Reshaping Old & Broken Surfboards

Reshaping Boards
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Throughout my life I’ve had a habit of hanging onto “junk” at different times. I’d see something broken or trashed, get an idea in my head for a way to fix it, but then more often than not, the project would collect dust for a while.

These “junk” projects have included everything from skateboards, bicycles, motorcycles, surfboards, wetsuits, and probably some things I’m forgetting.

I’m getting better at following through with my weird upcycling ideas – maybe it was the Wave Arcade project that sparked it, who knows?

Two fairly recent upcycle projects included reshaping an old, previously reshaped surfboard and deconstructing and reshaping a junky soft top.

Junked Surfboards and Shaping Attempts

If you’re interested in shaping surfboards yourself – reshaping broken boards is a great place to start. Low barrier to entry, low cost, low stakes.

My first reshaping attempt was a long time ago. An old, delaminated, and partially buckled longboard that belonged to my swim coach who got me into surfing as a kid had been passed around my group of friends.

Eventually it ended up with me. I had been surfing it pretty regularly in the summers around Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, but the damage was getting worse. The cracks were growing, the foam was turning black.

I figured it’d be a good opportunity to tear it apart and reshape it.

Admittedly, I didn’t do much prep or research into surfboard shaping for my first reshaping attempt.

I ripped off the delaminting fiberglass, cut the buckled and moldy section off, and was left with a 5’7″-ish front end of a longboard to work with. I think I mostly shaped it with a hacksaw and an orbital sander.

Reshaping an Old Surfboard
Attempt #1 at reshaping a broken board.

I was going for some sort of mini-simmons-type shape, but ended up with something really strange. Almost zero nose rocker, too much tail rocker, the thickest part was in the tail. It was barely paddleable, but if you could get the right line, you could step straight to the nose and stay there. Super weird.

I surfed it a few times, and then back to garage it went to wait until I started the Wave Arcade project.

Reshaped surfboard.
The maiden voyage.

How to Reshape an Old Surfboard

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I’d been carry around my previously reshaped broken surfboard for quite some time. With a little more surfboard design knowledge under my belt though, I figured it’d be time to give the whole reshaping thing another go. Here’s how I did it:

  1. I started by making a few slits in the fiberglass along the deck, bottom, and rails of the board. With a few guide cuts, most of the glass was pretty easy to tear off.
  2. Next, I examined the pseudo blank for what sort of rocker and thickness would fit into it (I should have done this the first time around).
  3. I needed to push the wide point forward from where it was and add quite a bit more rocker in the nose. This was achieved with a saw and a planer.
  4. With the general width and rocker better built into the franken-board, I drew an outline.
  5. From there I proceeded with the planer and sanding blocks, until I got to something that resembled a more rideable deign than the mini-simmons monster I had previously created.
  6. The design could probably be considered a cross between a fish and a high performance shortboard – it’s way too thin and has some pretty aggressive rocker considering the overall shape.
  7. Next step will be to glass and sand it like another other surfboard. I figure I’ll get around to this when I have some leftover resin and fiberglass to do the job.

I think the key to reshaping a broken board is making sure you work with the existing lines. This means examining the rocker and contours that exist and basing your design decisions off of that.

Another thing to keep in mind is what type of foam the broken board is made of. This will be important when it comes to picking your resin, but it’s also a good way to gauge how a certain type of foam shapes if you decide to pick up a proper blank in the future.

This reshaped board was PU foam, which was super easy to shape, and actually resembled a clean blank by the time I shaved down past the discolored stuff.

Reshaped broken longboard
Reborn as something fishy, but a little too thin.

Whether the reshaped board works well or not doesn’t really matter. I think its a really good way to practice the mechanics of shaping, glassing, and sanding without screwing up a good blank.

How to Reshape a Broken Softop Surfboard

My next reshaping/upcycle challenge was an old, abused soft-top surfboard that was in seriously bad shape.

I was coming up the hill from a surf when I passed the softtop on the curb with a “free” sign posted on it.

The foam was tearing apart, there were holes all over it, and it felt way heavier than it should have been.

My first attempt to “fix” it was to tape down some of the bigger rips and holes and give it a go. That didn’t work so well.

Next I started deconstructing it to see if it was even salvageable.

The colors and ink were pretty worn out, but it looked to be an old 6′-ish Surface soft top surfboard. I’m assuming construction methods will vary from brand to brand, but here’s what I found when I tore into it.

  • A top layer of about 1/4″ soft foam that peeled off pretty easily.
  • Under that was a layer of large-weave fiberglass.
  • On the bottom was some sort of thin plastic layer and another thin layer of foam-like stuff.
  • Tearing through all that, I got to three distinct section of large-bead EPS foam of some sort. These pried apart pretty easily.
  • Between each section was a heavy, wood-composite stringer. These came out pretty easily too.

I was left with the three EPS sections. After some clean up and minor leveling, I replaced the old stringers/spines with redwood stringers and glued it all back together.

The result was a semi-crooked, really ugly dual stringer, large bead EPS blank with a number a rotted out and chunky sections.

Reshaped broken soft top surfboard
Grody.

I didn’t really have a plan for this one, I kind of just started shaping. Looking at the new “blank,” I figured it’d work best if I flipped it – so I made the nose the tail and the tail the new nose. This due in part to the old fin and leash plug locations and a little because of the rocker.

It ended up as a really asymmetrical, really ugly, thin nose, thin tail, fat middle something-board.

This one will get glassed whenever I’ve got some leftovers too. Considering some of the gaps between the stringer and the large foam beads, I’ll need to coat it with spackle/filler before glassing.

I think the takeaways for reshaping a soft-top are as follows:

  • Strip the board down as much as possible, removing damaged sections and unnecessary materials.
  • Once you get down to whatever the foam core is, determine the best way to strengthen and finish it.
  • Shape as you would a normal blank if it’s some sort of foam, otherwise you’ll need to get creative.

While neither of my reshaped boards are anything special, I think they go to show that you can turn junk into something new with just a little curiosity and a few tools.

You can check out another Wave Arcade upcycle project here. It’s a handplane made from dead palm branches, old fiberglass and resin, and an old wetsuit.

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