Neglecting to care for your surfboard is expensive abuse. The average board runs anywhere between two and six hundred dollars, and repairs — small ones at $25 or large ones at $150 or more — add up. And, if you attempt an uninformed do-it-yourself job, the results can be devastating; a mis-patched fiberglass fix can leak water into the foam core, water-logging the board permanently. Or, if you try fixing your fins with resin, you’ll just muck things up more (take that one to a pro).
Boards are expensive toys that should be treated like the proper investments they are, and by taking care of them while they’re relatively unharmed, you can keep them alive for much longer. We talked to Bates Hagood of Ocean Surf Shop in Folly Beach, South Carolina and Mike Becker of Nature’s Shapes in Saville, New York to discuss proper board care for normal daily use.
1 It’s all in the bag. The most common damage to a surfboard happens out of the water and in transit to/from the beach. Since boards are large, people tend to think that they are invincible, says Becker, and recommends “delicate handling” no matter the make or manufacturer. Both experts recommend investing in a board bag, and recommend bag manufacturers FCS, DaKine and Creatures of Leisure. Hagood says that a board bag will “keep 75 percent of dings off a board” and “will save your board and save you repair costs (and time) in the long run”.
2A quick post-surf rinse can save your stick. Whether or not you shower after a morning surf session is your business, but for your board, Hagood says it’s necessary. Giving your board a good rinse with fresh water, not ocean water, “will prolong the board’s lifespan”. Remember: Salt is corrosive, and corrosion is bad — for beaches and for your board. Becker says that rinsing the fiberglass isn’t such an urgent matter, but that doing so will “keep the board looking newer over time”, and he does believe in keeping salt out of the fin boxes and off the fins.
3You like to tan; your board does not. Hagood was very clear on this: “Never leave your board in a hot car or in direct sunlight for long periods of time” (“long periods of time” means over an hour). If you don’t heed this warning, the sun could cause your board to de-laminate, which obviously sounds very bad, and is “terrible for the life-span of the resin”.
4Change your wax, and do it every season. To change the wax, strip it down with a number of helpful tools — a wax scraper and a pickle — and follow it with a wax remover like Bubblegum Citrus Wax Remover, which Hagood says helps you get rid of the dirt and grit on the board. Stripping the wax every season will help you keep the board clean and lets you find small cracks and dings. And when it’s time to reapply the wax, Becker prefers using the staple surf wax: Sticky Bumps.
5You can fix small dings in 15 minutes — by yourself. Keep products like SunCure — the industry’s “Kleenex”, according to Becker — or an epoxy stick handy to fix small dings before they get any worse. In direct sunlight, the product will dry in about 15 minutes, and only requires a little bit of sanding before your board is good to go. You can also buy a ding repair kit, which Hagood says is up to $25. However, make sure you do not try to repair a ding on a wet board. Becker recommends that you dry the affected area in the sun or a hot room — until the moisture is out of the board — before repairing any dings.
6Airlines can wreck your dreams. Don’t let them. When you’re flying out for a surf trip, you can never pad your travel case too much. Travel cases are expensive, but have features like padded dividers and straps to keep your boards from moving and being damaged. Becker recommends Creatures of Leisure travel bags. Hagood’s trick is to add bubble wrap and pool noodles to his travel bag, because “there is nothing worse than getting to your dream surfing destination and having your board busted beyond repair”.