The pros top tips on air travel with windsurfing gear
Some trips are epic from start to finish, and some dream missions to search out perfect surf kick-off badly from the minute the ground crew spot you lugging giant coffins into the terminal buildings.
The PWA World Tour riders have more experience than anyone at negotiating huge amounts of equipment onto airplanes.
But the recent news that British Airways are banning windsurfing and surfboards on their aircraft has certainly black-marked them amongst the watersports world.
Some airlines, such as Virgin Atlantic, have reacted positively to the massive online protests, via communities such as Facebook groups, and wisely launched counter-campaigns such ‘welcome-on-boards’ in a bid to get your business.
But the general picture for travellers with bulky board bags is still bleak in the light of modern weight restrictions, which are designed a mixture of eco-friendlier fuel saving, and heightened security.
I asked some seasoned PWA journeymen to hand over their advice on having a smooth journey, lower excess charges and avoiding that trip from hell…
Alex Mussolini (JP / NeilPryde): “Check the airfares and compare the totals of the fair and baggage prices.
The cheapest fares and cheapest excess prices are rarely combined with the same airline.”
Anne-Marie Reichmann (Naish / Naish): “I call up the airline and tell them I am bringing gear.
And then I ask if they can confirm, on my ticket, that I’m bringing some extra stuff.”
Chris Pressler (Starboard / Severne): “Check the rules in advance and get in contact with the airport/airline management in advance, if you feel it could get critical”.
Chris: “Go compact, and don’t rock-up with heavy triple-board monsters.
Sometimes it’s better to check in the boards one by one.
Surfboards were free, and sometimes angling gear goes free, so you could say the rigs are for fishing…”
Alex: “Take as many masts as you can, and take just enough gear to sail during the whole trip, like 3 sails 1 boom and your best board.”
Anne-Marie: “Pack more bags, but lighter ones... don't put everything in one bag and make it mega-heavy...they don't like that these days.
You can pack it in 1 or 2 bags, but be prepared to divide it up in 3 bags.
If they are really strict about the weight, for example, you can always put some sails, a boom and a mast in a single board bag you have around one of your boards.
But some airlines like less in total still... so ... always call the airline you travel with beforehand".
Alex: “Smile! And if things get nasty, just take it! Ha Ha…”
Anne-Marie: “Arrive and check-in early, so you have more change of less waiting in line, and you have time to negotiate.
Be nice, keep your patience, and also have some receipts from earlier trips handy.
That way if you have to pay excess charges, you can compare it to an earlier trip, and the airline can see what is 'normal'."
Chris: “Yeah, be friendly, keep an eye on co-workers (ladies), who are new, and never be the first in line, as in moments of hurry they often make better deals.
Also, show up with any papers you can get from the reservations departments”.
Chris: “I always have some power lines in my bags to fix the bags onto vehicles at the destination, and in some countries I use cable clips or locks”.
Anne-Marie: “Always bring long straps which are useful for stacking stuff in the car, on top of the car etc.
If I rent a car I ask for roof racks...even though it costs more. That way I don't damage the car and end-up paying a lot of money in damages”.
Anne-Marie: “Everyone is lucky and unlucky at times I guess...”
Chris: “In the old days the charges were perhaps even higher, mainly because the gear was bigger, thicker, longer, and heavier.
But nowadays I would think that the Maui boys will pay the most with so many stopovers to Europe”.
Alex: “I think that Ricardo, and Kauli get burned a lot.
I heard a lot of stories about them having to pay huge amounts or having to change flights because of the extra charges.
Ricardo lost all his sails coming to Gran Canaria once too”.
The luckiest pro travellers?
Anne-Marie: "Ha! I’d like to tell you who that is, but I don't want to 'jinx' him... he has a lucky charm and will want to keep it that way…”
Chris: “Antoine is one of the pros who always arrives on time with his gear, but that’s probably just professional preparation for you.
The sneakiest? There are many ‘players’, on tour, but it can be a lottery and it’s often hard to get your gear in time before competition starts”.
Alex: “Seriously I've never heard of anyone ever not losing their gear on tour...but I am quite lucky though :)”.
The Best Airlines?
Anne-Marie: “TransAvia is the best! They have been great with gear to the Canary Islands every time.
You have to call them up beforehand, and it’s never free, but you’ll rarely pay more than 60 Euros for your equipment. Super cool!”
Chris: “It’s a always a gamble, but I guess, out of my experiences, there are some nice ones, like LTU, Air Berlin, sometimes Thai, Turkish, yeah, for sure, Egypt were also fine…it’s just Cairo Airport that’s crazy!”
Alex: “Ryanair, and the SkyTeam airlines, are pretty reasonable I think.”
© PWA / Brian McDowell