The incredible irony of surfboards is that the very environment in which they play in is also the most harmful to them. It is so tempting to stake camp at the beach and set your board up next to your towel and admire its beautiful glossiness shining in the sun, but this is the exact opposite of how to properly care for a surfboard. I know, not fair, right? But true.
The best way to take care of your new (or older) surfboard is to make sure it rarely sees the sun's rays. If you think of a surfboard as a rare painting that needs to be protected and rarely shown to the public, then you are in the right mindset about how to keep them safe. A general truth that all surfers should know is that there are only THREE places a surfboard should ever be, 1. In the water, 2. In a solar-protected surfboard bag, and 3. Safely stored inside a dwelling where no sunlight can hit it.
A Surfboard has three main components to its construction, a foam core, wrapped in fiberglass held together by resin. Ironically, the sun is harmful to all of them. Ever wonder why those old classic 1960s boards all have a lovely shade of brown about them…that is the effect of the sun over the decades. The UV rays, brown and age the foam and can, in extreme conditions cause the board to heat up so much that the resin breaks down resulting in delaminations. The darker the color of the board, the exponentially worse exposing it to the sun is. A darker board will heat up in minutes if left out in the sun in even mild temperatures.
While it may sound like an added expense, a solar-protected day bag is vital to keep your board safe. Always transport your board inside the bag and leave it inside when you arrive at the beach and take out only when you are surfing. Also, be sure to never fully close the bag's zipper. You want to make sure any heat built up inside the bag can escape. It’s also a good idea to apply wax BEFORE you leave your house. If it’s a hot day, applying wax can be a “sticky” situation and the wax can melt as you are applying it in the summer sun. So, wax it up at home.
Lastly, never, ever, leave your board in the car…ever. After you’ve caught a few tasty waves, it can be tempting to just leave the board out to let it dry. This is where most surfers can get a bit lazy and will set the board down to dry and then have a snack and forget the board is exposed to the sun. Or worse, they take a summer snooze. Yikes. Don’t do that. It’s fine to put the board back in the bag if it’s wet or to let it dry a little, you can lay towels over the board for a few minutes to get the moisture off. If you are being very lazy then you can lay the bag over top of it, but your board really deserves better though, so make all efforts to get it back in the bag as soon as you are out of the water.
Surfboards are structurally very strong devices. But they are also very fragile, and we all know that dings are a part of life. A baseline standard is to NEVER surf a board that has a ding. Water will get inside the board increasing the structural damage. There are two types of foams that boards are made of: polyurethane (Poly), and Expanded polystyrene (EPS). Poly construction accounts for about 90% of all boards out there and the difference when dealing with dings is massive. A poly board will not suck in water to the degree an EPS board will. So, while it is tempting to continue riding a board with a small ding, water will eventually find its way in, both boards, but to a much greater extent with the EPS foam.
Regardless of construction, any board with a ding should ideally not be in the water. Again, it goes back to the irony of a surfboard being made for the water, and water also being extremely harmful to a dinged board. A board that has been damaged will take in water and compound that damage. Have the ding repaired by someone that has experience doing it as soon as the board has been damaged. Most surf shops will have a ding repair service that usually takes about a week for a small/midsize ding, and a bit longer for more severe damage. The good news is, that almost any type of damage to a surfboard can be fixed, in some cases, you may not even be able to notice any damage at all if the ding repair person is highly skilled.
See ya in the water!
Small dings, and stress cracks, can be fixed on your own. There are "ding kits" available that are relatively simple to use for small dings. YouTube is your friend here and there are dozens of excellent tutorials teaching you how to fix a variety of ding types. If you become competent, you will be able to fix just about any type of damage and may become even more popular within your circle of surfer friends. It is also worth mentioning that a short-term solution can be some type of tape put over the ding. In the past duct tape was used and it worked well until a month later you go to remove the tape to fix the ding properly and it’s a sticky mess. So do NOT use duct tape. There are some commercially available ding tapes that are similar to packing tape but are more elastic and can suffice to protect small to mid-size ding for a few weeks. If you are on a surf trip, two essential items are a ding kit and ding tape. They can keep your board in the water while on the trip.
In closing, a surfboard is an investment that needs some effort to keep it protected. Surfboards are not cheap and are highly susceptible to the elements…if you take the precautions we've already discussed: using a solar board bag, are careful to not leave the board in the sun, storing it inside away from direct sunlight, and are diligent to fix all dings in a timely manner, then you should have years, even decades of fun with your surfboards.
Andrew Gunn, Shaper / Glasser / Sander / Shop Grom