Knowing how to repair your own surfboard keeps it out of the landfill and in the water. You don’t have to say goodbye to your beloved board just because of some dings or even a big buckle.
Surfboard repair is a good skill to have – if your board choice is limited, it’ll minimize the surfs you miss when you’re at home. If you’re traveling, DIY surfboard repair is a lifesaver.
Most ding repairs are going to follow the same basic steps:
- Allow the board to dry complete and remove any water before patching it up.
- Clean the area around the repair – remove dirt, wax, salt, etc.
- Cut away/sand clean the repair area to get it ready for glassing.
- Lay down your fiberglass and resin and allow to cure.
- Sand the area smooth and hotcoat the patch job.
- Sand again, clean up the dust, go surf.
Check out our reviews and recommendations for some of the things you’ll need to fix your surfboards.
Surfboard Repair Kits & Materials
Surfboard repair begins with having the right materials.
You can find pre-made surfboard repair kits, which vary in degrees of quality, quantity of materials, and effectiveness. Or you can gather your own.
To repair a variety of surfboard damage, you’ll need:
- Sandpaper of varying grits
- A power sander for bigger repairs
- Resin & Hardener (Polyester or Epoxy) – try to match what your board was built with
- Q-Cell or Spackle to fill any large holes in the foam
- Mixing sticks and cups
- Tape – to protect and areas where you don’t want fiberglass.
Quick Fixes for Surfboard Damage
What do you do if you’ve damaged your surfboard and need to fix it in a pinch to keep surfing?
When you’re in this situation, your options are a little trickier. Some quick-fixes may even require bigger repairs than you would have initially needed. Proceed with caution.
The best bet in a pinch would probably be some ding-repair patch tape – the kind that’s designed for this sort of thing with a water-tight adhesive.
For a riskier quick repair, you can always try duct tape or surf wax. You’ve just got to be aware that this might put your board at risk for even more damage.
With any quick repair, it’s a good idea to take the time to do a proper fix as soon as you can.
How to Repair Surfboard Dings, Gashes, and Delamination
Dings, gashes and delaminations are some of the most common surfboard damage that needs to be prepared.
Each type of repair follows mostly the same steps:
- Gather your materials.
- Clean all wax and dirt from the repair area.
- Allow any water to dry from the foam if necessary.
- Sand/grind away any sharp, broken, or rough fiber edges.
- Fill any large foam voids with filler or Q-cell.
- Mask off the area around the repair to keep the resin contained.
- Cut some new fiberglass cloth that’s larger than the damaged area.
- For delaminations where the fiberglass is in otherwise good shape, you can make small holes in the area to add resin and weight it down to cure.
- Mix and apply the correct ratio of resin and hardener. (Remember – Don’t use Polyester Resin on an Epoxy board!)
- Allow resin to cure.
- Sand the area smooth. Always start with medium grits and move up to finer grits. For larger areas of damage and glassing you can use a power sander, for smaller areas sticking to using sandpaper by hand is probably best. If you don’t have much experience with a sander, stick to sandpaper.
- Apply another coat of resin to fill any remaining surface imperfections.
- Finish sanding, this time finishing with a higher grit.
- Allow the repair to fully cure for at least another 24 hours.
Glass on Fins & Fin Box Repair
Fins are another part of your surfboard that can get damaged easily.
Glass-on fin repairs follow many of the same steps as described above. Remove any broken fin and glass, sand the area flat, and glass the new fin in place.
Removable fins can also be repaired when nicked and damaged. This can sometimes be a simple as a quick sanding. You can read more about repairing the fins themselves on the fin repair page.
Fin boxes are a repair that are a bit more involved.
Fin boxes can be prone to damage if the fins impact something really hard, if the retaining screws are too tight, or if some other impact happens to the tail of the board.
To repair a broken fin box:
- Remove any broken glass and plastic from the fin box from the area.
- Clean up and fill any chunked-out foam.
- Grab a new fin box and apply resin and some cut up fiberglass to the fin box hole.
- Keep an eye on it to ensure proper alignment.
- Sand any remaining resin when it cures.
How to Fix a Buckled Surfboard
A buckled or broken-in-half surfboard is definitely the more serious of the repairs described here. Repairing a buckled board will take a little more preparation and patience, but is still doable for the DIY surfboard repairman.
A surfboard that’s split in half and repaired may feel a little different underfoot when its seaworthy again, but that’s better than one less board for you.
To fix a broken or buckled surfboard, you’ll need to:
- Prepare a jig that will help hold the pieces in place to match the positioning and rocker.
- You can do this with some scrap wood pieces and some tape.
- Prepare the halves like you would for any repair: Clean the area, fill any major holes, clean up any jagged glass fibers.
- Mix some resin and hardener and tack the pieces together.
- Once cured, remove the jig and prepare the board for glassing.
- Starting on the bottom, cut a piece of fiberglass that extends about a foot past the break and can wrap the rails.
- Laminate the new fiberglass and allow to cure.
- Flip the board, clean up the lap, and repeat on the top if necessary.
- Do some clean up sanding and hot coat the fix.
- Complete finish sanding on the hot coat.
Fixing Pressure Dents
Pressure dents are something that occur to all surfboards as a result of use. These are areas where the foam and glass compresses. They happen in spots where you pop-up, use your knee, or plant your heel.
Normal pressure dents don’t really need to be fixed.
However, big pressure dents can sometimes lead to cracks or delamination, which do warrant a repair.
Surfboards Beyond Repair
Sometimes, you may determine your surfboard is beyond repair. That really sucks, but it still doesn’t mean you’ve got to send your old board to the dump!
What condition does a surfboard have to be in to consider it broken? Well, that really depends on your repair skills or budget.
If you’re interested in practicing your repairs and improving your skills with fiberglass, resin, and sanding – give it a go. Even if the board doesn’t turn out so great, you’ve at least learned something in the process.
If you’ve got the budget, you can always consult a professional. However, many professional surfboard repair shops (the honest ones at least) won’t accept a board that they don’t deem worth a repair. This situation would be an even better reason to try your hand at your own repairs.
You’ve got a few options for a surfboard that’s beyond repair:
- Recycle it with a program like Waste to Waves.
- Salvage the foam and try your hand at shaping a new board from it.
- Make a bunch of upcycled handplanes from it.
Broken Surfboards for Sale
A quick check of your local Craigslist is bound to find you some surfboards in pretty crappy condition.
If you really want to hone your repair skills or practice on something else before you try to fix your favorite board, buying a broken board can be a good option.
You can start your search by looking at the photos – the crummier the better.
When you go to check out the board, keep an eye out for any damage that could help you lower the price.
In most situations (well, in most situations with decent folks), a broken, damaged board will be listed for a reasonable price.
Why do Surfboards Break?
Surfboards are strange in that they seem 10x more fragile when they’re out of the water. And out of the water seems to be where the majority of surfboard damage occurs.
Dropping the board from the car, bumping it on corners and edges, letting it down on the ground too roughly – all very uneventful and disappointing ways to damage your board.
Older boards are often prone to damage over time – sun damage, pin holes allowing undetectable amounts of water to infiltrate the foam, and air expansion causing delaminations.
And in the water, surfboards are still not safe from ding-danger.
Heavy footed (knees and palms) surfers may notice their surfboard deck resembles the moon’s surface with loads of glass and foam weakening pressure dents, impacts with other surfboards, body parts, reefs, and rocks will definitely do some damage, and getting caught in the wrong spot of a heavy lip will certainly not be good for your surfboard’s health.
Common Types of (Repairable) Surfboard Damage
Below are some of the common types of damage you may experience as you own and use different surfboards. Fortunately, most of these can be repaired, or avoided with the proper care.
- Broken Fins & Fin boxes: This occurs when you run your board aground, hit a rock, hit another surfer, or make hard contact with your fin when you wipe out. Powerful surfers or surfers with more weight can even break fins or boxes on a hard turn.
- Fin Gouges: Fins are sharp. They can slice through fiberglass and foam like butter when moving at speed. A fin gouge happens when someone else’s fins make contact with your board. Usually the result of either poor communication or bad judgement.
- Stringer Delamination and Spining: Surfboards with a traditional wood stringer can develop issues where the wood meets the foam. This is the result of the two different materials compressing, flexing, and aging differently overtime.
- Snapped and Buckled Boards: These can occur either because of the power of a wave breaking on top of the board, nose diving into the bottom, or you landing in the wrong spot.
- Pressure Dents: This occurs naturally the more you surf a board. Your weight compresses the foam and the glass, and over time dents will form from the places you step most or places that experience bigger impacts.
- Surfboard Yellowing: Your surfboard can turn yellow due to sun-exposure. UV rays can yellow and weaken the glass and the foam.
- Delamination: Delamination is when the fiberglass and foam lose their connection. It can be the result of impacts, drops, sun exposure, and temperature changes.
If you surf regularly, you are going to experience some normal damage to your boards. Being prepared to fix them when necessary will keep you and your boards surfing longer.
If you want more durable surfboards, you can always opt for an epoxy finish, a gloss coat, reinforcement materials, or a heavier glassing schedule. Just keep in mind, whenever you add durability you’re typically going increase weight or cost.
How to Avoid Damaging your Surfboard
While some damage is bound to happen, there are some things you can do to help minimize the risk of damaging and dinging your boards.
- Rinse the salt water off your board after you surf. Salt water is corrosive and can damage the glass overtime.
- Keep your board out of direct sunlight. Exposure to sun and UV rays consistently will lead to glass chipping and foam yellowing.
- Don’t store your boards in extreme temperatures. If you can keep them inside or in your garage, that’s great. Avoid keeping your surfboards in your hot car for too long. If you do leave the board in your car, crack a window and park in the shade.
- Use a surf bag when the board is not being used and for going to and from the beach. Most dings seem to occur outside of the water after all!
- Don’t ditch your board if you can help it.
- Be careful surfing in shallow spots – collisions with the bottom are a good change of causing some major damage to your fins or fin boxes.
- Respect the rules. Doing so will lower the risk of surfer-on-surfer collisions.