Why Is My Surfboard Turning Yellow?

yellow surfboard discolored

Nothing is worse than a nice, white surfboard turning a dingy off yellow color, but it’s a completely normal process that happens with age. Discoloration of your surfboard can be attributed to a number of factors, but with the right care, these factors can all be mitigated.

So why do surfboards turn yellow? And why do some boards turn yellow quickly, while others don’t? Are there any materials used in the making of surfboards that prevent this discoloration all together?

These are questions that we’re going to attack head-on to keep you informed on what to expect when a fiberglass surfboard is purchased and how you can better take care of the board to prevent unwanted yellowing.

The Main Culprit, UV Radiation

Anyone that has been out in the surf or beach for an extended amount of time can attest to the power of UV radiation from the sun. On our skin, we get sunburns.

man on the beach sun burned

On surfboards, the discoloration can occur. But what is really at play here? The polyester and epoxy resins do not readily change color very quickly, even in the presence of intense UV radiation because they contain UV filter additives and/or stabilizers that help to mitigate these changes.

This is not to say that over extended periods of time where the surfboard is exposed to high amounts of sunlight, the resins won’t yellow. They will. It’s important to note that discoloration is more visual on white-colored boards, as opposed to others.

Other colored surfboards will see more fading than discoloring. Also, the yellowing is more emblematic of fiberglass boards.

Other materials like soft foams do not exhibit the same responses to sunlight. So, what causes the quick yellowing of a white-colored, fiberglass board?

Unprotected Foam

Unfortunately, the foam blanks under the fiberglass and epoxy resins are not protected through any additives. While they are protected by the resin layers, this protection can be compromised by dings or breaks in the board which allow for high amounts of radiation to enter and discolor the foam, not to mention saltwater that degrades the blank.

The overall yellowing discoloration of the board is indicative of the underlying foam and its damage. By protecting the fiberglass lamination on the board, the yellowing effect will greatly be diminished. But are there any specific protective measures you can take to extend the life of your surfboard? The answer is yes.

How to Extend the Life of Your Board

There are several things you can do to help extend the life of the surfboard and eliminate some of the natural discolorations that are bound to happen where UV radiation is intense and temperatures are high.

1. Damage Control

As we mentioned above, any direct damage to the resin layers on the board directly affects the foam blank. If you get a ding or a crack that compromises the integrity of the layering, then immediate action is required.

First, make sure to rinse the surfboard off with fresh water, especially where the damage occurred. Saltwater has the propensity to breakdown the foam core when receiving direct exposure, which further exacerbates the problem.

Next, depending on the severity, a quick patch-up job might be possible, but it also might be imperative that a complete repair is needed.

In the latter case, these can be purchased online or in your local surf shop and contain all the needed materials to make a full repair. By containing the damage, the foam blank is much less likely to undergo discoloration.

2. Preventative Care

Just as you would go get a flu shot during a bad flu season to prevent you from getting sick, the situation is no different with your surfboard. As you know by now, sunlight and UV radiation are not your surfboard’s friend.

Long sessions in the sun and road trips with boards strapped to the roof of vehicles can really accelerate the discoloration process. Take a look at the top 10 surfboard car racks right here.

surfboards on top of a van

The main way to prevent this? Get a surfboard travel bag. The benefits are endless and will lengthen the life of your board. Most bags come with a high degree of padding, protecting the board from getting banged or dinged up during the transport process.

Additionally, modern designs on the bags have heat reflective technologies that prevent the bag from getting too hot, a catalyst for unfavorable reactions with the surfboard and potential degradation.

On a side note, sustained high temperatures significantly contribute to delamination of the layers on the surfboard. So, do yourself a favor and get a board traveling bag so you’re able to limit the amount of direct sunlight exposure.

3. Surfboard Facelift

So your board is already yellowing or discolored? Fear not! There are several ways to get that clean, new look without having to do anything drastic.

surfer cleaning a surfboard

These techniques do not apply to surfboards that have extensive damage to the foam blank that has resulted from damaged fiberglass or epoxy resins. They will only be effective if the discoloration is superficial on the outside of the board itself.

How To Remove Yellow Discoloration

For a quick and effective way to remove some of the yellowing that has occurred to the fiberglass lamination, use a 3M Scotch Brite pad. By using a gentle application to the surface of the board, you’ll notice an immediate result.

The pad is made up of aluminum oxide and is designed for polishing surfaces. Don’t worry. You won’t ruin the resin layers. It takes hundreds of applications to create any worrisome damage. Think of using this pad as brushing your teeth or apply whitening strips.

For the go-getters out there, you can always paint your board. Yes, this is a bit more of a project, but you can instill your own artistic touch if you so wanted.

To get started with this, you’ll need to simply remove any dirt, oil, and wax with the use of a wax comb, warm damp rag, and acetone.

This will ensure that there’s a clean surface for the paint. Next, you want to sand the board down gently with a 32-grit piece of sandpaper so that it creates a nice, fine surface for the paint to adhere to.

When you have sanded the board down to your liking, paint your board with acrylic paint.

If your goal is to have a brand new, white surfboard, then go for that. The possibilities are endless, though. After the paint has dried, apply a light spray coat of clear acrylic, UV resistant coating. Let dry and voila, brand new!

Take Care of Your Surfboard

The important thing to realize is that discoloration is going to happen. It’s simply a matter of you taking care of damages, preventing conditions that accelerate discoloration, and providing touch-ups to the appearance of your board, occasionally to limit the yellowing.

Follow these tenants and you will significantly increase the life of your surfboard, all while keeping it looking brand new!

Get a New Surfboard

Overall, the life expectancy of a traditional surfboard is not that long. Nowadays, most surfers buy a new surfboard every few years.  Surf Expo revealed a breakdown of surfing residents. There are the following results:

Surfscience recommends avid surfers to own at least 4 surfboards.  The likelihood of your surfboard hitting the rocks and getting damaged is high. For that reason, it’s always good to have a backup. Check out the reviews and comparisons for the top 10 beginners surfboards right here.


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