Surfboards are way more fragile than most of us could think.
Yes, fiberglass surfboards have a wooden stringer in their foam core and epoxy boards are known for their super-strong glassing – there’s still a long list of unseen mishaps that can damage your surfboard. Have a look at some of the possible scenarios, and how to avoid them.
1. Take extra care when handling the surfboard
It takes time to get used to any surfboard dimensions which means it is way too easy to hit some occasional walls, doors, etc that can lead to serious damage. Be gentle when placing the surfboard on the ground, or when standing up.
- Use a padded surfboard cover for transportation.
- Don’t load anything heavy or sharp on top of the board.
- Watch where are you going!
2. Don’t stand on a fiberglass/epoxy board that’s placed on the ground
Surfboards are designed to be submerged and ridden on top of the moving water.
Yes, sand might have some give to it, but you should only step on a surfboard in deep water to prevent the fins and board from touching the ocean floor. Many beginner surfers might want to step on the board just for fun or to see “how does it feel”, please don’t!
You can see surf schools practicing pop-ups on the sand, but they are doing it on soft-top surfboards. The bottom of the soft-top (+ PU & EPS) surfboard is slick for a reason – to reduce drag on moving water.
- Don’t step on a surfboard that’s on the ground.
- It takes only a small rock to puncture the bottom of a soft-top surfboard.
3. Avoid riding all the way to the shore
Touching the bottom of the ocean with fins or with any part of the surfboard can lead to serious damage, instantly.
Whether it will be rocks or sand that can damage the fins and the board, it’s a mistake many beginners tend to fall for. Yeah, we get it – it’s easy to get carried away and you want everyone to see that you can surf or you simply want a stylish outro to your surf sessions.
4. Don’t leave the surfboard out in the sun
UV rays damage the board over time.
Make sure to cover your board from direct sunlight as much as possible. Excessive UV rays ruin the outer layer of your fiberglass or epoxy surfboard in the long run.
Whenever you are at the beach, make it your best practice to ride place a towel or something to cover the board. You can place the board upside down – but then all the small particles of sand will stick to your surfboard wax (wax + sand + full bodyweight = scratches).
- Cover your board in the car – windows don’t protect any UV rays.
- Keep your surfboard in a cool and shaded spot.
- Use a cover bag or a surfboard sock when going to a beach for the whole day.
5. Avoid overtightening surfboard on roof racks
Tension straps should have paddings as well!
Use proper set-of roof racks and cover bags. When you have to add two or more boards on top of each other, make sure to use extra padding under the tensions straps. The amount of tension you need the board to be secured is quite close to where pressure dents appear.
6. Clean your surfboard after each use
To prevent saltwater from drying on the board.
Saltwater is known for its drying quantities. Add small particles of sand, dried-up salt, intense sunlight, and you are guaranteed to reduce the lifespan of your surfboard. Check if there are public showers at your local surf break, or simply rinse off the board in your backyard (or why not in the shower?). It’s a habit every surfer should practice and you don’t have to get too carried away with it.
7. Look out for other surfers in a busy line-up
Pressure-dings are inevitable, but getting hit by a surfboard is another huge danger to surfing. Over time it is easy to get used to the strength and capabilities of your surfboard, but forget how fragile they really are. Elbows, legs, and even the head can put serious dents to a surfboard that go unnoticed during an intense surf session.
- Dents (like shown in the image below) tend to appear out of nowhere.
- Keep a safe distance from others around you.
- Keep your eye out for sudden, bomber waves.
8. Clean off the old wax from time to time
Small dents go unnoticed under the layer of wax, therefore it is recommended to remove the old wax to examine the whole deck for damages. Although the surfboard wax does a great job preventing the water from entering the core, it takes a microscopical dent which can lead to a much bigger problem in the long run.
After a new layer of wax, your board not only looks and performs better but it’s your wetsuit that stays cleaner as well.
9. Fix your board professionally
During a good-quality swell or busy holiday, one might get carried away with constant surfing and leave repairs as a secondary task. The health of your surfboard is one of the most important factors that needs constant care. Stay up to date with repairs and if needed, act as soon as possible.
- When you notice sudden damage that reaches the foam core – get to the shore as soon as possible.
- Let the board dry out completely.
It takes ages for the water to leave the foam core – from 48hours up to 2 weeks depending on the climate. Leave the damaged area on the bottom so that the gravitational mass would let it leave from the core faster.
- When you want your surfboard repaired professionally – take it to an expert.
*New epoxy boards are very dense which prevents any water from entering the core.
Read more – Surfboard Materials.
10. Make sure the leash string is adjusted to the right length
In order to protect the rails from damage, especially on a fish-tail surfboard, make sure that the leash plug rope is adjusted to the right size. If it’s too long – the rope is going to eat out the rails on the surfboard. When installing a new leash string between the tail plug and leg rope, you can re-tighten the knot and let the edges burn & so they’d melt together. This prevents the knot from coming undone.
11. Use proper wetsuit boots/reef boots
A rubber sole is a way to go.
Make sure to use adequate surf shoes or wetsuits boots for surfing. Some diving/fin boots are also sold under the name of “wetsuits boots” that might not suitable for surfing.
12. Avoid paddling to a heavy break zone
Low tide close-outs and heavy break zones can be fatal to your surfboard. Make sure to keep your EPS / PU surfboard away from break-zone where a massive wave can snap your board.
If you still want to go in – get yourself a beater surfboard for that!
13. Watch where are you going – in & out
We have all seen videos of surfers jumping off from sketchy cliffs to reach the waves faster, or even worse – stumble upon rocks when trying to get out. We can all agree on the fact that risk often equals the reward, but please evaluate your skills and commitment. It is not about your board, but for your own safety as well.
Surfing is a sport that forces us to learn about patience, commitment, and to go with the flow. I get it – each person has to learn through their own experience and this article is written by ‘someone’ who has a spare for a spare, but hopefully, this guide helps to round some sharp edges.
I created Nulltuul to share my experience, research and analysis with other surf enthusiasts out there. If I'm not surfing on my travels - I like to photograph waves, surfers, and the surf lifestyle in general.