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Maui Windsurf – Bring, Rent, or Buy

We travel to Maui for three weeks each year for a combined family vacation and windsurfing trip.  Of the three weeks I general plan to sail 10 to 14 days.  I have on one occasion brought my own gear, and on all others have rented gear there.  The question is, which is the best solution?  In this article I’ll present the numbers I came up with, and some tips for making the decision for your trip planning.

Unless you own a place there you may not be particularly interested in the “Buy” option, but the numbers do illustrate an important aspect of windsurfing so I am including this option as well.

Authors Perspective – I am not a windsurfing gear rental company, and have no alliances with these companies.  In other words, aside from personal opinions I have no financial bias toward any one solution.  Some of this may read as though I am selling one concept over another – this is just how the numbers fall and what I have found as my preferences.

Windsurfing - Cash flow verse Cost

The simple solution to the “bring verse rent” gear question is just cash flow – how much cash does it take to carry the gear verse renting for a given period?  This is the today’s cash-flow analysis and ignores all other costs like convenience and gear wear and tear.  I will get back to these later…

Airlines currently charge approximately $160 to ship gear round trip to Maui.  From previous rental shopping I found the shops comparably priced so I will just provide the rental numbers from my last trip[1].  The company I chose charges $50/day to rent gear.  If you book multiple days they will discount from there, so assume your cost will be closer to $40/day.  With the simple cash-flow analysis it’s cheaper to bring your gear than rent when sailing five or more days.  Adding in the real costs changes the equation somewhat.

Bring Cost = $160 (shipping only)

Windsurfing Costs

If you are serious about sailing it is likely you have a couple boards, three to five sails, maybe a couple masts, and an array of supporting parts.  If you have been sailing for years you may also have a significant pile of broken booms, worn out sails, and delaminated boards. 

Each year I sail there are multiple items needing replacement including broken booms (annually), sails (~3-4 years), boards (3-5 years), and the small parts.  While the amount of gear requiring replacement will vary based on the windsurfer, I estimate on average replacement of an entire rig every 2 ½ -5 years.  Assuming three sails, mast, two booms, a board, small parts, and smart shopping, this cost may run on the order of $2500[2].   For most windsurfers this will come to a range of $10 – 20 per windsurfing session.  Personally I sail about 50 days a year and spend on average about $1,000 in gear replacing broken and worn out parts.  My cost per windsurf session is $20.  This cost may be on the high end as I am a bigger windsurfer and sail the gear pretty aggressively.

The estimated cost per day above does not take into account wear and tear on the gear from airline shipping (baggage handling on airlines can be tough on boards… depends on who loads it and how carefully). For the following I will use the $20 per day and assume this includes shipping wear. 

Given gear cost (at $20/day in wear) and airline shipping costs ($160 round trip), and using $40 per day to rent gear, you need to sail 9 days to justify bringing your own gear.  At 14 days the additional cost of renting is $120.  If sailing 14 days you may negotiate a better rental rate and reduce the gap to only about $60.

Bring Cost = $160 + ($20 per day)

These numbers include the real costs.  While the out of pocket is only the shipping ($160), the 14-day cost with wear runs closer to $440.  None of the numbers so far take into account convenience.

Convenience – The Good and the Bad

The one year I brought my gear I was ecstatic the first day I stepped on my board at Kanaha and had the foot straps perfect, harness line perfect, and knew the rig.  That justified much of what I endured the previous day handling the gear, and later on the return flight.  The downside – I had only one board and limited sails.  During this trip I had several days slogging my wave board when a wider, floater, freestyle would have guaranteed quality sailing.

When you rent gear the shops generally allow you to swap gear out as necessary.  This means one day you are on a 80L wave board with 4.2 sail, and the next a 110L free-wave with 6.0 sail.  If you hit the winds right this will not be an issue and you can sail one rig straight through, but be aware in packing your own gear that you need to get it right for the effort to make sense.

While some people may bias toward sailing their own gear, you may also consider renting as a chance to demo many different boards!  Most shops have pretty new gear and a good variety.  If you don’t like it, try a different one!  This last visit I tried a new JP free-wave board that I will probably purchase late this season... nice way to test it out for a few days. 

Packing gear on a plane is a hassle.   If you have done it, you know the time required to pack, handle, load and unload, etc..  Assigning a number to this hassle I would say it is at least $20 worth each way, so the additional cost is $40 round trip.  The bar now raises to 11 sailing days to justify carrying your own gear verse renting.  It is likely you may find a shop willing to rent the gear for $500 for 14 days, so the difference here is only $20.

Bring Cost = $160 + $40 + ($20 per day)

If these costs are taken as “real” numbers, then the difference in cost between bringing your gear and renting becomes nearly irrelevant for a two week trip.  At this level the determining factor may shift to how badly you wish to sail your own gear, or on the other side, how inconvenient packing your gear really is!

Buying Gear

Obviously buying gear only makes sense in a few cases – when you can leave it there, when you find gear you like and wish to take it home after the trip, or when you are staying a really long time!  Still, buying gear points out an interesting aspect of cash-flow worth looking at.

We go to Maui every year and have an owner’s closet.  If I bought a full rig to leave there it would cost approximately $2,500.  There are other costs associated with buying cheaper gear, so $2,500 for a good rig is a good starting point.  If I sail Maui only 14 days a year, then renting gear would cost approximately $500 per year (so I negotiated down a little).  My break-even point for buying gear is therefore 5 years!  From a cash flow perspective that means I spend $2,500 today, rather than $500 a year for five years.

By buying gear I lock into one board option (or more investment), and loose the trade out ability of the rentals.

By the end of five years I will already be replacing gear due to both use and closet aging, so the break-even point moves out still further in time. Until sailing Maui more than a couple weeks a year it will be hard to justify buying and leaving a full rig there.

One Final Issue

OK, so you decide you are going to Maui for 14 days and do want to bring your gear.  What if the wind does not cooperate?  You may only sail 10 of 14 days, and find yourself back in a situation where renting would have been cheaper. 

On the other end you may prepay a rental to get a discount, then not use the days you paid for.  You need to understand how your rental contract is structured.  Most rental companies want your repeat business so they are pretty good with the customers.


There is no single right answer to bringing verse renting windsurfing gear for Maui.  Factors will include trip duration, season and likelihood of winds, personal feelings about sailing your own gear verse renting, and whether you are concerned with total costs or just lowering current cash flows.  Current cash spending is almost always less when bringing your own gear, but the big picture costs are often more.

I provided one set of numbers based on equipment replacement costs at 20 per day.  You may wish to rerun this exercise based on your style, gear cost, and gear life, as your costs could be on the other end of the spectrum closer to $10 per windsurf session.  This will lower the total days required to justify carrying your own gear.

Ultimately, if you will have more fun on your own gear, the cost difference probably is irrelevant for most vacations. 


This article is provided by Mr. Marc Elpel and  Mr. Elpel has been an avid activity based traveler for years.  Motto – “Travel is for doing, not just seeing.”  Please contact for free republishing of this article. 

[1] Rented gear in 2004 from Hawaiian Island Surf and Sport (HISS).

[2] Based on $300-400 per sail, ~$800 - 1,000 for the board, plus the extras.  All new gear may actually be higher than $2,500, but this is a good starting number. provides Maui travel information including things to do, where to stay, Maui for Kids, and windsurfing and kiteboarding information. 

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Last modified: September 03, 2007