Ding tape is an unsung hero in the surf world. Not only does it work to seal off a ding in seconds, but it can be left on basically forever or easily removed to perform a proper repair at your leisure. For things such as hairline cracks that you’re just not totally sure are watertight, ding tape can actually be just as effective as a full-blown repair while being much lower impact to the board itself.
I use ding tape a lot, mostly because I can be pretty neurotic about watertightness. I tend more towards the “Hmmm, that hairline crack is totally gonna let water in,” rather than the “can’t see foam? Let’s get in the water!” mentality.
Whichever side of the board-care spectrum you land on, when it comes to making your surfboard watertight, it pays to be using the right stuff for the job, and really sucks to have used the wrong stuff. So in the interest of finding the best ding tape on the market, I pulled my old, beat-up Firewire Spitfire out of the closet and set about to make it watertight with a number of the most popular ding-tape options out there to see how they fared.
Read on for my favorite ding tapes, and a little bit more info on when you might choose ding tape over other surf-repair products.
What Are The Best Ding Tapes?
Least Noticeable: Elephant Seal
Best Value: Gorilla Tape
Best For Noses/Tails: Ding Zap
Strongest: Ding Tape
Best For Finboxes: Demand Surf Finbox Tape
Easy To Cut Patches: Phix Doctor Ding Tape
How Can I Tell If A Ding Is Watertight?
My general rule of thumb is that if I can catch the edge of a crack with my fingernail, there’s at least a chance it isn’t watertight. That’s usually enough for me to slap some tape on it, but as I said above, for most people that’s overkill. You can also try sucking on the ding to see if you get water or if you’re able to suck in air (try comparing to a different, un-dinged section of your board to see if there’s a difference). If you were just in the water, you can also wait to see if any salt accumulates around the edges of the ding as the board dries off. That’s a pretty surefire sign.
What Is Ding Tape Best For?
I prefer to use ding tape on the smallest of cracks up to small punctures. Generally, if the ding is such that putting a piece of tape on it would leave a bubble of air, I reach for the solarez instead. You can also use a bit of Solarez to fill the ding and then seal it all off with your favorite ding tape option. If you use a clear ding tape, the solarez will cure underneath it!
Can I Use Duct Tape To Repair My Surfboard?
You can, but in general I (and a lot of others) wouldn’t recommend it as the little fiber strings that criss-cross duct tape actually absorb water. Gorilla Tape (a tougher version of duct tape) works great and is mentioned below.
Should I Use Solarez Or Ding Tape?
First of all, ding tape is a whole lot easier to apply, and is easier to remove when you want to do a proper repair. Solarez and other UV-cure options also require the sun, so they don’t work as well on cloudy days. However, Solarez is better for pointy areas like the nose and tail of surfboards, as well as for deeper dings that need to be filled.
Why Shouldn’t I Use Wax To Repair My Surfboard?
Wax very rarely produces a watertight seal, and must be completely sanded or cut away before any type of repair is attempted, which usually means making the ding bigger. I never use wax to fix my dings.
Elephant Seal Surfboard Repair Film ($18.00)
What’s In The Package: Three pre-cut sheets of ding tape stickers, eight alcohol prep pads, 180-grit sandpaper, a cool sticker, and a plastic utility blade.
Pros: Thin, but super strong.
Cons: Pre-cut shapes aren’t always what I want.
I’m a big fan of Elephant Seal. Made up of a sturdy but thin tape, you’re barely able to see it or feel it when it’s on. It holds up well, and the edges haven’t peeled in the weeks I’ve had a couple of these patches on my board. The full kit is a godsend, the plastic utility knife is useful in keeping my greasy fingers off the underside of the tape and the included instructions make applying a piece of Elephant Seal a breeze.
The only downside is I like to be able to cut my own shapes to save tape and get just the right fit for my ding, so I do wish that was an option here instead of the pre-cut shapes Elephant Seal provides.CHECK PRICE ON elephant-seal
Gorilla Tape ($9.99)
What’s In The Package: A roll of tape.
Pros: Sturdy tape, a large quantity for a good price.
Cons: Not the most flexible.
I’ve been using Gorilla Tape for a while now and have had very little complaints. I love the Crystal Clear tape because it is sturdy, cheap, doesn’t stand out, and is easy to tear off a piece with the jagged edges (no scissors required), so I like to keep a roll in my car and use this for more temporary and quick fixes.
Gorilla tape also makes a black duct tape that is tougher and more flexible than the clear version. It is of course far more noticeable, and it also has those same strings that soak up water in normal duct tape, so it might not be the best, but I’ve never had problems with water getting into Gorilla duct tape as the adhesive makes a super powerful seal with whatever it sticks to. Then again, I might be fooling myself.
Gorilla Duct Tape
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Crystal Clear Gorilla Tape
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Dr Falcone’s Ding Zap ($12.95)
Best For Noses/Tails
What’s In The Package: Two 3.5 x 3.5-inch sheets of Ding Zap, two alcohol prep pads, a piece of sandpaper, and a cool sticker.
Pros: Super flexible, can adhere to any part of a surfboard.
Cons: Edges felt like they might be prone to peeling, especially over time. A little tricky to use.
This stuff is maybe the most unique product I tried for the review, and I really liked it. The tape comes in two square sheets sandwiched between a pair of backings. Peel off the one labeled “peel this side first,” stick it to the ding, and then peel off the other side leaving behind a very thin and stretchy layer of Ding Zap. The thin and stretchy material means it can be used for noses, tails, and other parts of surfboards that generally are tough to cover with normal tape, a massive win. Apparently, it’s also breathable in one direction, to let air and moisture out one way but keep water from getting back in.
It is a little tough to apply because of how thin and flexible it is, and the edges seemed a bit prone to peeling as said above, but so far so good. Overall, this is a really cool and innovative product that fills a very big gap in the ding-repair market.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Ding Tape ($12.00)
What’s In The Package: One roll of ding tape.
Pros: Strong, very durable and long-lasting.
Cons: Hard to tear.
Ding Tape is definitely the thickest and toughest option that I tried for this review. It comes in a nice convenient roll which is great for travel and cutting your own pieces. No frills, but none are needed as this is a great product.
One thing I didn’t like about this option is how it tears – tearing instead of cutting the tape tends to cause ripples which make it hard to get a proper seal when applied.CHECK PRICE ON JACK'S SURFBOARDS
Demand Surf Finbox Tape ($16.56)
Best for Fin Boxes
What’s In The Package: Three precut fin box tapes, a small scrub pad and an alcohol wipe
Pros: Precut designs are great for sealing up fin boxes.
Cons: Very specific use case.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated that “they do not have a version available for the pesky FCS1 fin plugs that are so prone to leaking.” They do, and it works great, our mistake for not being able to correctly tape a dinged surfboard!
These precut fin-box tapes are great for those annoying cracks that form around one one the many stress points of surfboards – the fin boxes, which are also pretty tough to fix. These patches are durable and perfectly cut to fit FCS 1 fin plugs, FCS Fusion, and FCS 2 fin boxes, and Futures. I tried them on a surfboard with FCS1 fin plugs, which are quite prone to leaking – especially after you kick them a couple times – as they are installed after the board is laminated. The ding sheets are super easy to install and align perfectly to cover up the small crack between fin plug and surfboard that is so prone to letting water in.
Demand Surf also makes a set of ding repair sheets that I got a chance to try out. They’re well-priced at $8.99 and come in a variety of shapes to fit rail outlines and hard to fix places. They’re sturdy, but not too thick, and can also be used to cover up unused fin boxes for less drag and more speed!CHECK PRICE ON PATAGONIA
Phix Doctor Ding Tape ($13.00)
Easy To Cut Patches
What’s In The Package: A few pre-cut sheets of ding tape and a pretty rad sticker (in larger packages).
Pros: Super durable.
Cons: A little stiff.
This stuff has been around for a while, and is trusted by many to keep boards watertight while traveling or for a quick fix that can last. The sheets are pre-cut to a useful size but can be trimmed down further to fit the size of ding you’re dealing with. Made of a very sturdy (although not the most flexible) material, this stuff is probably best for securing larger cracks on the body of your surfboard.CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.