What Are the Most Common Types of Surfboard Damage?
Your board can't remain perfect forever. It's not a matter of "if" it will get dinged, but "when". Fortunately, the most common ways to damage a surfboard are usually the least serious. Hint: Heat & UV exposure are the enemy.
Murphy's Law of Surfboard Dings
As Murphy's law states, if you ride a surfboard, it'll eventually get a ding. Maybe that's paraphrasing a bit, but you get the point. Surfboards aren't typically designed to be indestructible. And the longer you own one, the more likely it’s going to incur some damage.
When we're talking about the types of damage your board will suffer, it all comes down to probability. The entire universe tends to move toward "disorder" because order and perfection are simply unlikely occurrences. This entropy inevitably leads to your boards getting chips, compressions, buckles, sun damage, and all of the other not-so-fun stuff that all quivers have to face.
Which Types of Boards Are the Most/Least Durable?
One of the most salient problems in the surfboard manufacturing industry has always involved the balance between performance and durability. It is possible to make a nearly-immortal board, but it probably wouldn't be much fun to ride. This is because high-performance surfing mostly requires lightweight products. That's why foam, thin sheets of fiberglass or epoxy, and other easily damaged materials make up the bulk of surfboard manufacturing.
This being said, some types of boards are obviously more easily-damaged than others. It's also true that specific kinds of dings are more likely to occur with certain board materials and manufacturing techniques. One type of board might "never" buckle but will easily get pressure dings. Others might get yellow quickly but will survive a few hard knocks every once in a while.
PU vs EPS
Most surfboards are constructed using either polyurethane (PU) or expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. These foams are shaped into what's known as a "blank" and then covered with fiberglass, polyester, epoxy resin, or some combination of those to create a hard and non-permeable surface. Other strengthening elements such as stringers and carbon fiber wraps or rods can be used to increase durability and add stiffness to desired areas of the board.
Generally speaking, a standard PU board is going to be the least durable, but arguably the most flexible. As you start to swap out PU for EPS with epoxy resin, you get a stronger, lighter, and more expensive product. In the same vein, adding carbon fiber elements to the board will continue to increase the strength along with the price.
Pricing aside, the only real downsides to an EPS-Epoxy board lie in the time it takes to manufacture them and the increased complexity involved with repairing any damage. EPS foam is open-celled which means that it's highly absorbent. That open cell structure enables it to be lighter but requires immediate care once the board has been dinged in order to avoid water-logging. It can also lead to a higher price for a fixup at your local ding repair shop.
EPS-epoxy boards will usually stay white longer while accruing fewer cracks and minor dings. Adding carbon fiber elements to the design essentially provides another layer of armor for specific areas of the board. Still, the more layers of resin and other materials added, the stiffer and heavier your ride will become. Striking a balance between performance and durability that suits your style should generally be your main consideration.
The Most Common Types of Surfboard Damage
1. Pressure or Compression Dings
As we mentioned earlier, if you ride your board, you’re eventually going to damage it. The most common way is by placing consistent pressure on the surface of the board, usually caused by your knees, feet, or even your chest/ribs. EPS-epoxy boards have more give and are less likely to get foam compression dings. Even so, with enough riding, almost all boards will eventually cave to the pressure. The only way to avoid this is to get a thicker “glass job”, aka more resin, but that leads to a heavier and less flexible board.
2. Rail, Nose, & Tail Cracks
Cracks and chips can occur all over a surfboard but are much more common on the rails, nose, and tail. Believe it or not, these resin cracks almost always happen while transporting a board to and from the beach. Things like asphalt, truck beds, and other hard surfaces can create surfboard cracks with a relatively small amount of force or impact.
The older a board is, the more likely it will crack or chip. This is especially true if that board has been left in a car or over-exposed to the sun over and over again. Leaving your board in overheated conditions will cause the fiberglass to expand and contract, eventually weakening it over time. Fortunately, superficial cracks and chips typically won’t let water in and therefore remain a mostly cosmetic defect. Still, it’s always good to do a double-take before you place your board down anywhere and try to store it in a cool, shady place whenever possible.
Yellowing is an almost purely cosmetic issue, but it’s one that gets a lot of attention from surfers who take pride in their quivers. Both resin and foam are unstable materials that eventually degrade and yellow over time. Again, exposure to UV light and heat is the primary cause of their degradation. A typical glass job will usually include a UV filter additive, but as this breaks down the foam is left exposed and both elements start to yellow. This kind of yellowing won’t cause any problems, but it does make your board look a little less pretty.
On the other hand, darker localized yellow spots can be a sign of water damage. You’ll most likely be able to find a deep crack or ding near the center of these spots which would account for the water build-up.
Heat is the killer of all boards. When resin and fiberglass are exposed to enough heat, they can separate from the foam and leave ghastly bubbles on your board. These delaminated bubbles can be fixed with some “surfboard surgery”, but the scars will almost always remain. Delamination is one of the only types of surfboard damage that occurs more commonly with epoxy resin boards, but PU boards are certainly not immune. The simplest way to avoid delamination is to always store your board in cool and shaded areas. Even a few hours in a car can lead to the dreaded delamination, plus most likely a melted wax-job.
5. Snaps, Buckling, & Fin Box Damage
These types of surfboard damage are mostly caused by user-error or seriously heavy waves. Many novice surfers have a difficult time gauging how deep the water is as they ride toward the shore. It’s easy to see how deep your actual board is, but those forgotten fins are jutting out below and are being forced to glide over rocks, reef, and hard sand. To be fair, even experienced surfers will occasionally mess this up on some particularly shallow shore break. A good rule of thumb is to always pull out of a wave or bail while you’re still sure that there’s enough water beneath you.
Buckling usually occurs on the rails of a board and is basically the precursor to a fully snapped or broken ride. The fiberglass and resin are essentially a protective shield for the soft and easily warped foam below. When that shield incurs enough force, particularly in a lopsided or uneven way, it’ll crumble and allow the foam to crease or break. This type of surfboard damage is usually the result of bailing in heavy surf, but it can happen with exceptionally forceful pumping or the unfortunate collision with sand, reef, or other obstacles.
A Delicate Piece of Fragile Glass & Soft Foam
There are a million and one ways for a board to get dinged. The most common types of surfboard damage involve heat & UV exposure, but obviously excessive pressure and force are a close second. You should try to treat your board like a delicate piece of fragile glass and soft foam because that’s essentially what it is.
Still, regardless of your efforts, your board is always going to get damaged at some point. The best way to prolong the life of your boards and keep them in tip-top shape is to repair any damage as quickly and efficiently as possible. Click here to learn about Surfcare’s board protection plans that provide affordable care for those delicate loved ones in your quiver.
If it’s too late and you’ve already damaged your board and want to attempt repairing it yourself, try reading our complete guide on How to DIY Ding Repair.