7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Bike to the Surf Break, or Should You? πŸ˜„

a bicycle with a surfboard attached to it in the foreground. a red landrover car in the background. behind this is the ocean.

I love surfing, but I hate getting myself and my surfboard to the surf break. I just want to be in the water riding those waves already! I usually bike to everything, but when it comes to surfing I’m happy to drive and get stuck in traffic and miss parking spots. Let’s get into all those reasons why you shouldn’t ride your bike to the waves!

1. You don’t have a surfboard rack on your bike

a bicycle with a moved by bikes longboard surfboard rack leaning against a fence in santa cruz looking out onto the ocean
This Moved By Bikes rack had quick release arms so the rack can be easily removed.

Extra equipment is always annoying, and is it worth setting up your bike to carry surfboards to the beach? Some surfboard bike racks don’t have easy to release bars so you may need a hex key to take off the surfboard holder when not in use, or leave it on the bike all the time!

Fortunately, a few surf racks have some quick release mechanisms to let you quickly take them off the bicycle. You don’t want to have a bulky surfboard rack on your bike while you bike around town. I wrote all about these best surfboard bike racks that make life more convenient.

DIY racks could take you a whole day to make, but you would be widely respected.

This is a huge reason that has kept me personally from riding my bicycle to the waves. In the Bay Area, I didn’t feel the need to get another big pricey object just to maybe take my surfboard 5 miles to Ocean Beach. When I’ve been in traveling in surf friendly areas, I’ve sometimes been able to get ahold of one of these and install it, but I haven’t had one with nice quick release mechanisms so it has been annoying to have on the bicycle all the time.

a bicycle on the beach with a surfboard attached to it. the ocean waves are in the background.
Close enough to bike to the beach, but riding on the beach was not easy.

2. You live too far from the ocean

This is the biggest reason not to bike to the waves, as housing is expensive out there on the coastline. Unfortunately not many people are close enough to the ocean to ride a bicycle there. If you are, consider yourself lucky that you may in fact want to ride a bicycle to the waves!

Remember, although coastal real estate is crazy high, even 1 mile back from the beach is sometimes much more affordable and the perfect distance for a surfing bike ride!

During most of my time in the Bay Area, distance has been the biggest reason keeping me from biking to the waves, as my favorite break was 15 miles away. I lived only 5 miles from Ocean Beach, but that wasn’t my favorite surf break and I still had all these other obstacles to tackle…

a bike advocate in Santa cruz riding a bicycle with his surfboard along the bluff bike path
Lots of people living close to the waves in Santa Cruz.

3. You don’t want your surfboard to get damaged in transit

The most important thing about your surfboard rack is to make sure your board isn’t damaged in transit. The surfboard can bounce and rub against the rack and is much closer to the ground than when it’s on a car’s roof rack.

Make sure there’s enough foam, and maybe get a pool noodle you can cut down to size to add extra padding. The surfboard is close to the ground and can hit things as you maneuver your bicycle around people and things, so watch out!

Be especially careful for little valleys (could be a gutter crossing) where the back of the surfboard might touch the ground as you go through the valley. Longer surfboards are more prone to these incline changes. A surfboard on a roof rack or inside a car is generally much safer…but you’re a surfer right? You live for danger!

a very long board being carried on a bicycle by a Moved By Bikes longboard rack
That is a long board. This bicyclist better watch out for sharp incline changes!

4. You don’t want to tire yourself out before the surf

Surfing can be a lot of cardio, and you don’t want to tire yourself out before you get out to the waves. If you have a big paddle out to do on a big day, you want to conserve your energy and leave the bicycle at home!

On the flip side, don’t you want to warm up a little bit? Especially if it’s an easy break to get out to or a day of small waves, biking could be more exercise than the surfing!

a selfie of someone riding a bicycle with a side mounted surfboard rack attached to the bicycle

5. It’s too hilly and windy

One thing that makes for beautiful coastlines and beautiful surfing is the majestic bluffs and that nice offshore wind. This also makes for tough biking conditions. You’re gonna have to work harder and be more badass to make it easily to the beach, unless you have an e-bike…

However, you never know what the route is like until you try it out first. Don’t assume too much. You may find the route more protected from the wind and the hills well within your ability. Do your research on the bike route, since it may not be anything like the route you’re used to driving in your car.

I had a fat tire e-bike on Maui and it was so awesome even with intense trade winds blowing every afternoon. I could ride my bike past the parking lot, through a little trail and even through some soft sand if I hit it fast enough. Riding directly up to the beach! But I still didn’t take my surfboard to the beach mostly because of minimal bicycle infrastructure.

someone in a hawaiian shirt standing next to a fat tire ebike on maui
My trusted ebike on Maui, rockin’ those hills and glidin’ through sand.

6. You don’t want to ride so close to the cars

When will these cities get the idea that they should prioritize walking & biking infrastructure so people can easily ride their bikes around!? Some coastal towns have great bike paths along the beach, but it still might be a pain getting to the path if city planners haven’t thought about a holistic bike network.

Even so, make sure you’ve done your research on bike routes to make sure the infrastructure really isn’t there. When driving around it’s easy to not notice any bicycle infrastructure that’s hidden out of sight (which is where it should be away from the loud noisy cars!). Look on Google Maps or other bike maps and see if anything is there. Or better, go take a bike ride and see what you find! On Maui, there is a great bike path from Paia to Kahului that weaves behind the airport and along the coast that drivers would never know about. I almost didn’t know about it until I went out to find it for myself!

screenshot of google maps with extra bike lanes drawn in where they're missing in paia and kahului on maui, hawaii
A common example of a bike network path splitting from the road and is mostly unknown. I drew some green lines on this screenshot since not even Google Maps had the whole thing. The first time I rode it I expected a terrible ride and was pleasantly surprised. I have no idea whose job it is to tell Google that the bike network has changed but it still doesn’t have the data. Open source crowdsourced maps like OpenCycleMap (a branch of OpenStreetMap) have it, but these maps are unfortunately not great for daily use (and you’ve probably never heard of it).

7. You don’t want your bike to get stolen

I put this one last, since this isn’t a very good reason not to ride a bicycle somewhere, as I’ve written about in many posts of how to lock your bike up properly with u-locks, wheel locks, seat locks, and light locks (those will scare the thieves away!). Not to mention that salty beach cruisers by the ocean are not a high ticket theft item. But it’s a fear many of us still have, and leaving your bike locked somewhere for the first time in a while can be a stressful situation. Start small with short trips and heavy duty locks to get yourself mentally prepared for a longer surf session in the future.

I see lots of people getting away with simple cable locks at the ocean with their beater bikes. Sometimes there’s not a lot of bicycle parking near the coastline, so this makes it harder to lock with a small u-lock, but usually this goes hand in hand with low theft and you’d probably be fine with a simple cable lock that you wrap around a tree or a fence. Even locking the bike to itself may work for a more remote beach.

a bunch of bicycles with moved by bikes surfboard racks on them locked up on the Santa cruz bluff overlooking the surf break
A bunch of bikes locked together with cable locks at the Santa Cruz beachfront. These all have the shortboard version of my top pick surfboard rack by Moved By Bikes.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, a lot of these are legitimate reasons to drive to the surf break. Surfing is inherently a difficult sport to utilize your bicycle as everyday transportation. But if none of these scare you, here are the next steps to get you riding your bicycle to the surf break:

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