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Surfboard Repair: An Illustrated Step-by-Step Guide

Disclaimer: This surfboard repair guide is simply meant as advice – you repair your surfboard at your own risk. For larger repairs (especially those involving the fin plugs, significant loss of foam, or damage to the stringer) I would strongly recommend contacting a local shaper or repair shop to do a professional job.

Surfboard Construction Overview 

Most surfboards you’re likely to own are going to be either:

  • Polyurethane foam with polyester resin (PU/PE)
  • Expanded polystyrene foam with epoxy resin (EPS/Epoxy)

with a wooden stringer for support down the middle.

Modern designs may incorporate extra materials such as carbon-fibre reinforcement, but the base construction remains the same.

No amount of home surfboard repair kits can save this – but you can clearly see the stringer, foam and surrounding resin layer [board: Hendrik Speelmans]

Note Aritz Aranburu’s illustration of this board’s accident [again, courtesy of Hendrik Speelmans]

PU/PE – most common

  • Polyurethane blank with fibreglass and polyester resin
  • PE resin is weaker and more brittle than epoxy resin
  • Lightweight, high-performance and easy manufacture
  • Cheaper, but typically heavier and more fragile than epoxy resin
  • Sits lower in the water, and the added weight helps in choppy conditions

EPS/Epoxy – gaining popularity

  • Expanded polystyrene blank with fibreglass and epoxy resin
  • EPS foam much lighter than PU
  • Good for aerials and quick snaps at or above the lip
  • Sits higher in the water, so faster planning speed – good for clean, flat sections
  • More expensive (approximately $100 more than the same model in PU/PE)
  • More environmentally friendly (can be made from recycled foam and production requires less energy) – most foam you see in packaging, etc. is EPS

Both use identical fibreglass cloth to glass the board, but the foam core (“blank”) and resin used to soak the fibreglass differs. [1]


If you only take one thing from this article make sure it is the following statement:
 

Epoxy resin can be used on BOTH EPS foam or PU boards

BUT polyester (PE) resin will dissolve polystyrene (EPS) foam!

Find out which your board is by checking the logo or shaper’s dimensions on the bottom of the board. If you still have no luck, look up the board online or contact your shaper.

As a last resort, EPS can have a texture to it, so look for small veins or round looking beads under the glass and/or breather holes in a symmetrical pattern down the deck rails. [2]

Nonetheless, it is incredibly difficult to judge by eye, and the safest option (what I’d recommend) is to buy epoxy resin, regardless. This will work on both board types, is generally stronger and lighter, eliminates the worry and means if you get a new board you can still use your old surfboard repair kit!


Surfboard Repair – Small Dings, Cracks or Temporary Fixes

For small dings, an all-in-one solar activated (UV-Cure) resin, such as Solarez, is incredibly handy. I always bring a tube of this with me on surf trips and have dinged my board, ran to the car park, made it water tight, and been back in the water in 10 minutes!

INSTRUCTIONS
(
Again, be sure you are using the correct resin for your foam!)

  1. Make sure the crack is clean and completely dry (squeeze to check if water seeps out)
  2. Stand in the shade with your board
  3. Apply enough gel to comfortably cover the damaged area
  4. Allow the repair to go tacky in the sun (it should take around 45 seconds to reach “gel phase”)
  5. Go back into the shade and use a sharp knife to refine the shape (optional – can just sand it later or be more precise with the initial application)
  6. Leave the board in the sun to dry for the time specified on product (this usually takes around 5 minutes, but will be longer the cloudier it is) – just be careful not to let your wax melt!
  7. Sand to shape the repair and smooth any rough patches
  8. Try to avoid bubbles, and layer large amounts – allowing each to dry before applying the next


Worst case scenario: you’ve forgotten your surfboard repair kit and the waves are still firing!
Stick a lump of wax into the crack to keep the water out if your session is truly unmissable (but be warned: if too much water gets into the board it can cause the foam to swell, become heavy, and eventually rot over time). You’ll also need to make sure any wax is removed from a ding before repairing it, otherwise the resin won’t bind properly.


Surfboard Repair – Larger Damages

For more serious surfboard repairs, it’s best to purchase a kit from your local surf store or online. I use the Ding All Epoxy Repair Kit, which you can pick up for less than £17 on Amazon.

My surfboard repair kit of choice, but as long as it contains the essentials any product will suffice

It includes everything you need for the surfboard repair:

  • Resin (Part “A”) and hardener (Part “B”)
  • Fibreglass cloth
  • Double-sided sandpaper (2 grades – fine and course)
  • Mixing sticks and cup
  • Cover sheet

The only extras you’ll need are a pair of scissors and some tissue to wipe up residual resin.

INSTRUCTIONS
(Be sure to start in a well ventilated area (the instructions also state that epoxy resin will not cure properly in temperatures below 18°C (60°F), so try to choose a warm day if you’re working outside!)

  1. Preparation
    1. Ensure the damaged area is dry and clean

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    2. Lightly sand the surrounding area and remove any loose or broken debris
    3. Use scissors to cut the fibreglass cloth to a size that will comfortably overlap the damaged area
    4. To fill holes, chop a portion of fibreglass cloth to act as filler
  2. Mixing
    1. Add 2 parts resin to 1 part hardener
    2. Stir slowly (to prevent air bubbles, which may weaken the solution) until the mixture turns from cloudy to clear
  3. Application
    1. For large surfboard repairs:
      1. Apply a thin layer of resin to the damaged area
      2. Add the fibreglass cloth, and slowly saturate it on both sides with more resin, until the entire area turns clear

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      3. Trim off any excess fibreglass while doing this to help wrap around corners seamlessly (such as around the point of the nose)
    2. To fill holes:
      1. Stir the strands of chopped fibreglass into the resin mixture
      2. Apply this to the damaged area and work out any air bubbles
      3. Place the coversheet (small piece of clear plastic) over the repair and press evenly
      4. For rail fractures (or other areas where the shape needs to be held in place), tape the coversheet and leave to dry before removing
  4. Drying
    1. Working time is approximately 30 minutes
    2. Cure time is 2-3 hours (under typical conditions – no UV necessary)
  5. Sanding
    1. Once the resin has hardened:
      1. First, use the rough grit sand paper to remove large bumps and form general shape
      2. Then use the fine grit sand paper to make small adjustments to the shape and blend the repair surface into the rest of the board
    2. Finally, use a damp cloth to wipe off any residue or dust from the sanding

 


 

You may have noticed some sponsor stickers on the board I’m repairing in the photos – unfortunately, I haven’t landed a sponsorship deal (although if anyone’s offering, hit me up…). The board actually belonged to North East legend Sandy Kerr, before coincidently being sold to one of Durham University Surf Club’s new members! Check out a couple of his Instagram posts to see what the North Sea can offer:

Probably the most barrelled board in the North East right now

And while you’re in a DIY mood – why not check out this DIY board rack I made from an old shelving unit, with a few strips of foam stuck on to stop it scratching the decks!

 

Hope you all managed to get out on International Surfing Day (last Saturday, 16th June) and, as always, feel free to leave a comment or message me on Instagram [@willdavies11] with any questions or suggestions. Also, big thanks to Lauren Newbould [@lau_renxxo] for lending the board and putting up with me from behind the camera all day! Stay tuned for a video tutorial on this surfboard repair coming very soon.


What I’m wearing in the photos:

 

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