A GUIDE TO FIXING MINOR SURFBOARD DINGS WITH PRO BRIAN EBERT BY NEAL KEARNEY
The bothersome thing about surfboards is that they are fragile, despite their layers of glass and foam. If you use a surfboard on a regular basis, there’s a good chance that, sooner or later, you’ll come face to face with a dreaded ding. Whether it’s a run-in with another surfer or collision with exposed reef or rocks, the promise of dings, dents, and buckles lurks behind every session.
These pesky damages come in all shapes, sizes and varieties: your standard rails cracks, pressure dings, gouges, tail cancer, and buckles and breaks, just to name a few. Even the tiniest dings, if left untreated, can waterlog your once-pristine Channel Islands Flyer into a Yellow Submarine.
Some dings, like complete breaks, buckles and broken fin boxes, are extremely difficult to fix on your own, in which case it’s best to bite the bullet and call in the pros. However, smaller dents, cracks, and punctures can, with the right methods, be quickly fixed yourself—especially with the five easy steps outlined below by Brian Ebert, the dingmaster behind BE Sanding and Ding Repair.
STEP 1: ASSESS
The first step in any ding repair is to examine the damage and figure out what kind of tools and materials you’ll need to get the job done. For example, a rail crack may require only a simple resin glaze, while a puncture or hole may call for a bigger investment in materials. Ebert stresses the importance of having all of the necessary items before you start any repair. Supplies such as acetone, razor blades, tape, gloves, a 2-inch brush, and sandpaper (the 100- and 220-grit variety is sufficient for basic repairs) can be purchased at hardware stores. You’ll also need specific, harder-to-find materials like fiberglass (4- or 6-ounce cloth), squeegees, sanding resin (for large-scale dings, laminating resin is a better option), catalyst, and Q-Cell filler, all of which can be found at Freeline Design Surf Shop, located on 41st Avenue.
“Don’t forget your Dixie Cups for mixing resin and Q-Cell,” adds Ebert. “Make sure you get the plain white, paper-based ones, not the plastic ones.”
STEP 2: PREPARE
Next, it’s time to prep the ding. The site of the damage must be dry, otherwise the repair will not hold. A clean working area is also important. Ensure the surface area around the ding is clean and devoid of any wax or debris and scuffed up with 120-grit sandpaper to create a better bonding surface when applying the fiberglass. Cut away any damaged glass or foam with a razor blade to ensure that there’s no delamination or soft spots. If left unattended, these will remain under your finished product and cause you more trouble down the line.
STEP 3: FILLER
If your ding is larger than a quarter, you’ll need to use Q-Cell, a filler substance that, when combined with resin, acts as a substitute for any foam that may have been damaged. If you are going to use Q-Cell, remember to use catalyst even if you’re working with UV resin, as it will not dry properly. When you mix the Q-Cell with the resin and catalyst, Ebert says to keep adding the Q-Cell until it reaches a thick peanut butter consistency. “If you do it that way you will not have to tape it off to make a reservoir and it will make less of a mess for you to clean up later,” he explains.
When your filler is ready, use a Popsicle stick to dab it into the void. Fill it so that there is a tiny bulge that rises over the surface of the board. (It will shrink as it dries, and if you under-fill it you will have to do it again.) Once it dries, use your 100-grit sandpaper to sand it down lightly until it is flush with the rest of the board.
STEP 4: GLASSING
After you’ve filled the ding and let it dry, sand until the original shape of the board is obtained. This takes patience and a careful eye. Leave the filler slightly below the original surface of the board to allow room for cloth and resin. Use the sandpaper to rough up the area (approximately 1 ½ inches) around the ding.
Now, apply your fiberglass cloth. Cut the desired shape out of the cloth (enough to cover the surface of your ding) along with a second piece that is about 75 percent of the size of your first piece. Now place the layers of cloth over the ding and, using a squeegee, apply enough resin to the cloth so that it’s completely saturated. Use your squeegee to get rid of any excess resin—again, the less resin on the ding, the easier it will be to sand.
STEP 5: HOT COAT AND A FINAL SANDING
After the cloth has dried completely, lightly sand down the ding, concentrating on the outer edge of the cloth and just enough of the center of the ding to make it slightly rough. Be very careful: if you sand through the cloth, your repair job won’t be watertight. Now you’re ready to hot coat the ding, which simply means coating it with a final seal of sanding resin to create a smooth surface. Ebert notes that although this is the simplest part of your repair, it is the most important. Cover the ding fully with resin and then use a 2-inch brush to apply it on in strokes, once in one direction and then again diagonally, making an X. After it has dried, your last task is to lightly sand the ding until the desired smoothness is obtained. Finally, it’s time to admire your handiwork and get back on your refurbished board.
Don’t forget—if you feel like you’re in over your head, call in a professional like Ebert to fix the board for you. Ebert can be reached at (831) 325-5487.Ding repair whiz Micah Culbert, Ebert’s assistant at BE Sanding, demonstrates his boss’s steps.