Surf Science: Dings And Things

Dings And Things
What’s worse than breaking a board? Fixing it.

Words: Mike Cianciulli
Photo: Taras (courtesy Global Glassing)

Dings come in all shapes and sizes, and unless you work on boats for a living (which is where the original do-it-yourself kits spawned from), chances are you’re left scratching your head when you walk into a surf shop and are greeted with upwards of twenty different surfboard repair products. As board materials continue to evolve, repair products mirror that expansion.

The quintessential ding solution is the all-inclusive “Ding Repair Kit,” containing resin, Q-cell (the filler), cloth, sandpaper, etc. These kits require a fair amount of precision and work, including cutting, mixing, and extensive sanding to do the job right. This typically is the most labor- and time-intensive repair option, but it’s also probably the most reliable because it’s the closest match to the materials already found in your board. For big bang-ups, this is the call.

From there, a favorite is solar-activated resin, which comes in a small tube. You can get it formulated for both epoxy and poly boards, and it cures within five minutes in direct, strong sunlight. This resin, depending on the specific product, often contains fiberglass bits to give it consistency and pliability. This option cuts down on the labor and time and can have you back out in the water quickly. And for shallow dings, it works well. But for a long-term solution, a more thorough repair will be needed down the road.

And the speediest solution of the lot is the increasingly popular putties, which get you back in the lineup almost as quickly as an old-fashion sticker job. It’s basically a two-part, mix-in-your-fingers putty that, when combined, forms a hard plug for holes. And it even cures in the water. But like the sun-activated resin, its continuing protection isn’t as effective and the putty can break apart after a while and take in water.

Picking the right materials is important. Using polyester resin on an EPS blank will eat away at the board’s core. Typically, EPS blanks are glassed with epoxy resins and polyurethane blanks use polyester resin.

Ding repair is truly a science, and for serious gouges, chances are you won’t get a perfect repair on your first attempt. “If the preparation isn’t right, it won’t last and may take in water,” says Walter Pinto of Walter’s Ding Repair in Oceanside, California. Once you’ve mastered the resin-to-catalyst ratio and the subtleties of laying up fiberglass patches, sanding things flush and feathering the repair, you’ll be master of your surf craft. The bad news is that it takes a lot of practice—and therefore dings—before you get there.

And even after you’ve become seasoned in the art of amateur ding repair, some jobs are still better left to the experts. “When there’s a profound ding on the rail in the middle third of the board, it definitely needs [serious] structural repair,” says Eva Hollman, the “Queen Of Fix” who recently topped 5,000 recorded repairs on severely busted boards.

So study, practice, and know a skilled board doctor, just in case. Your stick may just live to shred another day.

Originally published in July, 2007 Issue of Transworld SURF.