but for a shorter women? This quite literally can be impossible without some additional help from another person.
The Integrated Rollers allow you to place the just the outside edge of the board against the wheels. You can then take your time and comfortably push the rest of the board up and onto the top of the rack. It’s a brilliant system!
Another perk is the front stability strap. The other SUP roof rack systems don’t have one and I can’t figure out why. This strap hooks onto the leash mount on the tail of the paddle board and connects all the way down to the car’s front. It hooks onto the chassis and makes a world of a difference for transportation stability. I would never drive big boards at highway speeds without that front strap on. I’ve tried without it and it’s scary.
The Yakima SUPDawg also has an anti-theft braided steel wire hidden inside the straps. This combined with the key-locks gives up piece of mind when we go out for dinner after a long day’s paddle.
Honestly you will not find a better thought out paddle board rack than the Yakima SUPDawg.
Thule SUP Taxi XT 810XT [best looking]
When looking for a set of paddle board roof racks, my wife and I took a serious look at Thule’s SUP Taxi. It is a good looking set or racks if I do say so myself. It has a silvery-metallalic look and cradles the paddle boards with it’s curved and paddled surface.
The SUP Taxi XT is actually made with a telescoping design which allows you to slide each endpoint closer or further depending on how wide your SUP board is. This rack is the only rack which attempts to hug the outer rail of your board so the sliding, variable width setup is a core feature built into this roof rack.
The Thule racks are also a tool-less installation process and come fully assembled. A huge plus. However, the directions that accompany this rack leave something to be desired which is strange because Thule is a great vehicle/rack company with decades experience.
Like the Yakima SUPDawg, the Thule SUP Taxi also provides a way to tuck in the straps. This is a great feature both for looks, noise and safety. There’s nothing worse than noisey roof rack straps flailing about while driving down the highway. Having a place to stow away the straps mitigates this annoyance.
The Thule SUP Taxi also includes some anti-theft deterrents such as braided metal wire integrated into the straps and keyed-lock sets where you tighten down the straps.
We loved the Thule SUP Taxi… BUT I didn’t like the flimsy strap that loops under the car’s crossbars. With all the security features in place this seems like an oversight. It appears somebody could just cut the straps and steal the board with the racks attached. The Thule racks also lack the side wheel rollers. My wife is quite short in height so trying to hoist a SUP overhead and onto the roof racks is near impossible. The Yakima side loading wheels help her load her board by herself.
INNO Racks 446 [cheapest-option]
We also considered the INNO Racks for our paddle boarding travels. I’ll be honest, their slightly-lower price was one of their biggest attractions.
If you are a strong, tall person and don’t care how the roof of your car looks then perhaps the INNO Racks will suit your needs.
These racks are also a multi-use set of racks. They are designed to hold either 2 paddle boards or a single kayak.
They certainly are an affordable option but man they are ugly compared to the other 2 sets of racks (Yakima & Thule).
The INNO SUP racks also require more effort on your part to attach them to your roof’s crossbars. Although you’ll only need a tool or too to get them safely a top your car, I can’t think of any good reason why they make this process more difficult than it needs to be. They don’t come fully assembled. Both the Yakima and Thule roof racks are tool-less installation. As you pour over the documentation of all three companies it will start to make sense, though. The INNO brand is one of those Chinese companies that brings to market bad designs for as cheap as possible. With that comes the consumer’s need to sift through bad grammar and confusing directions.
The INNO car racks use this “crane” system which you raise on one side and hook onto from another. They claim floating cranes bar is to prevent you from having to throw straps over the board. But unless you are tall enough to reach over the board and into the center of the roof to hook it up it doesn’t look like anybody other than a basketball player is going to benefit from this. Many people using the INNO racks also complain that it’s very easy to over tighten the mechanism against the boards denting them.
Unless you absolutely have to have a roof rack system to carry both a kayak and a paddle board you’d be better going with one of the previous stand up paddle board car racks previously reviewed.
We ended up buying the Yakima SUPDawg racks and put them on my wife’s Subaru Impreza wagon. It looks great and functions superbly. You can read our more in-depth review above as to why it’s the best stand up paddleboard car rack.
Looking back we made the right decision to go with with racks. Why? They come with a front stabilization strap which makes the paddle boards on the roof very stable. Without the front strap the boards move around a bit when traveling on the highway.
The Yakima racks also have that wonderful set of integrated wheels. They are barely noticeable but help you slide the board on from the side. This is especially helpful if you are female or not very tall. Expecting to physically lift a paddle board over one’s head and place on the roof after a hard day’s paddle is not easy. The integrated wheels allow you to simply roll the board onto the racks. Easy!
And with no assembly or tools required the Yakima SUPDawg goes onto your car’s existing crossbars in minutes. It really is the best stand up paddle board car rack!
No more DIY solutions for us…just more time out on the water!