How to Build Your First Surfboard
by Stephen Pirsch

Stands and Blocks
Hot coat
Art Work
Gloss Coat
Leash Plug
Material Lists
Resin Amounts
Equipment List
Sm Wave Design
Helpful Links

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Save money, labor, and weight by not doing a gloss coat.

If glosscoating, place the board bottom up, and tape around the rails as with the hot coat.  Close the doors, and windows.  Mix and apply the gloss coats as done on the hot coats.  Pull the tape when it gels.  Turn out the lights (keeps bugs off).  Leave it until it's hard.

For a high gloss finish on the bottom,  many first time builders will need to start sanding epoxy with #100 and # 220, and start sanding polyester with #220 (disk on drill etc) then hand sand epoxy or polyester with #400.wet sand paper (keep the #400 wet paper sliding on a layer of water).  Wash off the board with a hose etc. Look at the sanded finish closely in shade and bright light.  It may be necessary to repeat the entire sanding process, or just one small area.  Work will be saved overall if you sand more with the #220 and less with the #400.  Do not rely on the #400 to reduce unevenness. When the sanding is perfectly even, put a buffing pad on the drill and spread lines of rubbing compound over approximately 2 sq. ft. areas.  Buff till dry then blend into the next 2 sq. ft. area.  If unevenness is seen, it will probably be necessary to repeat the entire process.

Maybe finish work is not worth so much trouble, and expense.  It seems a waste of labor to sand and buff the top and then smear wax all over it.  You could skip the finish work on the top and maybe the bottom.  The board will actually look better later (when it gets scratched or has dried salt water on it etc.) if it does not have a glossy finish to start with.  Some people prefer to only lightly fine sand with #400 or #180 etc.  Below are many alternatives.

Epoxy has no wax (surface agent) to buff off.  It dries glossy.  The bottom epoxy gloss coat can be left alone. On the top a traction surface can be created by sanding with #16.  Be aware that epoxy is not as u.v. resistant as silmar 249 polyester.  It will tend to discolor over the years.  Some epoxy experts recommend adding pigment, or some u.v. resistant covering (polyester resin, dolphin skin, or acrylic clear coat).  This is not necessary, but if you insist on a u.v. covering I advise using polyester resin.   If "fish eyes" (a common bubble like imperfection) appear in an epoxy hot coat, consider adding fans to blow across the surface of the wet gloss coat.  It often helps.  Fish eyes can be filled in by slowly dripping resin, slightly over filling the hole.  See EPOXY.  Note:  Use either all polyester resin or all epoxy resin. Iit is too prone to errors and frustrations for the first time builder to learn both systems.

Flaws may be covered by adding a solid pigment to the gloss coat.  If adding pigment to an epoxy gloss coat, yellow epoxy based pigment is a good choice - epoxy yellows over time.  See RESIN AMOUNTS - Helpful Notes.

For an alternative traction surface try using a coarsely sanded finish method mentioned below instead of using wax.   This seems to be one of those strange things that is too simple for anyone to believe. Yes...the finish is rough, and yes...bare skin rubbed hundreds of times on the surface will probably be irritated, but...surfers wear rash guards or wetsuits most of the year anyway, so... the seeming total lack of interest in an almost free traction surface is confounding. If you simply follow the directions below, using only the recommended grits, it will work well. It has been used by the author for over 40 years. Most people who try it are still using it.  Try the following:

Hand sand the flats of the top of the board with #16 or #12 floor sanding paper. Don't use any other grits.   Bear down with most of your weight, scratching deeply.  I have never seen anyone sand through both the unsanded hot coat and gloss coat this way.  Just rough it up (shiny spots are o.k.).  Sand in all directions, but mostly crosswise on the flats and mostly longwise on the rails.   Hand sand the rails #50.  Some people like  #16 on the rails but it may irritate the inside of your legs.   End  with very heavily hand sanded crosswise strokes on the flats (better traction).  The amount of time and labor is similar to applying the first coat of wax on a new board.  No one has any problem with their feet slipping on newly sanded traction, but most people find it somewhat slicker than wax when in contact with lycra.  If you have a problem with rash on your knee etc., try New Skin, Super Glue, or lycra pant and shirt.  This #16 surface will last about 50 hours of surfing before the abrasiveness fades.  Just rough it up with very heavy hand sanding using mostly crosswise strokes for a few minuets. Even after years of re-sanding, no one I know has sanded into the cloth.  Try it, it works.  It is simple, cheap, and clean.  Most people who are open to this do not go back to wax. 

One more alternative is to use E.V.A. (ethylene vinyl acetate) sheets.  This is the same material used in stick on traction pads, the tops of soft top surfboards, and the tops of paddle boards.  The cost was $10./sheet in 2005 at .  The sheets are about  6' x 3' x 1/16" and come in 10 colors.  It can even be wrapped around the rails using masking tape to hold the tension and flatten the wrinkles until the glue dries.  The gloss coat or hot coat can be used as a glue.  It can be tested by duct taping a piece to the floor, or the board, and try it out wet.  It seems to have better grip wet than dry.  You may have better traction cutting the sheets into strips  1/2" - 1'  wide.  Please test it to determine preference.   A similar product is available from  No skidding sells peel and stick anti slip vinyl safety tape in 4 colors which is non-abrasive to bare skin.  Look for  ns4100 series - 1" x 60' for $18.  Or, simply buy the Sticky Bumps etc., kits at

Simply wearing neoprene booties, or socks will give tremendous grip even on a board with no wax or traction surface.  The tropical neoprene reef booties with drain holes, and arch cinches are especially nice for warm water traction.  Buy booties slightly small, and possibly burn drain holes with a hot ice pick tip, so water will not collect inside.

The sanded finish in the paragraph above is the favorite of my friends and I.  The E.V.A. is more comfortable, especially when paddling.

It is amazing that so many people are still using wax.  Surfers like to think of themselves as non conformists, but this is one example of how resistant to change surfers are. Wax is really only good for the first few times that your body makes contact with it.  It soon packs down and becomes slick.  It attracts filth, melts, and has to be reapplied often.  Be different.  Use the alternatives above.

Save money, labor, and weight by not applying a gloss coat.


2003 by Stephen Pirsch, All Rights Reserved.

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