My 7-Step Recycled Surfboard Cleanup Process

I love using old surfboards as my base for painting, but it comes at a cost because there's much that needs to be done before I can even start painting. First, I must find the right boards, and only then can I begin cleaning them up. It would be way easier if I just bought new boards that are all the same size and finish so my artwork would look more consistent. Instead, I'm dealing with old boards that come in different widths and lengths and have various tail and nose styles.

1. Removing fins

The surfboard can be displayed on a stand or hung on the wall, with 95% of cases favoring a vertical orientation. I paint the top side (deck) so that it curves outward from the wall. Leaving the fins on would hinder hanging it this way. Removing protruding parts makes the rest of the board cleanup easier. Fins can be unscrewed or, in some cases, need to be sawed off.

2. Patching

Every used surfboard will display signs of wear, like gouges, holes, and cracks. Minor, shallow areas can be fixed using filler, while larger areas require a sturdier filler like "Bondo." After filling, it takes several hours to dry before sanding can be carried out.

3. Removing the stabilizing pad

There are several ways to balance on a surfboard. A foam stabilizing pad helps to keep it from slipping but needs to be removed for the surfboard to become a painted surface.

4. Scraping off wax

An alternative way to stay on the surfboard is by using surf wax. Multiple layers of wax are required for effective grip. When a board is discarded and headed for the landfill, the accumulated wax buildup is substantial and requires extensive scraping for removal. As wax is not water-soluble, I use rubbing alcohol as a solvent to break down the wax layers.

5. Sanding

I have a passion for technology. While I could likely manage cutting fins off with a regular saw, sanding an entire board becomes much more efficient with the aid of an electric sander. I utilize both a circular sander and a vibrating sander in my process. Beginning with a coarse grain of 40, I progress to a fine grain, reaching up to 320. The smoother the sanding grain, the fewer visible coarse lines on the board.

6. Trash to Treasure

These are a lot of steps just to get to a clean board…but I think of the large carbon footprint that is saved from a landfill…and that really is what this is all about. It takes many steps to achieve a clean board and quite a bit of time, but when I consider the substantial reduction in carbon footprint from saving it from the landfill, It makes the effort worthwhile.

7. Priming – Preparing for Painting

Once the cleanup process is complete, the surfboard is ready for the priming coat. The deck surface is the first to be painted with a Primer Paint color, while the back remains unpainted since there will be additional sanding to remove hardened drips from the multiple resin layers.


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