"$200 is the fee for surfboards when you fly out of Honolulu," explained the elderly chap behind the Hawaiian Airlines ticket desk.
"But I paid $125 for my board bag when I flew in from San Diego, how come it's more expensive now?" I asked, trying my best to remain cordial and appear unfazed by the $75 "Island tax."
"No, the fee is $200. Will you be paying with credit card?" was the only response I got from the agent, who's body language indicated that I wasn't the first or last to ask him such an inane question.
My choices were to fork over the cash or simply surrender my winter quiver right there in the main terminal of the Honolulu International Airport. And that's the crux of it all. When you rock into an airport with board bag in tow you're immediately rendered powerless by these nonsensical baggage policies. Forget consistency, logic, or any attempt at rational thinking, the simple fact of surf travel is that airlines charge what they what, when they want.
Take last October for example. When I'd flown from LAX into Biarritz, France, I paid $100 for a board bag with four boards in it. On the way home, after spending a month in both France and Spain, I'd booked a direct flight home from Bilbao, Spain. I was apprehensive checking in because the year before I'd more or less been raped in Bilbao by Iberia Airlines. That year I'd ended up being forced to pay nearly $500 for my boards and the lady at the ticket counter was a complete stuck-up, Euro nightmare,which resulted in me throwing my credit card at her and calling her a thief. The worst part was that year Mundaka was dead flat and I'd never even taken my boards out of the bag.
So anyway, here I am this year, checking into Bilbao once again, this time I'd booked a flight on Air France hoping things would go smoother. Somehow they didn't. As mentioned, I'd paid $100 to get my boards there, but this time on the return flight they weren't even going to take my bag. At first they decided that $300 was reasonable. Then they weighed it. And even though I hadn't added anything to the bag, they said it was too heavy and they wouldn't accept it. In the end I had to take everything out of the bag, stuff wetsuits, booties and towels in my regular luggage, then I had to put one of the boards in a day bag that I had with me.
In the end I had to check in two board bags, one they still said was over the weight limit and I was charged accordingly. I was also charged extra for having two board bags. It was the closest thing to highway robbery I've ever experienced...except when I've actually been robbed on the highway, which has happened a few times in Mexico. In the end I shelled out $500 to get my boards home, but this time I didn't throw my credit card at the lady, I just grabbed my ankles and took it like a man.
For years I've been astutely aware of all this, but have just kind of resigned myself to the fact that checking in surfboards means you're going to have to bend over. But you know what, I'm sick of it. Why the hell aren't these fares standardized? Why does it cost more going one way than it does the other? What's up with that? Hawaiian Air said it cost more because I had three surfboards in the bag, but that's not fair. They don't charge per golf club or per wheel when shipping a mountain bike. I demand satisfaction damn it!