SUP Maintenance

by Sherri ~ January 19th, 2015. Filed under: Stand Up Paddleboarding.

One of the attractions of stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is the simplicity of it all. Grab your board, paddle, and life jacket and get out on the water. That is mostly true, but boards can be a bit pricey and if you want yours to last, there are some simple steps you need to follow. (For those of you with inflatable SUP’s, much of the information on delamination will not apply. You can skip ahead to the information about the fin, transportation, and cleaning.)
The biggest issue that SUP owners need to be concerned about is “delamination” of their board as this is the SUP equivalent of totaling your car. Most SUP’s are made with a foam core covered with fiberglass and epoxy resin or some other composite material. In a case of delamination, the outer material of the boards separates from the foam core of the interior. The two primary causes of delamination are usually excess heat or water that has gotten inside the board. Most of the maintenance suggestions that follow are intended to prevent your board from delaminating.
Keep your board out of the sun when you aren’t paddling.
It may seem odd to hear this suggestion for a piece of gear that is made to be used out on the water, preferably on sunny days, but the heat of the sun can cause some serious problems for your SUP. As long as the board is on the water, the internal temperature is being kept in check by the temperature of the water. Once on land, the air inside the board will begin to heat up quickly. Many boards have EPS foam cores. At 150 degrees Fahrenheit, this foam will begin to outgas and this can cause delamination. Also, the rising temperatures will cause any air inside the board to expand. Your board should have a vent cap or some system to prevent the board from cracking as this internal pressure builds up. However, if you aren’t caring for your board properly, the vent cap may not be working as it should and you risk serious damage to your board.
Once you are off the water, get your board into the shade. If you use a carry bag to protect your SUP when transporting it, keep in mind that putting your board inside the bag is not the same as getting your board out of the sun unless you have a board bag that is specifically made to reflect the sun’s heat. Some bags are only intended to protect your board from dings and scratches and may actually cause the board to heat up more if left out in the sun.
If you can’t get the board out of the sun right away, at least turn it upside down. The shiny hull will reflect more of the sun’s energy. If left right-side-up, the darker traction pad will likely absorb the sunlight and create more heat, not to mention that the UV radiation will tend to degrade the foam traction pad over time.
Keep water from getting inside your board.
If your SUP has any dings, cracks, or scratches that are more than surface deep, don’t use your board until you get them sealed or repaired. Water getting inside the board, especially with the addition of the sun’s heat, is a recipe for almost certain delamination.
Many composite boards have some sort of vent cap to allow excess air pressure to be safely released. Always check to make sure the vent cap is securely tightened before going out on the water since you are often instructed by the manufacturer to loosen this cap after paddling to make sure that pressure does not build up when the board is off the water. The better boards will come with a vent cap that has a Gore-tex membrane to allow the air and water vapor to be released from the board, but prevents water droplets from getting in. The general recommendation is to replace this Gore-tex membrane every year to prevent wear or tear of the membrane that would allow water to get into the board.
Fins can be kind of expensive. “Cheap” fins may be about $25 and many cost well in excess of $50 each. Leaving the fin in the board at all times just means that it is more likely to get broken and need to be replaced. When you are just leaving the board for a few minutes between rides and don’t want to take the fin off, flip your board upside down. Not only will it keep the board cooler as suggested previously, but you are much less likely to have someone step down on the board and break the fin.
When mounting your board, always make sure that the fin is in water that is sufficiently deep that it will not get pushed down into the bottom of the lake/river/ocean. The weight of a person can easily break off the tip of the fin if there is insufficient clearance between the lake bottom and the fin tip.
The other problem to be concerned with is that you may not only break the fin, but you might also damage the fin box. This is an extremely expensive repair, and in some cases may not even be repairable. It only takes a few seconds to install and remove your fin, so it just doesn’t make sense to leave it in place.
After reading this far, it should be apparent why your SUP should be transported upside down. You don’t want the traction pad exposed to the sun and having the hull-side-up will keep the interior of the board cooler.
If you are stacking two or more boards, it is obvious that you will need to remove the fins in order to do so, but don’t be tempted to leave the fin on if you are only carrying one board. Those stones that crack and chip your car’s windshield can easily chip and damage the edges of your fin, especially when driving at highway speeds.
However, there is a dilemma regarding the issue of removing your fins during board transport. While you don’t want to damage a fin, the fin can help prevent your board from flying off your car. You’ll want to have your board with the fin toward the front of the vehicle. If the board would start to slide backwards on the roof as you are driving, the fin would catch on the straps preventing it from sliding completely off the roof. At least if you have the back edge of the fin facing the front of the car, you will avoid getting dings in the leading edge of the fin which is the edge that has the greater impact on board performance.
When stacking two or more boards, it is recommended that you put a towel or some other pad between the boards to prevent damage to the board or wax from the hull of one board getting on the traction pad of the board above.
Be careful not to overtighten the straps as this can cause pressure dents in the board. When the board is going to be on your roof rack for a longer period of time, you may want to release the tension on the straps while the car is parked. Just remember to retighten the straps before you hit the road again. The wider the cam straps that are used to secure the boards, the more surface area the pressure will be distributed over reducing the likelihood of pressure dents.
It is also a good idea to use nose and tail tie-downs if at all possible. There is a lot of surface area to catch the wind when transporting your SUP. Securing the nose and tail of the board to the front and rear bumper of your vehicle reduces the possibility of the board sailing off the rack and it reduces the stress on the board itself which could cause a crack in the fiberglass and/or foam core.
After every use, make it a habit to rinse off your board well with fresh water. This is mandatory for those who paddle in saltwater. Salt can corrode even stainless steel hardware on your fin, leash cup, and bungee attachment plugs. Salt residue holds moisture, so rinsing your board with freshwater will actually help it dry out better between uses. But even those of us who paddle in freshwater have to be concerned about preventing the transportation of invasive species to other bodies of water. Not to mention, who wants to have bits of mud, algae, and slime caked on their sexy SUP board?
When you do get small marks and scratches on your board, you can try using products like Simple Green to clean the traction pad on your deck, or Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to get black marks off the board itself. As always, do a small test on the material to make sure that it won’t cause any serious damage to the finish of your board or the foam on your traction pad before doing any wholesale cleaning of your SUP.

I’ll address the issue of storage in a separate blog post in the future.

For more information on SUP maintenance and repair, look for my talk on the Proper Care and Feeding of Your Boat/Board at Canoecopia 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin this March.

See you on the water!


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