You need to get you and your surfboard somehow. For most of us landlubbers, that involves driving to the beach. And that means putting your surfboard on top of your car. So, how do you choose between a soft and hard rack. What is the difference? Let’s dig in.
Soft racks, or temporary racks, are strap-based surfboard racks that don’t need a crossbar or roof rails to work. They are simply made of strong padded straps with buckles, loops and locks. They only need tying and buckling to stick to the roof of your vehicle.
On the other hand, hard racks, or permanent roof racks, are those that need installation by attaching a crossbar to the roof of your car. They come in different dimensions and design.
The big difference between soft and hard rack - Compared to the soft rack, hard racks are much safer and can carry more weight.
What to Consider When Choosing a Rack For Your Car
At the end of the day, you must make a choice. So what are the critical factors to consider when choosing between the two and how do they compare.
Capacity and Versatility
You will always want to know how many surfboards a rack can carry. Size of the boards (short boards vs long boards vs SUPs) should also be factored in.
Overall, most hard racks will beat up soft racks when it comes to capacity. Their hardy nature and versatility makes them comfortably handle more weight. They may also be used for other purposes other than surfboards.
A rack has to guarantee the safety of your surfboard, car and yourself, not to mention your fellow drivers. We don’t want a surfboard flying off the roof of a car. It’s happened. It’s happened to us. Side note – Tying the board down is a critical part.
While both soft and hard racks come with a lot of security features, the firm grip of the hard rack, as it is clamped to roof of the car, has always been more assuring compared to the tight stretch of the soft racks.
If you plan on surfing a lot and/or you need to drive a decent distance to get to the beach and back home, consider a hard rack.
How easy is it to install? Mounting the hard racks may, in some cases, prove to be complicated depending on the brand. On today’s vehicles, it can be as easy as 4 screws.
Soft rack on the other hand are just a simple “tie, stretch and buckle” process. No tool is needed.
Clearance From The Car Roof
Soft or hard, no rack should bow to pressure of the load and lower to touch the roof of your car. If this happens, it may cause damage to both the surfboards and the car.
Racks should be able to suspend the load inches above your car roof. Hard racks are solid strong bars running firmly from the left to the right side of the car. This assures you of a steady roof clearance as compared to soft racks that may swing lower under sudden pressure. It bears repeating. Soft racks should only be used to car surfboards.
Just because they are called soft rack should not fool you to think that they are soft on price too. Yes, some of them are quite affordable but not all.
The prices of both soft and hard rack will always try to match the features of a particular brand. Your budget may be the deciding vote here.
Let’s Take a Look at Some Roof Racks
There are some good roof rack options for surfers.
Vault Cargo Management's Roof Rack Cross Bar (Hard Rack)
This is a high-quality hard surfboard car rack with a 150 pounds weight capacity. It is made from sturdy materials that make it strong enough to carry large kayaks and surfboards. Its uniquely designed clamps gives a good roof top clearance.
Long Lasting: They are designed for heavy duty. This solid hard roof rack is made of study material to make it strong enough to serve you for seasons to come.
Safe: Apart from quality adjustable clamp that fit and hold tightly to the crossbar, this rack has a rubber coating and end caps that go help to avoid scratches.
Orion Motor Tech Universal Car (Soft Roof Rack)
It is phenomenal for a soft rack to have a capacity of 160 pounds. Thanks to this long-lasting accessory which doesn’t need gutters to fit on your car.
Its heavy-duty buckles complement durable extra-long, durable straps to give you a firm grip on your surfboard. It’s among the highly recommended soft racks on the market. It has a soft exterior to ensure neither your car nor the boards get damaged.
Easy to install: It has a universal car fitting that makes it highly versatile and supper easy to install.
Remarkable capacity: It can carry up to three large surfboards.
Long lasting: From the strong straps, to the heavy duty buckles to the high density padding, the durability of this product is evident.
Cons. Mishandling may cause the strap to be easily broken by the metal clasp.
INNO Racks - Locking Surfboard Roof Rack (Hard Rack)
The strap system of INNO Racks - Locking Surfboard Roof Rack are floating and its mounting system is universal. This makes it easy to install and it gives good roof clearance. They come with a hand knob for tightening its ratcheting straps to hold your surfboard safe on the roof.
This simple to install roof rack is effective in all its functionality and can carry up to 3 surfboards.
Apart from some customers concern about the customer care desk, this product is an amazing choice.
Easy to install. The universal system makes it easy to attach on a wide variety of factory raised rails that run the length of the car. It can be installed in minutes with minimal effort.
Security: This elite rack has a strong and study structural design which is complemented with its stainless steel and rubber coated reliable straps which will hold your boards firmly on the rack.
Strong and Durable: The whole set, from the coated straps to the knobs and rods are durable and built to work in all weather.
Block Surf Roof Rack (Soft Rack)
An excellent strap system surfboard rack for cars with no rack and especially SUVs. Simple as it may look, this wonder rack is wide and reliable enough to transport 3 surfboards safely. The fact that it wraps around the interior of your car adds some confidence.
However, you need to watch out for then metal buckle, they may scratch your car or damage boards.
Easy to install: You need no tools to install. It’s easy to install and to remove.
Durable: All parts of this rack are made of quality materials. High density EVA foam for the pads, nylon sleeves to withstand wet weather and strong metal buckle are guarantee a long life.
Safe Not only is the whole set strong but having the straps within sight (inside the cabin) as you drive reassures you that your surfboard is somewhere close to you.
Block Surf Double Wrap Rack (Soft Rack)
If you are used to stacking your boards one on top of the other, then here is a rack that comes with a double strap system. It is broad enough to allow you strap your surfboards side by side. Its heavy duty buckles locks tightly to secure your load.
For storage, you are given a drawstring carry case.
Versatility: It can fit on cars with or without gutters. Being broad makes it able to accommodate up to 6 short surfboards. It is also able to transport other water spot toys.
Apart from their potential to cause a leakage along the car door edges, this is a smart edition of surfboard rack.
FCS Double Soft Rack - D Ring (Soft Rack)
This is yet another solid soft rack option. This quality soft rack can fit on most cars from SUVs, vans to sedans with or without raised rails.
This excellent rack can carry up to six surfboards arranged in 2 columns with three boards stacked on top of each other. It’s easy to install and has quality and strong parts that make it very practical.
Curve Surfboard Soft Rack Lockdown Premium Surfboard Car Racks (Set of 2)
You cannot find a compact set better than this one. The Curve Surfboard Soft Rack is among the smallest racks available and how holds three surfboards is safe on your roof is surprising. If size is an issue to you, you can consider this “Mini-Me” rack system that easily fits on most cars.
Nonetheless, installing it may need a keen eye as it may be a little bit of a challenge to figure out exactly where a particular strap passes.
Thule SUP Taxi XT (Hard Rack)
This electrifying telescoping designed rack is spring-loaded to allow it carry surfboards of up to 34 inches wide. A soft padding, push-button locks, steel webbing and a one-key lock cylinders are security features that may entice you to buy Thule SUP Taxi Carrier. This is one fine rack system.