How to Paint a Surfboard, Skimboard, or Wave Riding Vehicle…

Painting surfboards is something I really enjoy. Don’t get me too near a blank board, otherwise, it’ll be marked up like a train cargo box.
Here’s a board (I sold it long ago) I painted. It’s a CODA 7’2″ epoxy funshape:

I’ve found epoxy boards are much easier to paint after it’s glassed. Otherwise, I’ve found it’s better to transfer images onto rice paper to be laid up under the fiberglass during the glassing process.
When selecting a board to paint, choose a board that is a beater you want to have fun with, or if it’s one of your regular quiver, choose an “out-of-season” board, since this project may require weeks. The board above took me two weeks to paint just the deck, so it was out of commission for a while.
The first step in any board painting process is to clean, clean, clean the board- ALL of it. If the board has wax, scrape it all off- not just the area you’re going to paint if you’re not painting the whole board.
After scraping thoroughly, use a “pickle” (or this project) to clean the wax bits off, and use some gloves, mask, a fan and some acetone to carefully get the remainder of the wax residue off. I cannot stress this enough. Take your time and clean the board well- it will be worth it if you’re putting some serious time into this, and you will. EDIT 11/9/12: Non-acetone nail polish remover works well too if you are nervous about damaging the glass.
Once you think it’s clean, go over it again- check the rails- those always get missed, but your sealant won’t.

Cleaning and safety supplies:
Mask, gloves, acentone, pickle/foam dust ball, scraper

For this project, I picked up a skimboard/paipo (it’s a little heavy for a skim) for $3 at a garage sale. I was in good condition, and the top already has some traction all across the deck.

Deck side of the board, yellow traction
Wood bottom of the board. Says “Boogie Board” in black.

Of course, I have cleaned the bottom of the board well- the entirety- to get rid of dust and grime, no wax in this case, thankfully.
For paint, I like using Painters’ paint pens over Sharpie’s paint pens. I just find them to be more opaque and more like paint. I’m also using some spray on gloss glaze. This will help make the surface smooth as well.

Paint pens and Spray on gloss

Before I start, I get out a scrap piece of wood to start my pens flowing and I also use it as a palette during painting.

My scrap wood palette.

When I’m painting, I try to build up the layers and let them dry in between instead of trying to smear them together. Most paint pens have a true paint consistency, so if you want to blend with some precision, keep a paintbrush ready. Otherwise, other pens, like regular Sharpies, are ok, but are dry and don’t really build up opaquely, which I don’t like, since I like the art work to stand out without having to go over it again and again.
This skimboard/paipo thing had “Boogie Board” written on it. Poor board, it screamed, “but I’m so much more, don’t label me!”. If only surfboards could talk…
For this, then, I wanted to paint over the label with a motif. I thought a touch of the Echinoderms would be in order.
I did start with using the Sharpie Paint Pens for the main star shapes- I was not thoroughly impressed with the paint, like I said before, so this is why I used it as a first layer.

First layer

I let the stars dry for a few minutes so I wouldn’t smear the paint. Every layer I do this- I make sure to let the paint dry or I can drag paint where I don’t want. I also use the scrap wood to keep the paint pen flowing. If the paint pen starts to dry a bit, it can actually scrape up your last layer. Sometimes, I’ve even put sealant between each paint layer, but it depends on the project.
Here’s a series of the paint work:

The thing I have to remember is not to go overboard. It’s hard, especially when you’re critiquing your own work.
I set up a work surface on a tarp with two sawhorses with a large scrap piece of wood covered with a tarp to protect my sawhorses. I set this up in the garage so there would be minimal dust and particles kicked up to get into the sealant. You can also make a makeshift “spray booth” with a large cardboard box on it’s side.

Working area setup

Now, it’s time for sealant. I used a Krylon “Triple Thick” clear glaze gloss sealant. I like this stuff, and it makes a nice looking finish. On the 7’2″, I used SEVEN layers of sealant, and didn’t lose any paint even after surfing it and waxing it, leaving it out in the sun, etc. The weight difference is negligible.
Remember to find a place that won’t kick up dust and particles, and WEAR a MASK!

Sexy and I know it….

I spray in very light layers- this is important, since you don’t want to bubble up and mess up your paint job. I spray the WHOLE bottom so there’s an even coat. I’ll spray from one direction, then after waiting 5 minutes or more, I’ll put another coat from a different direction. Since this art is on the bottom, I’m going to put a lot of layers so it can scrape sand without the paint job coming off.
I did about 4 light layers with around 20-30 minutes, and let it dry for several hours. I lightly wiped down the board again to get rid of dust, then I did this again with 3 more layers. After about 24 hours, if I’m happy with the coverage, I’ll wipe off any dust and spray again. Yes, it seems like overkill, but I’ve seen a lot of boards with great artwork that is tragically chipping off since they were not sealed enough for real use.
Here’s the finished product:

I’m not a skimboarder- I tried 10 years ago and I was the afternoon comic entertainment for the tourists of Cocoa Beach.
If someone needs a starfished paipo/skimboard- here locally- let me know. I always enjoy a good barter involving Diet Coke…… 😉

3 thoughts on “How to Paint a Surfboard, Skimboard, or Wave Riding Vehicle…

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