Ended summer: Surfboard ban aboard all BA flights

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The Independent Online

The Beach Boys would not be pleased. In a decision that threatens that great hippy institution, the surfing safari, British Airways (BA) have announced they are banning surfboards from all their flights.

Grabbing a board and heading for the shores of Hawaii, Indonesia or the south of France has become second nature to many of Britain's 500,000 surfers.

Thousands of surfers set off to catch the waves each year, but now that could all be over, as BA will not allow any surfboards on their flights from 6 November.

The surfing community is up in arms, pointing out that other sporting equipment, such as snowboards, bicycles and skis are still allowed. But the airline says that the fibreglass boards, which often weigh less than 4kg, and are usually about six foot long, are too large to take on their planes. Also banned for their size are windsurfing boards and sails, kayaks and javelins.

Pro-surfer and the former British champion Alan Stokes said: "A lot of surfers travel with BA, so that's a big income they're going to lose. It's really silly that they're stopping surfers but allowing other equipment that's similarly big: golf clubs and snowboards weigh more than a surf board, and a double bass is massive.

"Maybe I'll take a double bass on tour and see if it floats; or better still I'll just put my boards in a double bass case. Surfers will just have to come up with ways to trick them."

Just six days after it was set up, a campaign against the ban on the social networking website Facebook had more than 2,000 members, while a petition on the British Surf Association (BSA) website received hundreds of signatures within hours of being established.

The news comes as a particular blow to the British surf team, who have always used BA to transport them on their tours and competitions. Karen Wolton, national director of the BSA, said: "I don't know what will happen in cases where only BA fly to a country. You can't arrive for a competition and wait around two weeks for your board to arrive by courier, and each board is designed specially for its rider, so it's not a case where you could just pick up another one abroad.

"We're very disappointed. The BSA has always travelled with British Airways, and we've always recommended them, because until now they used to let people take boards on as part of their baggage allowance. I can see no rational reason for continuing to carry skis, snowboards and golf clubs, and not carrying surfboards. I really don't understand, except that I assume the expensive seats are sold to people who play golf rather than surf."

While the news has come as a blow to the surfing community, it could see the resurgence of the original hippie transportation, the camper van. Mark Daysh, who runs Kamper Hire UK, which rents out Volkswagen campers, said: "That's madness, but I reckon it could be great for our business, because our vans have surf racks, so people can just drive for European trips."

A spokesperson for BA said: "The redefined list of sports equipment takes into account a number of factors such as limitations of airport baggage systems and size and weight restrictions in the aircraft hold."

The airline said it would be honouring bookings made by surfers before 6 November, until they found an alternative freight service.

For more information or to sign the petition visit www.britsurf.co.uk

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