When Not To Call The Ding Doctor…
No one is happier about the growth of standup paddling than ding repair people. Big boards, high roof racks, busy races and a new wave of beginners have led to a boom in the repair business. Our hats are off to those tireless masters of resin and masking tape. But that same boom in business means there's a good chance that your dinged board will gather fiberglass dust at the end of a long line of damaged sticks, waiting to be mended. Why not learn how to fix a few of those dings yourself? We don't mean major structural damage: any dent, crease or hole that exposes a significant amount of the board's foam or affects the fins or rails should probably be taken to a professional. But for average wear-and-tear, we offer you the following.
Virtually all standup boards are built with a core of polystyrene foam (commonly known as Styrofoam) and glassed with epoxy resin. Make sure you get epoxy resin, as polyester resin--used for the majority of traditional surfboards--dissolves polystyrene foam.
Along with epoxy resin, catalyst (hardener) and fiberglass cloth, most ding repairs will require masking tape, plastic or paper cup, razor knife, foam filler, scissors, sandpaper (rough grit and wet-or-dry for fine sanding) and if you're meticulous, some sort of acetone liquid for cleanup. Getting these supplies is usually easy: just go to your neighborhood SUP shop and pick up a pre-packaged ding kit.
Ideally, you'd have a specially designed repair rack that allows the board to be laid flat and up on its rail. If you don't, find a dry, shaded space and use either a low table, several milk crates, saw horses or a plastic storage tub to lay out the injured patient. Make sure the wound has had sufficient time to dry out (48 hours is usually good).
Epoxy resin takes much longer to dry than polyester, so follow the directions, vigorously mixing resin with catalyst (generally two parts resin to one part hardener) and setting it aside. Next, remove any loose glass or foam, then sand the area in and around the ding, scuffing it up for solid adhesion. If it's a tiny crack, you may not need fiberglass cloth. In this case, use the masking tape to create a shallow cup over or around the crack, making sure to angle the board (depending on the location of the ding) so that the resin won't leak out. Drip the well-mixed resin into the cup, making sure it covers the crack. Then step back and let the miracle happen. Give it a few hours, because you want to give the resin plenty of time to harden before gently lifting the tape and carefully sanding it flush to the surface of the board. Finish sanding with the wet-or-dry. This may not always be the prettiest ding repair, but it will get you back in the water quickly.
If it's a more serious hole, meaning shattered fiberglass and a glimpse of foam, you'll need to use foam filler and fiberglass cloth. Add enough of the foam filler (a white powder that acts as a thickening agent) to your resin mix so that it takes on the thickness of a smoothie. Set it aside. Then trim a piece of fiberglass cloth to cover the exposed area of the ding. Tape off the area around the ding and pour the resin mix into the ding so that it fills the concavity. Again, it's important to align the board so that the resin doesn't drip out. If it's a rail ding this might mean resting it on the ground, propped up against your stand. Once the ding is filled, lay the fiberglass over it and saturate it with the remaining resin. Let this dry thoroughly. Mix another small batch of resin, this time without the filler, and spread it over the now tacky fiberglass, filling in the weave of the cloth. When this dries completely, carefully sand the edges of the repair flush to the surface of the board, spruce it up with the wet-or-dry and get back out there.
Or you can just buy a tube of one of the numerous sun-cure epoxy resin products, gunk the gooey mess into the ding, smooth it out with a popsicle stick, set it in the sun, sand and get back in the water in a flash. These aren't pretty and usually don't stay watertight for long. But either way, you'll be in charge of your own destiny.
This article originally ran in our 2016 Gear Guide.