We all ding our boards on a regular basis... if you don't, you will, go surfing already! Anyways, for those of us that already have a set of clothes designated as ding repair/shaping/glassing only, this article may not be for you. You already know the do's and don'ts of surfboard care.. or don't... and your board reflects it. If your board is still minty fresh, you may run into damage you weren't expecting. This article serves to keep that freshy intact and on point.
Damage we aren't getting into here:
*We aren't getting into these because they're easy to repair are simply the natural wear and tear of making small mistakes in and out of the water. You'll never fully figure out how to avoid every situation that dings your board. Either way, give me a call, I'll fix it!
Damage we ARE talking about here:
And now, how to avoid almost ALL of these issues.
Broken fin boxes
There's no way to completely avoid this kind of damage. However, there are ways to greatly reduce the probability of it happening. First off, if your fin box gets knocked ajar, it's not your boards fault. With good, clean surfing, you'll rarely put your fin boxes in harms way. The most common way to damage a fin box is to ride the board too far in to the sand. Any time the board gets in close enough to touch down, you've gone too far. As fun as it is to max out your wave length, surfboards are relatively heavy and carry tons of momentum at speed. Kick out of your wave deeper than thigh deep and you'll greatly reduce the chances of fin damage. Surfing leashless can also greatly increase your chance of damaging your fin boxes. Watch your board bounce and bonk it's way in to the sand, there's no telling how it's going to land as the wave tosses it up on to the sand... or worse... reef or rocks. One good smack and you're off to the ding repair shop.
Intermediate/advanced surfers, leashed up, can damage fin boxes by putting too much sideways force on a fin. That's coming down from an air under or over-rotated. That's trying to stick a nasty air drop when you should just pencil dive in next to your board. I've even sent a fin to Davey Jones Locker by over-committing to a blistering turn and sticking the finish with my ass on the stomp pad after my tail slid out. I knew better, and flipping the board over to find 2 fcs tabs calmly sitting in an undamaged box, no fin in sight, reminded me that a bigger wave would have ripped the whole box out. Long story short, don't try to stick a high speed maneuver when you clearly don't have it dialed.
This is simple. You just got too close to the other guy. Dial down your aggressiveness in crowds, ramp up your awareness, and you won't end up placing your board in harms way. If you take off on a wave and notice another guy coming your way from the opposite takeoff spot, kick out early. Playing chicken can easily end in a solarez purchase. If you're caught inside while someones reeling down the lane, be predictable, don't change your path unless you can paddle behind them to the whitewash. If you ditch your board, they've gotta skate around you AND your board, one of you is going to get dinged.
The basic rule of thumb for beginners is, don't paddle out in conditions that are too aggressive for your skill level. One of the easiest ways to buckle a board is to ditch it directly in the path of a heavy lip. Coincidentally, it's the most desired place to ditch your board. Your chin is in the wax, your arms noodling as fast as they can, it's too late, screw it, throw the board aside, head for the bottom. It doesn't matter what you're riding, the wrong place at the wrong time can mean a board in two pieces or creased/folded in half. If you are starting to get the hang of your board and want the challenge, keep your board away from the impact zone. Try a reef break with a gentle channel. That'll keep you out of trouble most of the time. Another thing, the shore break is still an impact zone. The right combination of elements can send your nose into the sand and buckle the board too. Kick out early!
There's virtually no way to avoid this aside from parabolic (along the rail) stringers. Hard wood next to foam and fiberglass creates 2 very different strengths. The foam will always compress over time, no matter the fiberglass thickness. The lighter the glass job, the quicker it happens. Order a board with the appropriate glass job for your weight and habits. When it comes in LET IT CURE FOR 10 DAYS MINIMUM! I touch down with my right knee before every pop-up, and I weight 210lbs. I will destroy a standard 4/4oz by 4oz shortboard glass job in less than a month. Instead, my custom boards all run with 6/4oz by 4oz fiberglass and that at least cuts the stringer spining down quite a bit. If you're a bigger guy just starting out, go epoxy, they resist spining much better than fiberglass. If you're in the custom board realm, ask me for my glass layup and you'll be stoked you're not a serial board killer anymore.
This is the culmination of too much deck spining. The glass along the stringer eventually snaps and you end up with a wooden ridge with broken glass forming a gash along one side of the stringer. I've done this to a perfectly constructed board in the VERY FIRST session. I knew it was my fault, my knee tapped on take off and punched the glass down next to the stringer. I had to dry it out and patch it up. To avoid this, see above. Go heavier on glass, or parabolic, or go epoxy.
Usually a form of damage seen most on shortboards, it can happen to bigger boards too. There are typically 2 reasons you just snapped your nose. Most often, you finished your lip snap in waist deep water, coming down vertically, pearled the nose, and it dove straight into the sand. Surfing leashless can also see your board bouncing in to shore, finally getting tossed juuuust right for the nose to come down first, the weight of the board snapping it clean off. The other way noses get snapped, is finishing a forceful maneuver and accidentally slipping, driving your foot down on the thinnest part of your board, the nose. If you're a shredder thats working on airs, that's just a casualty of war, it's going to happen whether you like it or not.
We're just kidding, this isn't damage, it's just the result of surfboards mostly being made of foam under fiberglass (epoxy or resin, carbon fiber, whatever etc.) Unless you've got a 30lb board with a monster glass job, you will put dents in the deck, and on the occasional awkward wipeout or awkward set down onto rocks, the belly of the board as well. The heavier footed or bodied you are, the more pressure dents you're going to have, and they're going to eventually cluster where your feet end up the most. The only way to avoid it is a heavier glass job or by choosing epoxy resin construction. Epoxy resin and eps foam blanks tend to bounce back better than polyester resin and polyurethane blanks. Either way, just take it as a good sign that you're getting to your feet more often than not.
Keep your board out of the sun when you're not going surfing. That's all. Oh, and don't drop your board. Asphalt is not soft, and will chip your board. When it comes to the sun, as fiberglass is heated then cooled, over and over again, the air inside the board expands and contrasts enough to flex the fiberglass repeatedly. If you've ever straightened then bent a paperclip over and over, it eventually weakens, so does fiberglass. P.S. Rhino lining and fiberglass don't mix, keep your board in a bag.
While this isn't necessarily damage, over-exposure to UV light causes the fiberglass to become brittle and damage more easily. And it's ugly. Take pride in your gorgeous board. Bag it up! Park it in the shade. 'Nuff said.
Delamination a.k.a. Board Cancer
This is by far the most depressing form of surfboard damage you will encounter, and it will happen. Most of the time... sorry, your fault bro! Heat and surfboards are not good. BTW, black paint jobs are a bad idea. Do NOT store your board against the water heater. Do NOT leave your board on your front deck. Do NOT store your board on top of your volvo station wagon. Standard fiberglass boards don't delaminate as quickly as epoxy, but they still can, treat it like a vampire surfer girlfriend or your puppy. Don't leave it in the car parked in the sun with the windows up. Don't leave it on the rental beach house deck. Don't let your buddy borrow it. DO bag it up. DO park in the shade with the windows cracked. DO store it in a cool shaded place. DO talk nicely to it. Do play with it every day.
Now that we've covered all the reasons it's not the shaper or glasser's fault that your board is falling apart, use these tips to extend the life of your precious craft. Love your surfboard as much as you love surfing. If you treat it nicely, it'll return the favor and get you shacked off your gourd!