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Repairing SUP Board Dings

If you paddle a hard board, it’s likely you’ve put a ding in it before.  If you haven’t, don’t worry, eventually you will.  If you race, eventually you’ll experience a collision big enough to put a ding in your board that breaks the shell and exposes the core.  If you don’t race, no matter how careful you are, eventually you’ll hit something in the water or set your board down on something that will expose the core by puncturing the shell.  It’s inevitable.

These dings need to be repaired quickly or water will seep into the core and it will become waterlogged, and once the core has taken up water it’s really hard to get it totally dried out.  So, with that said, I’m going to share some tricks for making super easy, high quality repairs.  They are so simple that, quite literally, anyone can make them.  So, let’s get started.

What is a “ding”?

Let me be clear right from the start.  We’re talking about repairing dings, not making the type of major repairs required to salvage something from a catastrophe like a board flying off the roof of the car on the highway or getting folded in the surf.   As such, we might start by answering the question: what, exactly, is a ding?

A ding is a hole or a puncture in the hard, exterior shell of a board that exposes the foam core inside. Dings can be anywhere from a small puncture a few millimeters across to something much larger, like a crack up to a few inches long.  Video 1 shows an example of a ding that is a little over a half-inch across.  You can see that the exterior shell of the board has been totally punctured, some of the exterior shell is missing, and the white foam core is exposed.

Video 1

If this puncture is not covered immediately, water will enter and eventually begin to saturate the foam core.  This is something that you want to repair as quickly as possible.

Finding dings

If you’re in a collision, a ding like that seen in video 1 will usually be accompanied by a cracking sound as the hard, outer skin of the board is punctured.  If you hear that sound, there’s a really high probability that your board’s been punctured and needs immediate repair.  You’ll know that you’ve got to look for a ding as soon as you get off the water and it shouldn’t be too hard to find.

Sometimes though, you end up with a ding with no clue how you got it.  These can come from running over something in the water or by putting your board down on something.  One of my most recent repairs was to a ding I picked up by putting myboard down in the grass where a small, sharp, stone was laying hidden.  My board hit it at just the right angle to make a small puncture in the bottom.  These small mystery dings can go unnoticed for quite a while.  Often, the first clue you have that there is a ding is noticing water dripping out of the hole when your board is on the car or its storage racks.  By the time you’ve noticed it, the board has soaked up a considerable amount of water.

Clearly, it is better to prevent your board from soaking up water, so one of the good habits I encourage you to get into is wiping your board down after each paddle.  This was a habit I got into in my sprint canoe days and it’s one that I still do daily.  It helps get slime and grime off your board after a paddle and it gives you a chance to quickly inspect your board as you wipe.  It takes no more than a minute before you put your board on the car, and helps keep your car clean and free of drips from your board as well.  This is how I noticed the small ding I got from laying my board down on a small stone hiding in the grass.

So, you’ve found a ding

The first thing you’ll want to do when you’ve found a ding is determine how wet it is.  How much water has it soaked up?  Put the board up somewhere with the ding, if possible, being the lowest point.  Gravity should help any water that has entered the core drain out.  If the ding is fairly recent (and it is rare to have “old” dings if you wipe your board down every day), the foam core shouldn’t have absorbed much water.  You just want to get all the water that has entered the interior of the shell out before attempting to repair the ding. It must be as dry as possible before attempting a repair.

Leave the board to drain until there are no more drips coming from the ding and it appears completely dry before attempting any repair.  Depending on how much water has penetrated the ding, this could involve waiting a day or up to a week.

If you only have one board, don’t have time to immediately make a permanent repair, and don’t want to miss any paddling,then you can temporarily seal the ding with tape or a sticker.  I know a guy who tends to get a lot of dings and carries a roll of aluminum tape in his car.  It does a pretty good job of sealing the ding until a proper repair can be done.  I know other people who use stickers, and in the past, I have used electrical tape for small dings and packing tape for larger ones.  I want to stress that these are not permanent repairs.  Eventually your tape will begin to peel off or start to become porous, and water will start to enter the crack you think you have covered.  Water always finds a way.

Choosing an appropriate repair material

There are a lot of different options when it comes to the material to use for repairing dings.  You’re going to want some type of glue or resin that is fully waterproof when hardened and extremely hard (comparable to the rest of the board’s exterior shell).

Some glues or resins have names like “5-minute epoxy” and dry really quickly.  Try to avoid these if your objective is to make a quality, long-lasting repair.  These glues are comparatively soft when fully hardened compared to compounds that take longer to cure and invariably repairs with these glues do not last a long time.  They’ll eventually start to leak and then you’ll have to make the repair all over again, with the added headache of having to remove all of the old repair before laying up a new repair.

Most glues or resins you’ll use come in two parts – a resin and a hardener.  Try to avoid those that are not two part.  They don’t make for good permanent repairs either.  Ideally, you’re looking for something that is easy to work with and has a long enough “working time” that you won’t be rushed trying to lay the repair up before it starts to harden.  Some epoxy compounds are excellent in terms of repair durability, but they are runny and difficult to work with while making the repair.  Some of these offer the option of adding a thickener when mixing the two parts.  The thickener is usually a powder that you simply mix in to the glue, making it less runny and easier to work with in the process.  If you are using something like West System epoxy, you’ll want to add a little thickener to make it easier to work with.  If you don’t use the thickener the glue will be running around everywhere and dripping all over while you’re laying up the repair.  This is annoying and makes things a lot messier more difficult than it should be.

The best compound I have used is called Marine-Tex (video 2).  It’s a two-part glue that forms a relatively thick working consistency similar to putty.  It’s really easy to use, hardens like a rock and is really durable.  It’s available in most marine stores or on-line through Amazon.  I highly recommend taking the time to purchase or order some before starting your repair.  It will make things a lot easier at almost every stage of the process and lead to a superior repair.

Video 2

Do I need cloth/carbon to repair the ding?

In most cases, the answer to this question is no.  Unless the ding you’re trying to repair is really large, there are large patches to the original hard shell missing, or the structural integrity of the board has been compromised, you should not require any carbon fiber or cloth to make your repair.  All you’re basically doing is filling the ding.

Making the repair

You’ll want to make sure you’re well prepared before starting your repair job and know exactly what you want to do from step to step in your repair.  Here is a step-by-step list of things you’ll want to do from the prep work, mixing the glue, applying the glue and finishing the repair after the glue has cured.

1. Find a clean, dry working area.  Make sure the temperature is within the range for the glue use identified on the packaging, both for the lay-up and the curing.

2. Secure the board in such a way that it will not move and that the surface being repaired lays flat.  If you are fixing a corner surface, make sure the largest of the two surfaces is the flat one.

3. Get all the material you’ll need gathered and ready to go (video 3). Here is a list of what you’ll need:

• Sandpaper 200 grit
• Wet sandpaper 600 grit
• Sanding block
• Marine-Tex
• A mixing container.  A small aluminum foil pie dish works perfectly
• A couple of popsicle sticks or similar to use as stir sticks and to apply the glue to the board

• Scissors
• A roll of waxed paper
• Tape (electrical or masking)
• If the temperature is colder than suggested on the glue packaging you should add a hair dryer and a heating pad

Video 3

4. Prep the repair area. You’ll want to make sure the surface is clean and slightly coarsened. Gently sand the ding and the area around it with 200 grit sandpaper.  You don’t need to sand much, just enough to help the glue stick better to the surface (videos 4 and 5).

Video 4

Video 5

5. If there are any loose pieces in the ding after sanding, remove them.  Blow gently on the ding to remove any dust from the sanding. Video 6 shows what the ding looks like after sanding.

Video 6

6. Estimate how much glue you’ll need.  Err on the side of a little more rather than a little less when estimating, but try to avoid mixing far more than you need.  Glue, like everything else these days, is expensive.  Why waste it?

7. Follow the instructions for mixing the Marine-Tex.  You do not need to mix the whole container. Mix a smaller amount in the small pie dish and estimate the proportions of resin and hardener.  The proportions don’t have to be exact, so don’t stress about it, but the closer you mix to the ideal proportions the more working time you’ll have and the stronger and more lasting your repair will be when cured.  Using one of the popsicle sticks, mix thoroughly until the resin and hardener and completely blended. The texture when properly mixed should be quite thick and almost putty like.  One of the advantages of using Marine-Tex is this texture.  It makes it very easy to work with.  If it is runny, you’ve done something wrong (video 7).

Video 7

8. Get a dollop of glue on one of the popsicle sticks to apply to the ding.  I usually use a new stick to apply the glue in case there is some unmixed resin or hardener on the one I used to mix with.  If the air temperature is colder than indicated on the glue packaging, considering warming the area to be worked on with a hair dryer before applying the glue.

9. Apply the Marine-Tex to the ding.  Apply slightly more material than the size of the ding and push it into the ding so that there will be no air pockets (video 8).  Wait a minute for the glue to settle.  Remember, the board should be lying flat so the glue shouldn’t run anywhere.  After giving the glue time to settle, check to see if you need to add more.  There should be slightly more glue than there is ding, with surface of the glue sitting slightly higher than the rest of the board across the entire repair.  Make sure there are no air bubbles visible. If there are, use the popsicle stick to remove them and smooth out the glue, then wait again for the glue to settle.

Video 8

10. When you are satisfied that there are no air bubbles and there is enough material (but not too much) in the ding. Get the waxed paper.

11. Cut a piece of waxed paper than is considerably larger in area than the ding.  Tape it to the board on one side of the ding, making sure the tape is going to hold when you pull on the waxed paper across the ding.

12. Carefully pull the waxed paper across the ding so that the waxed paper is flat and flush with the board’s surface.  If you’ve used the correct amount of glue, you should see it flatten and spread out a little so that it is slightly wider in all directions than the ding is.  Check to make sure there are no air bubbles or creases in the waxed paper.  Hold the waxed paper tight with constant tension and tape the other side down to the board so that it is stretched, with a good level of tension across the ding.  Then stretch it out in the other directions and tape those edges down as well.   If you’ve done this step well, the glue will be flat and smooth and almost exactly level with the surrounding surface of the board.  You want the edges of your repair to have bled out a bit past the edge of the ding so that even after sanding it is completely sealed, but the bleed should not be excessive(videos 8 and 9).

Video 9

13. Let harden for a minimum of 12 hours.  Make sure the air temperature during hardening will be consistent with the temperature instructions on the glue packaging. If it is not, considering laying a heating pad on low over the repairwhile it hardens.

14. When you come back the next day, gently touch the repair through the waxed paper to make sure it is indeed hardened.  If it is, lift the tape at one edge of the waxed paper and carefully peel it back from the board, exposing the repair (video 10).

Video 10

15. The repair should be flat and pretty smooth and free of creases. You’ll be able to feel it as a very slightly raised bump on the surface of the board.  Assess how much sanding it will require to get the repair really smooth.

16. If the repair needs more rather than less sanding, put the 200-grit sandpaper on the sanding block and very lightly and carefully sand the repair.  You’ll want to be really careful as this sand paper will remove material really quickly.  It will also remove the surrounding finish on the board so try to be really careful and confine your sanding to the ding itself.

17. If you’ve done step 12 well, the repair should require little sanding and you should be able to start sanding directly with wet sandpaper.  But the 600-grit wet sandpaper on the sanding block.  Put just a little water on the sandpaper and begin to carefully sand.  600-grit will quickly damage the board’s finish as well, so be careful to confine the sanding to the repair and the margins of it.  Also, be careful you don’t remove too much material and re-expose the ding.  If this happens, you’ll have to go through the whole process again to reseal the ding.  Sand until the repair is smooth and as close to flush with the surrounding surface of the boardas possible. It should be hard to feel that there’s been a repair when you run your fingers over it.  (videos 11 and 12)

Video 11

Video 12

18. The last step in the process involves finishing the ding repair to your satisfaction.  Marine-Tex comes in white or grey.  If your board is white or grey and you’ve used the right color glue, you’re done.  If you board is a different color and you aren’t bothered by your repair showing, you’re done as well.  However, if your board is a different color and you want to try to hide the repair, you’ll need to paint it.   I have found a blue rust paint at a local hardware store that isn’t that far off the Starboard blue.  Just a light coating with the paint using a disposable foam brush makes the repairs on my boards much less visible.  You might have to shop around a bit to find a paint color that is a close match, but you should be able to find one. (video 13)

Video 13

19. After the paint has dried completely wet some ultra-fine grit wet sandpaper like 1600 to 3000 grit and very lightly sand the painted area.  You can’t press too hard or you’ll remove the paint.  You just want to sand enough to remove the “bump” at the edges of the painted area and remove any tiny bumps in the paint.

Repairing dings in your board is easy and there is no reason you can’t do it yourself.  You really should only consult a board repair expert when there is major structural damage to your board that requires a very complicated repair.

I am by no means an expert at board repair, but I have made a variety of repairs to my boards over the years that are almost undetectable (certainly by touch) and are long lasting.  Repairs I made as far back as 2013 are as strong today as they were just after I completed them.  If I can do it, you can do it too.  There’s a real sense of satisfaction you get from repairing your own board and the job you do will be done with more tender loving care than if someone else does the repair for you.  So, if you have a ding in your board, it needs repairing.  And who better to make that repair than you?

Happy paddling!


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