How to repair a surfboard
Doing your own ding repair might sound intimidating. But that is exactly what makes it so satisfying.
There are certain things in life that give you a sense of pride when they are accomplished: changing your own tire, building your own webpage, baking from scratch, painting your living room or even painting your own surfboards. Sure, you can pay someone else to do these things for you, but the sense of empowerment you gain is well worth the effort. Even if it takes you longer and the finished product doesn’t look as pretty!
Repairing a surfboard or DIY ding repair as it is otherwise known, is definitely an empowering endeavor. Besides being empowering, there are other bonuses to learning how to repair a surfboard.
- First of all, you will likely save money and very likely, save time. Ding repair shops can be slow and in remote areas, non-existent. So, if you learn how to repair a surfboard yourself, you and your surfboard can be back in the water the next day.
- You will gain an intimacy with your surfboard. It might sound weird but by doing your own ding repair you will get to know the curves of the board a bit better. The more you do it, the more you will understand about board shape and design.
- Learning how to repair a surfboard is WAY more environmentally friendly than buying a new factory-made surfboard. Surfboard manufacturing is not kind to the planet.
- Also, you will be able to repair your surfboard in a pinch, on a surf trip where there might not be any other options, on a surfboard for example.
The first time you learn how to repair a surfboard and do it yourself, you might use a solar resin. This is a specific resin that does not need to be mixed and hardens with exposure to the UV rays of the sun. You are less “repairing” your board than you are “sealing” it, just to keep the water out. The advantage of solar res is that it is quick and easy to use, and is more compact to travel with than a traditional fiberglass repair. The downside is that it is only for small dings as, without fiberglass cloth, it won’t give the necessary strength to a large damaged area (it’s the fiberglass that gives a surfboard strength).
Start with a small ding and solar resin, to gain confidence.
Before beginning any type of ding repair be sure you put on a respiration mask and gloves. Safety goggles are also a good idea.
#1 First make sure the dinged area is dry, no water droplets should be leaking out. You may have to cut back a little of the fiberglass using a knife to allow the foam to dry completely. Leave it in a warm area (not necessarily in direct sunlight). Set your board with the ding pointed down so water can drip out. Place newspaper under the board. If the newspaper is wet, the board is not dry yet. Never repair a surfboard while the crack is still wet.
#2 Next, sand the area and the area directly surrounding the damage. A small piece of sandpaper will come included with your tube of solar res. If you have tape, you can taper off around the ding for a cleaner finish, but that isn’t necessary.
#3 For best results, apply the solar res in the shade, liberally. Then stick a piece of plastic wrap over the area to smooth it out.
#4 Next, place the board in the sun with direct sunlight on the damaged area. As soon as the resin has hardened, remove the board from the sun (normally about 5 minutes).
#5 Once the resin has hardened, it is safe to sand the area around the edges of the repair to make a smooth finish. Just be sure not to sand through all of the resin that you just applied!
Once you’ve gained some confidence with the solar res, it is time to take on an actual fiberglass repair. The steps are similar.
How to repair a surfboard with fiberglass
Since there are quite a few ingredients involved in the process, we recommend buying a ding repair kit. It will contain everything you need to get the job done. Note that you can not use epoxy to repair a fiberglass board and visa-versa. If you have an epoxy surfboard, get an epoxy ding repair kit.
Here are some recommendation for both epoxy and fiberglass ding repair kits + solar res.
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How to repair a surfboard yourself / DIY Ding repair:
#1 Clean and dry the board. Once again you will need to remove loose pieces with a utility knife. Sand back any rough edges with 40 grit sandpaper. Place the board in a position so gravity will aid in the drying process.
#2 Wipe the area free of any powder. Tape off around the ding.
#3 Next, you will need to fill the damaged area. This guide is best suited for fiberglass board repair, the process for filling the ding in an epoxy board is slightly different as you will need to cut a plug to fill the ding. Your ding repair kit will come with some fiberglass powder. You will need to mix the resin, hardener, and filler in the proper ratio. This is the exciting part. Your ding repair kit will come with two different liquids: resin and hardener. It will give a recommendation for the mixing ratio. But keep in mind that it is weather dependent. If it is very hot out, you will use a few drops less. If it is cold, use a few drops more. If you are nervous, you can always mix up a test batch beforehand. Basically, you want to put in enough that it eventually drys, rather than remaining tacky. But you don’t want to put so much so that it hardens quickly before you are done working with it. Once you’ve found the correct ratio, you will then add the filler powder. Again, the manufacturer of the ding repair kit will include a recommendation for how much to add. Basically, you want a marshmallow-like paste: fluffy, foamy and sticky.
#4 Apply the filler mixture liberally with a spatula. Don’t worry about being careful, you are going to sand it back to match the surrounding surface anyway. Wait for it to dry.
#5 Sand the filler mixture until it is flush with the surrounding curvature of the board. Also rough up the area sounding the ding using 40 grit sandpaper. This allows the fiberglass cloth to stick to the board in the next step. Be sure to sand from all angles so that you don’t sand another ding into your board.
#6 Tape off around the ding again. Wipe the area free of any powder.
#7 Apply the fiberglass. Cut two fiberglass cloth or patches. The first patch should be slightly bigger than the ding and the second should be slightly bigger than the first. Lay both patches on the board (the smaller one on the bottom) and then tape off around the patches. Four ounce fiberglass cloth is generally prefered.
#8 Mix the resin and the hardener a second time, this time without the filler. Apply liberally to the fiberglass patch, using a spatula or a paint brush. Work the mixture into the cloth until it is fully saturated and the edges of the cloth are wet enough to stick to the board. Scrape off any excess. (The resin does not add strength.)
#9 Let dry until hard.
#10 Sand. This is the artistic part. Start with a 150 grit sandpaper and then work your way down to finer grits (200, 220 etc). You can go nuts with this, getting the area to look like nothing ever happened. Or if you are a bit lazy, you can sand it just enough so that it isn’t going to scratch you, and call it good enough. As long as you don’t sand through the work you just did, it’s all good.
Go you! You just repaired your own surfboard, you Badass, you! Now get back to shredding!