HAVE BOARD; CAN'T TRAVEL: SURFER's Travel Report After British Airways Bans Boards

Traveling for surfers has always been a bit of a precarious affair. Nearly every surfer has taken a trip, not entirely sure about the destination or even the journey. If you haven't done it yet, step away from the computer, chalk off some time on the calendar and do it.

Maybe surfers just have it all wrong. Maybe instead of hunting swells we should just plain hunt; at least we’d be able to travel with our guns for free.

Even if you buy a pre-packaged trip, though, things still are not ensured to go exactly as planned. You may have the bad luck of a flat spell if you haven't done your homework, or even worse, you may get there, with waves firing, to find the airline has used your stick in their piata game, with a brick wall.

For better or for worse, British Airways has decided to refuse the baggage handlers this tempting Piata fiesta. Starting November 6, 2007 they no longer transport surfboards.

The past few days, I've been on a bit of a goose chase, but luckily without the broken board that usually accompanies it. I've been trying to get someone from British Airways to inform me about their recent decision to no longer carry surfboards on flights. After finding the customer relations number on Friday, calling and finding out they operate solely between 9-5, Monday through Friday, I called again first thing Monday. I was then told by a recording that they "may no longer be reached by direct phone call," but I would have to email my inquiry. A day later I received an email that did little to answer any of my questions. While the fine print restricts me from sharing it, it basically says … very little, the wording about as non-committal as a political debate.

I was, however, able to find this on their website: "Due to the large size and handling complexities, some sporting equipment cannot be accommodated through the airport baggage system or within the aircraft hold. Therefore we no longer accept the following equipment at check-in as part of your sporting equipment allowance." Surfboards came in at number three on their list.

Maybe surfers just have it all wrong. Maybe instead of hunting swells we should just plain hunt; at least we'd be able to travel with our guns for free. In exploring the website, I found that British Airways does allow many other types of sporting equipment, including rifles, up to a double case, not only on the plane, but included in the passengers allowance. After looking into a couple rifle cases, they seem to be about 52"x13.5"x5.25", and weigh over 30lbs. Also found among the free allowance are skis and bicycles, whose carrying cases measure in at roughly 6'x12"x6", 30lbs., and 4'x3.4'x15" just over 30 lbs, respectively. Luckily, other airlines aren't quite so arbitrary, and discriminatory.

If your board makes it onto one of these other airlines, however, you're not out of the impact zone quite yet. The last time I flew a major airline with a board, I was punished for my hubris. Thinking I had packed my 6'4" flawlessly, I took it out of the bag to discover it was meant to be a 6'1"; apparently the gods had willed it thus. Receiving no compensation from the airline, I had effectively paid them $80 to destroy my board. Unfortunately, my tale is all too common amongst our community, as is the tale of the missing board. Due to the coffins' size, sometimes the plane will not have enough space in their cargo for it, with the best solution obviously being to put your bag on a different flight. In this case, you can only hope that you miscalculated the swell's arrival while you sit around waiting for your boards to show up, assuming they will. Could you imagine Tiger Woods showing up to Augusta and hearing the airline tell him his clubs are lost? "Sorry Mr. Woods, you'll have to use Mr. Funks' clubs today." Raoni Monteiro can. Three years ago, Monteiro showed up to the Rip Curl Search event in Reunion Island, too bad his boards never did.