9 ding repair tips for the busy surfer

This story originally appeared in SURFER. Words by Justin Housman.

Do not put wax in dings like this one. Photo: Courtesy of SURFER

I don’t know about you, but for years now surf wax has been my go-to ding-repair tool. Mostly out of sheer laziness. I’m about to paddle out, I notice a little crack in the rail, I smush a little wax over the ding and paddle out anyway, intending on fixing the ding later (I never actually do). The wax fills the hole, it’s easy, seems to keep water out. Perfect, right?

I recently chatted all things ding with Alex Martins, Mavericks charger and wonderful ding-repair shop owner in San Francisco’s lovely, fogbound, rapidly gentrifying Outer Sunset neighborhood. I have a buckled semi-gun that I was inquiring about and he was doing such a good job of explaining the technical side of complex board repair, I asked him about humdrum daily ding fixes, the kind busy-ish, easily distracted surfers like myself are likely to take on.

Here are the highlights:

1. Don’t use wax.

Wax — no, never. Ever. Wax must be completely dug out of a ding to fix it properly. Resin won’t adhere to wax, so throwing a small layer of resin over a waxy ding is useless. To properly fix a ding then, you’ll have to cut out the foam that’s touched the wax, making what was maybe a small repair job much more complicated. Wax apparently doesn’t seal as well as I’d think, either, because Martins says boards with wax-filled dings often have foam rot. Oops.

2. Don’t use duct tape, either.

Ding-repair guys hate dealing with duct tape. Don’t use it.

3. UV-curing resin only goes so far.

Solarez or Suncure or pick whatever brand of quick, UV-curing resin you like. “Doesn’t really work,” Martins says. Not in the long term, anyway.

4. Stickers work.

Stickers can work in a pinch — “The really good stickers that are thick and hard to peel off.” He likes these for a super-last-minute stopgap if you don’t have time to deal with a ding.

5. Spackle is an option.

Spackle — yes, spackle — can be used to fill little holes in surfboard foam if you don’t have Q-cell or some other traditional filler.

6. Use resin filler.

Speaking of Q-cell, mix it thicker than you think you need to. It should resemble the consistency of toothpaste, which helps it hold the shape of the space you’re trying to fill. Too thin, and it’ll run and drip all over the place.

7. Be generous with fiberglass cloth.

The wider you distribute fiberglass cloth, the stronger your repair will be. For a buckled board, for example, Martins will use about a foot of cloth over the patched foam.

8. Prep work is key.

Nothing is more important than prep. Sanding, cleaning, properly mixing resin and catalyst. If you don’t prep well, you’ll half-ass it and be back fixing the same spot soon.

9. Surf trips are for surfing.

If you’re on a surf trip, don’t even worry about dings. “You already paid a lot of money to be there; just don’t worry about your board and make sure you get your waves,” Martins says.

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