Got a request for how I made the bag to take my Tower Xplorer SUP on a plane. The board is just barely inside the limits for not having to pay oversize fees on most airlines, so a bag that just fits it is important. I couldn’t find one commercially available, hence the need to make my own.
NOTE: The Xplorer board is the one that’s 14 feet long. If you have the shorter Adventurer board, you can use the same basic pattern but test the size as you’re making it — it will be a little smaller but I don’t have those dimensions.
A heavy duty sewing machine will help, but I used a very basic Singer to make mine. The biggest problem is the amount of material, but it’s nowhere near like working with a sail or boat cover. Have an extra needle or two on hand — it’s easy to break one when sewing through the layers of webbing.
I assume a basic knowledge of sewing. Unfortunately, I did not take photos as I made my bag, but I think the following drawings and photos explain it pretty well. I’ll start with a photo of the finished bag.
Time involved: allow at least 4 hours; it took me slightly longer but I was designing as I went
45″ by 66″ piece of denim or other sturdy fabric (wash to get excess dye out before working with it)
300 inches (25 feet) 1″ wide webbing for straps (does not have to be all in one piece; see below for length of individual straps)
4 plastic snap buckles for 1″ webbing (also called side release buckles)
Thread — regular thread is fine; you don’t need heavy duty (in fact, I found heavy duty tended to jam going through the webbing)
Butane lighter to heat seal ends of webbing OR a hot knife
Chalk for marking the fabric is very helpful, but I did it with pencil — it’s just a lot harder to see
Something that has a square corner and at least 14″ on the longer side — a large book or cardboard box is good (poor man’s t-square)
How to do it:
Cut the webbing into the following lengths:
- 1 – 104 inches (handles)
- 4 – 9 inches (straps from handles over top)
- 1 – 52 inches (lengthwise strap on bottom)
- 1 – 65 inches (roll strap on top that has buckles)
- 1 – 43 inches (roll strap on other side of top)
Use the lighter to heat seal the cut ends of every piece of webbing (melt like you would cut ends of a rope).
The general method for making the bag is to attach the handles and over the top straps, then the bottom strap while the fabric is still a big flat piece. Then the sides are sewn up and the top strap added. Finally, the remaining buckles are put on the straps.
Begin by marking the lengthwise center of the fabric on the right side, all the way across.
Find the center of this line, then mark 6″ on either side of the center.
Use the poor man’s t-square to draw a lengthwise line at those 6″ marks, extending at least 14″ towards each end. Mark the 14″ point. All marks should be on the RIGHT side of the fabric. The following drawing of the markings is NOT to scale.
On the 104″ piece of webbing, start at one end and make marks at the following points:
- 14 inches
- 38 inches
- 52 inches
- 66 inches
- 90 inches
Now pin the webbing to the fabric, starting with one end at the centerline and the inside edge of the webbing aligned along the lengthwise lines you made. Match the 14″ mark on the webbing to the 14″ mark on the fabric, and pin a few places in between. Leave the webbing between the 14″ mark and 38″ mark free, and match the 38″ mark to the adjacent 14″ mark on the fabric, being careful not to have a twist in the free section (the free section will be the handle). Again, align the webbing so that the inside edge of it is along the vertical line. Match the 52″ mark on the webbing to the centerline on the fabric, then the 66″ webbing mark to the other 14″ mark on the fabric, leave the 66″ to 90″ section free, and match the 90″ mark to the remaining 14″ and the end back to the starting point. Again, drawing is not to scale.
Take the four 9″ pieces of webbing and pin one end about 1″ under the big piece of webbing at each of the 14″ marks, with the free end going to the ends of the fabric. These will be the straps that go over the top.
Okay, now it’s time to start sewing. On one of the straps, start at the centerline and sew the strap to the fabric, staying fairly close to the edge — about 1/8 inch. At the 14″ mark, make a 90º turn and go to the other side of the webbing. This place has the most strain of any on the bag, so go back and forth across here a few times (I used a zigzag stitch, but you don’t have to). Go down along the other side of the webbing to the other end, reinforce it, and go back to the center. Do the other side of the strap the same way.
Mark six inches in from the edge of the fabric along the centerline. Take the 52-inch piece of webbing and mark the center. Match that center to the fabric center on the centerline. Pin it across towards each edge of the fabric, taking care to cover up the ends of the webbing where they met in the previous step. Stop pinning at that mark 6″ from the edge of the fabric. Slip one buckle onto each end of the webbing, then tuck the free end under at the 6″ mark so that the buckle is on a loop. See photo as this is hard to explain but very easy to show!
Sew the strap to the bag, going along each side and turning and reinforcing at the 6″ marks.
Fold the bag in half along the bottom strap with the RIGHT sides out. Sew the sides together with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, stopping 2 inches from the top. Turn the bag inside out. It helps to iron those seams, but that’s not always possible. Sew a second seam with a 3/4″ seam allowance, so that the first seam allowance is totally encased and there are no raveling edges showing on the sides.
Take the 65″ piece of webbing and mark the center of it; mark the center of both sides of the top. Match the center of the webbing to the center INSIDE of one side of the top, with the fabric extending about halfway across the webbing. Fold the ends of the fabric in along the seam lines; the webbing will extend well beyond the fabric on both ends. Sew the webbing to the fabric along the side where they are overlapped.
Take the 43″ piece of webbing and do the same on the other side of the top. The ends of the webbing should come just about even with the sides.
On each side of the top, fold the webbing over onto the right side of the fabric and sew it in place. You just have to finagle the ends (that’s a fancy way of saying that I didn’t figure out how to make it very neat and pretty).
Put remaining buckles on. If desired, folds ends of webbing under and stitch down (I did this to make it less likely for a buckle to come off when the bag is stored).
You’re done! Well, except for cleaning up all the bits of thread and fabric ravelings . . .
To use, fold the board as tightly as possible and secure with a webbing strap around it (webbing is flat and won’t tend to chafe like a line will; also if you get a really picky airline, not having the tiny bit extra size may save an oversize fee).
Slide the board into the bag and pick up the bag to get the board all the way down in.
Put the top webbing pieces flat against one another and tightly — very tightly — roll down to the board. Connect the buckles to the buckles on the bottom strap and pull tight. Hook the straps from the handles over the top and pull tight. Add a luggage tag.
The pump, paddle and leash must go in a separate bag. Note that the hose and gauge are easy to remove from the pump making it much easier to fit in a bag.
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