Innovation Session: Recycling A Broken Surfboard – Part 3

I stripped down the old broken board, shaped the foam into something new & now I’m ready to put the finishing touches on my recycled surfboard.

Surfboard artwork has always been a place for expression an individuality. From back when islanders would carve artwork into their giant wooden plans, to the pre-war era surfboards with paint to contemporary sticks graffitid with spray paint and Sharpie.

How a board looks shouldn’t affect how it rides – but I defend that it does. So much of how a session goes is built on momentum that the good vibes from the parking lot compliment to a paddle out conversation can all contribute to which waves a surfer paddles for and how they ride them.

I love having surfboards the get me stoked. Sometimes that is classic gems from another era I’ve refurbished. Sometimes it is bold colors. For this board I’m feeling excitable.


When I think about the surfboard I have in front of me I realize that it transcends decades.

Originally shaped in the 2000’s by Bill Stewart, a shaper & artist who’s work brought him fame in the 1980’s and who created the gift surfboard that was presented to Mikhail Gorbachev to celebrate the end of the Cold War in 1990.

The new shape is a Mini Simmons, a contemporary design modeled after the shaping principles of Bob Simmons who innovated in late 1940’s and 1950’s.

This foam tells a story 70+ years in the making.

Nothing is more appropriate to inspire the artwork on this new board than another board who’s story spanned 70+ years.

I am of course talking about the bright pink Hover Board of Back to the Future: Part II fame.


Looking at my rails, the shape isn’t too far off either. Lets get to work.

Taping & Painting

I’m using acrylic paint to do the artwork. I’ve used it before to color match ding repairs but I’ve never done a whole board. I’ve been warned that if there is too much paint, the glass won’t stick to the foam and the board will be ruined.

Traditionally, most boards are either airbrushed with color or pigment is added to the glass. I am hand painting this though so I’m going to dilute the paint with water to get a pretty light stain.



The first step is taping everything. Where the tape is, paint will not go, so I can create nice borders.



I’ve decided to take a few artistic liberties. The first one is the background color of the board. The ‘read’ one has a texture, which I don’t feel like doing, so I’m going to go for an average color of that section. It is notably darker as less bold than the pink in the stripes so I’ve mixed in a bit of grey.




You can see the pinks are slightly different. A second coat should help even more.



Here I peeled some of the initial tape and created new borders to paint the Green.



Unfortunately, I painted the green before the pink had fully dried so it bled a bit. Notice how clean the lines are where pink is bordered by white – the tape really keeps the paint out.




I didn’t want the black to bleed everywhere so I painted using a sponge instead of a brush. It actually worked pretty darn well though the color isn’t as quite as flat across the space and the lines aren’t as clean.



Here is the finished bottom.



Another area of artistic liberty. The top of the movie prop had some additional items including a Mattel logo & foot hold. I don’t care too much about those and like the flat design of the colors a bit more. I think the magnetic plates on the bottom are essential to sell the story, but the top details aren’t.









The final steps from my part are writing Hover Board in the yellow space & deciding what to do with the rails. The prop board had pink rails, but there is already a lot of pink on this board. I’m debating using the green or even leaving it white.

I’ll take the board to get glassed by a professional – glassing isn’t my favorite – it’s messy, toxic and mistakes are disastrous – that is one part I’d rather delegate.

I should have it back in a few weeks for a final update and test drive!

Innovation Session: Recycling A Broken Surfboard – Part 2

Picking up where I left off about a month ago – this weekend I continued to work on recycling my old broken longboard. The next step of the process was shaping the board. The foam was still pretty rough as you can see from the picture below. The top had a lot of soft spots and divots, both of which can ruin the long term resilience of the board.

The Shaping Room

Shaping a board is a messy job. As layers of foam are carved away using planers, files & sand paper, sticky foam dust escapes. The easiest way to have it all contained is to do it in a shaping room – a special room designed for shaping surfboards. Some of the key features about a shaping room that make them ideal are good lighting to highlight imperfections in the board, an air compressor to blow away the lose dust, a tape line on the back wall to check the level of the board and finally lots-and-lots of tools.

Some day I would love to have a shaping room shed in my back yard, but present day the easiest option was to rent one. A local surf shop has one for rent for $25 an hour. To give context, a board usually takes between 2-4 hours to shape so it isn’t super expensive.


The two things I had to do were change the foil and create the new rails. I didn’t get a good shot of the foil change so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Tweaking The Foil

Foil is basically the thickness pattern of the board if you look at it from the side. Since this came off of a broken longboard, the shape was thin up front and continued to get thicker the whole way to the back. That isn’t ideal for a surfboard, you want the tail to be thin to help with turning and water release. I took about an inch off of the bottom, gradually curving from the center.

While I did that I also smoothed the whole shape with sandpaper. You can see below that the foam looks much more pure after I took a few millimeters off.


New Rails

When it came to the rails I had two goals in mind; hard rails on the bottom and keeping as much foam as possible. Hard rails on the bottom help create a carving edge and maximize the surface area. I left them at 90*. For the top, I rounded everything off slightly.


Compare the image above to the previous rails. Quite different.


Fixing Dings

The final thing I had to do before painting was fixing the dings. There were a few spots that I had previously carved out for a ding repair when this was a longboard. I wasn’t able to shape around them, so I have to fix them. I planned on using Q-cell, the hardening substance I normally use to fix dings, but a shaper recommended I try spackle. Apparently Q-cell is so hard that sanding it down often ruins the shape of an unglassed board.

I’m still a bit unsure as to how this is going to work, but I spackled two major spots and a couple of little dings. I’ll have to sand everything smooth one final time before painting the blank.


Innovation Session: Recycling A Broken Surfboard

Her name was Cecilia. I bought her used from Stewart’s boardshop in San Clemente, CA on March 29th, 2010. A 10’6″ Regal model, custom shaped by the legendary Bill Stewart for another surfer. Ding repairs and yellowing spots showed the board’s age. It had clearly been well used by it’s previous owner. A good surfboard deserves no less.

A diamond in the rough when I found it, there were a few dings on the rails, but nothing I couldn’t fix. She ended up being a great board and together we enjoyed many of Southern California’s best longboarding spots.


In 2011, while surfing Huntington Cliffs, I stayed on the nose a bit too long and had to bail in the shore break. I dove off at the last second as the wave closed around me. When I rose to the surface I was staring at the rear half of my favorite longboard. It was still attached to my leg via the leash. The front half had washed onto shore.


What do you do with a broken surfboard?

There are only a few things you can do with a broken longboard.

  1. Try to put it back together. This option almost never works – the structural integrity is shot once a board snaps.
  2. Turn it into a decoration. Certainly a great way to add some style to a yard or dull room. Especially if you use it as a canvas for art like Amanda from reSURFace does.
  3. Send it to the landfill.
  4. Have RERIP pick it up & turn it into cement filler for a construction project.
  5. Try to salvage some part of it to create another wave riding device.

I’m going with option five.

One popular option is to turn the old board into a handplane like the guys over at Enjoy Handplanes do. I think I can actually get a board out of what I have left though. Lets do some quick math.

Measuring Foam Under Foot

The limiting variable in determining what type of wave riding device I can create is the amount of foam available. For those new to this; a surfbaord is basically a hunk of foam that is coated in a hard fiberglass shell. The foam provides floatation and defines the shape. The finer points of surfboard shaping theory will have to wait for another time, but basically, the more foam you start with the more options you have.

Based on my wight, fitness & skill, the minimum amount of foam I need in a board is somewhere around 25 liters. My smallest shortboard has about 27 liters and I have some hybrids in the 40 liter range. My shortest board is actually a 5’6″ Stewart Fartknocker that has around 32 liters of foam in it.

Cecila was 10’6″ and likely came in at around 85-90 liters. She broke nearly in half, so I’m guessing that the front piece has about 40 liters to it. So with some rough math, this seems at least possible.

The Mini Simmons

The type of board I’m going to attempt to shape is called a mini simmons. Inspired by the late Bob Simmons of La Jolla, California, these surfboards are known for their wide tails, low rocker and two low profile fins placed really far back. It is probably the perfect board to make out of a broken longboard, looking at the image below you’ll see it looks almost exactly like the front half of one.

Mini simmons are great boards for small waves. They tend to catch waves easier than a shortboard but maneuver more than a longboard. They are especially popular in places where the surf is inconsistent or mushy. Basically So-Cal. I’ve wanted to make one for a while and this seems like the perfect chance.

Thinking about templates, I’m hoping to have something that looks like the following image. Inspiration courtesy of


I might make a few small tweaks though, I like the look of mini simmons when the rails shoot straight off the back so I’ll probably have something closer to a 95 or 100 degree angle there. I am also fairly limited by the thickness I am starting with, so my foil won’t be perfect, I’ll have to give it a little kick in the back though as right now that is where the foam is thickest.

The Tear Down

Looking at what I have now, if I want to do anything different I’m going to have to start by getting rid of the old fiberglass shell. Fiberglass is extremely sharp, so we’re exercising caution here and using gloves, goggles & a particle mask.


The fiberglass peeled off nicely from the bottom. I was able to grab strips and just tear it off. There was hardly any affect to the foam.


The rails were another story. When I tried to get some leverage, the whole rail ended up coming off and it shredded the foam leaving a bit inside the fiberglass shell. Still, not too bad.


The next problem is something I didn’t account for; ding repairs. I mentioned earlier that when I got the board I had to fix a few dings. Well the material I use to repair a ding isn’t exactly the same as surfboard foam and I don’t think it would shape very well. So I removed those chunks leaving me with something that looks like a sharknado had attacked it.

My two options now are to shape around it and fill them in at the end or to take the board in a bit so the rails aren’t there.


When the board snapped, the break was pretty clean but it wasn’t perfect. I made a clean cut so I would have a base to work with. As I did so I revealed Bill Stewart’s masterful 60/40 rails.


I decided to take the surfboard down a bit so I could start fresh with new rails. I didn’t want to have to deal with all of the slopiness left behind from the tear down & former ding repair spots. Because of that the biggest board I’m going to be able to get out of this is likely land around 4’3″ x 18/5″. Much smaller than the 5’5″x 22.5″ in the example. Some rough math puts our volume down at about 35 liters now. Not perfect, but still ridable.

Here is the raw foam after taking the rails down a bit. Notice that part of one of the dings is still there. I wasn’t able to get rid of that, I’ll probably have to shape around it and repair it later.


And here it is after a bit of polishing. Still needs a little work up front, making symmetrical boards has never been my expertise.


Things remaining:

  • Tweak the foil (thickness)
  • Finish the rails
  • Figure out the fin situation
  • Design the graphics
  • Take it to get glassed