Used Surfboard Dents, Dings, Damage and Repairs.
August 2nd, 2015
Any surfboard has a lifespan. It can range from one session to a lifetime. Used Surfboards can have just as long a lifespan as a brand new one. Maybe more. Some of it has to do with how well the board is taken care of, how hard you surf it, how well it is made and sometimes just pure luck.
I often makes comparisons between cars and surfboards.
While surfboards don’t have mechanical parts like cars, there are a lot of production, style and valuation parallels between the two. The most common one being how your new “ride” preforms. Past that, the similarities continue both in the new and used department. Car makers, like board makers, are aware that pretty colors, bells and whistles often entice a buyer. Just adding a color and pin line to an otherwise white or plain surfboard can cost up of 20% of the boards production cost and add no function to the board whatsoever. Color looks good out of the shop and in the water, but makes cosmetic repairs nearly impossible to perfect, because matching a color is quite difficult for a mechanic or a ding doctor.
Valuation is another parallel. Like cars, the moment the buyer leaves the shop the board instantly moves from ‘New’ to ‘Like New,’ and then depreciates even further with actual use. When it comes to the used market, people are very, very, very picky about the condition of a surfboard, sometimes for good reason, especially if you are a collector, but, if the board is to be ridden, you should be aware of the difference between Dents, Dings, Damage and Repairs.
Knowing could be the difference between a great deal on a great ride or buying a total lemon.
Repairing someone’s board is like holding their baby and then applying a power sander to it. This is why I rarely do outside ding repair work anymore. That, and over the years, I developed a strong allergic reaction to fiberglass dust.
However, there are a fearless few who handle the babies of the world and put them back together. A world class repairman in Hawaii posted on the wall of his shop a sign that read,
I have had my personal surfboards worked on is a dozen counties spread out over four continents. This remains the rule across the board. Always use a repairman who guarantees their repair.
Many issues people notice first about a used board are purely cosmetic, so do not immediately assume it is damage because it, “looks bad.” As a buyer, you wouldn’t necessarily pass up on a great car because of small dents in the fender or a scratch of paint down the hood. Some examples on a surfboard are small compressions on the deck or underdeck, some flex lines, sun-damage or fading, scratches in the topglass or paint, spider and coke bottle shatters. These look bad and in some cases could lead to a little further wear and tear, but overall they are cosmetic. If you have a board for more than a year it may be worthwhile to address some of the shatters and flex lines, which is very easy.
For the most part, cosmetic wear simply lowers the value of a surfboard because it is more used and “looks bad,” but should not affect your ride in any physical way. I recommend overlooking these cosmetic flaws if your goal is to ride the board as opposed to hanging it on the wall.
*Epoxy Note: Many boards made of Epoxy composite construction have an additional layer of manufacture than tradition PU board. This is simply a layer of paint. This paint chips away easily and is purely cosmetic. When it does, a little nail polish goes a long way
If you ride a surfboard, you are going to ding it.
I consider the size of a small ding to range from a dime to a silver dollar. Usually these can be repaired quickly using just a tube of Solarez, sunlight and sandpaper. Professional repairs can be done as well but keep in mind that most repair guys have a minimum cost to even touch a board.
My “rule of thumb” is, if you can wedge your thumbnail into a ding it is definitely open. Another thing to check for is if the point of impact has become soft or discolored. If it has, it is no longer just a matter of just closing the fiberglass ding, but perhaps removing and replacing some of the corrupted foam as well.
Once a surfboard is “open” it takes on water, which slowly destroys the Polyurethane foam inside and makes the board heavy. The larger the ding, the faster water enters. One way to check and see if a ding has absorbed water after a surf session is to allow it to sit in the sun a few hours and then try to suck water out. If you taste saltwater, then it is time for a repair. When a board has taken on water for a longtime it can become “Waterlogged” and is not a good idea to ride it until that water is removed entirely and the ding is sealed.
Obviously multiple dings lowers the value of a board, even if they have all been repaired professionally. However, I would say that less than 15 small dings will not affect your ride as long as they were all cared for correctly. If buying a board you should check each ding and consider how much time, money and energy will go into repairing open dings or redoing ones that are not repaired correctly.
When in doubt, there is always duct tape.
Epoxy Note: Boards made of Epoxy use a Styrofoam blank which is not as easily affected by water. Still water inside can make the board heavy and you do not want to close a ding while there may be water inside the epoxy shell. Further, using fiberglass resin to seal an epoxy board will destroy the Styrofoam core.
Large dings, gauges, smashes-in, punctures & slices
Damage is damage. Your car has been in a wreck and you don’t have insurance. The ‘Average Joe’ is not going to be able to repair serious damage without training and tools. This means it’s time to call the ding doctor. Ever for a trained repairman, such issues can be time consuming and often takes a couple tries to get it just right. One of the most frustrating things about ding repair is to get to the end of a long patch and then realize there is just one little mistake, which means dig it out and back to square one.
Still, when damage is repaired correctly, the repair is often as strong as it was before and will not add too much weight.
Epoxy Note: While Epoxy boards tend to be more ding resistant overall, serious damage is considerably more difficult to repair and often costs more as a result
Whenever looking a used board always check all the boxes. Like you read above, an obvious give away of box damage would be discoloration and cracks in the area around it. Then check around each box with your finger tips for squishy spots. The next step to checking a finbox it to make sure fins fit in firmly and the box itself is not loose. Put fins in each box and make sure they are secure, then give each a wiggle. If there is no give, you are good to go. However, if the box itself wiggles inside the fiberglass, it has been knocked loose and needs to be reset or replaced.
A center box replacement is about $75 and a side about $40. It should be done with quality foam filler and then reglassed. Often the shaper needs a special tool to set it in correctly. Generally speaking, once a fin box is replaced professionally, it is as strong as before to ride.
Epoxy Note: Fin boxes are much harder to put back in with epoxy resin, make sure it is done correctly before you walk away with your board.
Also known as cancer. Delamination occurs at a point where the fiberglass shell starts to separate from its bond with the foam below.
Heat is your number one enemy. DO NOT store your boards in a hot location or locked inside your car on a sunny day.
Very large compression dents caused by a severe impact can lead to delamination. Areas that support a lot of the weight of a rider, like the points where a surfer knee paddles from or drives his/her back heel into the deck to turn, are other points delam is common. Once a board has begun delaminating, it can and usually continues to grow, especially If the same person uses the same board with the same aggressive point of contact. These types of delam should be dealt with early on when they are easy to repair or the board should go to someone who will ride it differently.
There are other causes as well. Sometimes a repair that did not bond correctly causes a delamination. Sometimes an old surfboard blank releases gas over time and that causes delamination. Usually, once these causes are addressed, the delam is cured and will not return.
As a 240 pound rider, many of my favorite longboards have delamed at the tail where I drive my back foot into the deck. I have repaired a few of them and they continue to ride well.
Repair guys have different ways to fix delamination and different prices. Always discuss it ahead of time. Depending on size and area of the cancer there are also different strategies. Sometimes they simply inject the infected area with hot resin to fill in the bubble created by the separation. This can be very effective on small delaminated areas and is often the quicker, cheaper option. However, as the weight of resin is much greater than foam it can weigh down the board a lot, especially if the area of delam is large. In this case, the best repair option would be to remove a patch of fiberglass from the area that is delaminated and then cut away any soft foam. Next, the foam is replaced with foam filler and when it is dry and sanded, a new sheet of fiberglass layered over it. It is much more time consuming but does not alter the weight of the board as much. This kind of repair is roughly averages $10-$15 / square inch but shapers will often negotiate after a certain size or tell you outright it is just not worth the cost.
Choosing not to repair a delamination is also an option. Often times a delamination does not alter the ride of the board and depending on your interest as a buyer, especially beginners, you may be able to get a steal on a delaminated board. If so, watch that bubble closely to check if it is growing is size. Once it crosses the stringer, the board has lost integrity and is very likely to snap. This could mean a very sad surf session.
Epoxy Note: Epoxy boards are much less likely to delaminate because of their construction. They also do not grow and expand like a delamination to a PU board. Still check and make sure as the cost and difficulty of the repair are again tougher.
Buckled & Broken Boards –
Like a totaled car, a buckled or broken surfboard is not an option for most. A buckle is when the board creases across the deck, underdeck or rails. When it is severed into two pieces it is broken. Once a board has been severely buckled or broken, especially if the stringer is severed completely, the board requires a lot of fiberglass, resin and sometimes a stringer splint to be put back together.
Pros: The break lowers the value of the board to almost nothing. At this point it is worth about the value of two pieces of foam and materials of the board itself. A solid buckle repair is around $75 depending on its size and a board broken through usually runs $125 -$175 to put back together. If the repair is done correctly, the board could last years in under headhigh surf. A can of good spray paint costs $6 to help with cosmetic issues after the repair. In the end, you could have a great board, especially a great beginner board, for a fraction of its cost new.
Cons: Putting a board back together is labor intensive and if the repair is not done well, the board will likely break again. In fact, when broken and then repaired boards do snap again it is often in a different area near the repair, as that area is actually stronger and denser than the surrounding original board. No matter how well the repair is done, it is heavy and adds a lot of weight to the area of the board where is was buckled or snapped. This means it will surf differently because it is weighted differently than before.
Like I said in the cons, when I break a board (I tend to snap one or two a year) the board is retired. The weight of the repair and the risk of a resnap in the waves I surf are not fitting. Most technical riders would agree with me, but for the new rider or someone who simply can’t afford a nice surfboard, sometime a ‘like new’ board with a snap or buckle repair is a great option. Plus, as long as the repair holds, the board can be resold easily at that low price to another beginner.
Over the years I have given away or donated several snapped boards to different people and villages in California, Central America and Indo – some of which are still being used today.
At OneWaveSurf, we repair two or three snapped boards a year and sell them at a great price. They are usually really clean boards except for the point where they broke or buckled. No one has notified me of a resnap yet.
Epoxy Note: Epoxy boards have an easier breaking point. Styrofoam is less dense than PU blanks and often they don’t have a stringer meaning epoxy boards break more often with less impact than a PU. However, bonding a stringerless epoxy board back together is considerably easier and does not off weigh the board as much as a PU snap repair.
Make informed decisions and get the best fitting equipment you can. Make friends with a good repairman or learn the skills yourself. Get out there and surf. OneWaveSurf is available to answer questions and show our stock of used boards nearly every weekend in the summer/Fall and on and off in the spring.