The Sound We Never Want to Hear
Surfers know it well.
A loud thunk thunk of virgin surfboard on reef. Bobbing nose of your board, leash stretched almost to breaking, as it is pounded by another wave, while your only option to wait for the set to pass.
The sickening crunch of epoxy, foam, fiberglass or whatever fancy new material your latest addition to the quiver is made of being run over by another board, crunched from a slide in your car’s backseat, or smashed onto one of your shins in a wipeout.
Against all hope, paddling over to the board, assessing it tail to nose, deck to bottom, fingers crossed,
“please, please, be okay.”
I love my surfboards. I love them with a passion on par with my love for books (which is, like, A LOT) because both are vessels which transport me into something incredible and spectacular. Books take me into stories, boards take me into waves. Both are close to my heart.
Books, however, are relatively easier to protect.
Challenges of Protecting Surfboards
Damage to your board is bound to happen, no matter your skill level. As the waves we surf get gnarlier, so too does the possibility of injury to our boards and bodies.
(Unless you are a surfing wizard who has never dinged, broken, or snapped a board, then I bow to you, and you need not read any further).
It seems to me that while our skill level can increase, the possibility for damage to boards is ever-constant, because whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you can’t ever keep your board 100% safe.
Boards are endangered by transportation issues, rogue sets, wipeouts, and thoughtless car doors being closed (you know, when the edge of the car door scrapes your board…maybe that’s just me).
Another concern to keep in mind is that surfboards aren’t very budget or eco-friendly items. Despite our abiding love for the sea, surfers are consumers of a relatively non-eco-friendly product (although that’s been changing rapidly in the last decade or two), so buying new boards doesn’t just hurt our wallets, it hurts the earth, too.
Speaking of wallets…I don’t know about you, readers, but I can’t generally go out and buy another board every time the fancy strikes me (which is maybe a good thing, because then I’d have a whole new storage problem).
So, today, I’m going to take you step by step through my process of DIY surfboard repair for a little theme day I’m calling Thrifty Thursday.
Overview: Materials and Preparation
First, you want to make sure your surfboard is dry and cleaned of old wax.
To remove wax, leave your surfboard in the sun, or use a blow-dryer on high heat if you’re in a cold environment, to warm up the wax. Then get a smooth edge, like an old gift card, and scrape off the residual wax. I’ve used old CD’s, a wax comb, and other random smooth edges, anything will do.
Use a wax removal tool that is pliable to clear wax on rails and awkward areas, yet firm enough to get the job done.
Remove the damaged fiberglass areas of the surfboard, avoiding breaking the foam any more than necessary, as much as possible. A flathead screwdriver or similar tool is helpful. Surfboard foam also needs to be dry for repairs.
The next step is to check if the foam is dry by lying the board with the damage spot down. If it drips water, it’s not ready to repair. You can lay it on newspaper or put it in the sun (or both) to allow the foam to dry out.
Materials We Used
- Surfboard Sanding Resin from Hardware Hawai‘i
- (this is not great for lungs, but helps to thicken the resin and can be purchased at a hardware store as well, I consider it optional)
- Resin Catalyst from Hardware Hawai‘i
- this helps harden the resin
- Plastic mixing cups
- think old plastic yogurt tubs
- Sandpaper: we used 80, 100, 120, 150 grit but you can go up to 400 if you want to get super smooth
- don’t jump from 150 to 400, you’ll have to use finer sandpaper in increments
- Wooden stirring sticks
- also found at any hardware store
- Sanding block
- or just hand-sand, up to you
- Fiberglass cloth for large repairs
- Goggles or glasses
- Disposable gloves
- Painters tape
- Dust mask
Prepping the Damaged Areas
After your damaged areas have been removed and dried, it’s time to sand the edges to improve adherence of the resin. Sand each area with 80 or 100 grit sandpaper, firmly but not harshly. You’re just roughing up the edges, not trying to re-shape the board!
Taping Damaged Edges
Tape is especially useful for rails and odd spots on the surfboard, as resin follows the laws of gravity (like any other substance) so correct taping will keep the resin from dripping along the rest of your board. Experiment with different taping strategies, and don’t be afraid to get creative.
Mixing Your Resin, Catalyst, and Q-cell (if desired)
Get one of your handy plastic cups, add a desired amount of resin, and then the corresponding amount of catalyst. If the weather is a bit colder, add a little more catalyst. If it’s hotter, feel free to use a little less. If you want the mixture to be even thicker, add in some Q-cell as well.
Mix your resin concoction together, and think about where it’s being placed as well. Are you fixing a rail, requiring a thicker mixture to avoid dripping? Or the top or bottom, meaning a thinner solution won’t be a big deal? You can customize your mixture to suit your weather conditions and repair site, making life a little easier.
Applying Resin to Patch Spots
Don’t try to apply resin to every spot at once unless they are all on the same plane of the board. If you’ve got one repair on the tail, but another on the rail, one or the other is going to drip when laid in the sun. Take your time, applying the resin mixture to each spot, letting it dry (10-30 minutes, depending on outdoor temperature, catalyst used, and thickness of mixture) before moving onto the next one.
Note: If the resin is leaking or oozing out of the desired area, be sure to wipe it off your board while it’s still wet, or else you’ll have goopy spots of dried resin on your surfboard. If this continues to happen, go back to the taping drawing board and try a new tape configuration, as Devin and I had to do for the nose of his board.
Voilá, Your Dings are Patched
Now that each area has hardened, it’s time to remove the tape and see your impressive work! Just kidding, the spots will look lumpy and weird. Now, it’s time to sand the areas.
Note: You can use a razor blade to cut off some of the extra resin, but what’s the fun in that?
Start with a rough-grit sandpaper, such as 80 or 100. Once you’ve sanded each area completely, move onto 120, then 150, then 180 or 200, 240, all the way up to 400 if you’d like. I’ll only go up to 220, but that’s because I’m impatient.
Voilá For Real—Now Go Surf!
You’ve just completed your first DIY ding repair of your surfboard!
If you’re a visual learner, you can head over over to my Instagram and check out my DIY video post in my “Surf” Highlight, too.
Are you ready? Now get back out there and catch more waves with your freshly fixed log/ blade/ fish/ shortboard/ thruster/ twin fin…it’s ready to ride!
Thank you, as always for reading.
If you think there are better ways to do repairs-comment! If you think I missed a step-comment! If you have additional questions-comment! If you-I think you get the idea.
See you tomorrow for my next Feature Friday post!
Disclaimer: We are not professionals, nor do we think we have the method down-pat perfect, this is just our preferred method for board repairs and we (i.e. I wanted to and Devin is the best so he helped me) wanted to share 🙂