101 Surf Sports Stand Up Paddleboarding and Kayaking on San Francisco Bay

rail tape your stand up paddleboard

While it may seem a small detail we have found that this small trick of the trade can save you money and save your day. With that said let's talk about rail taping your stand up paddleboard and why it's a smart move.

With over 100 boards in our rental and demo fleet we've seen wear and tear. Early on we shirked things like rail tape but have come to learn it's one of the smartest thing you can do to protect your investment. After seeing countless stand up paddleboards come through our ding repair shop we noticed a distinct and repeating pattern that the damage was more often than not on the rail of the boards. Ditto in our rental fleet. Whether it was repeated whacks with the paddle or just setting (or dropping) the board on the rails this area seemed to be a magnet for dings.

With that said we embarked on a multi-product journey to find the best solution. Of course we tried as well to keep the cost as low as possible – we have over 100 boards to tape up! We started our journey buying rail tape kits from Surfco and the result was pretty good. Quality tape and good install properties. The tape length in the packs however was too short for displacement hull paddleboards and was only 3" wide. We needed longer runs and the ability to vary the tape widths. Our demo/rental fleet is filled with surfing Stand Up Paddleboards as well as displacement hulls of various sizes and shapes meaning one size does not fit all.

That led us to Helicopter tape. This specialty tape was meant to be placed on the edge of Helicopter blades so we thought it was sure winner and at less than $1.00 per foot it was a home run cost wise. Unfortunately it just didn't work. It was hard to apply and just not soft enough or thick enough. Paddle whacks were getting through the tape and dinging the board. We did find however that this tape makes great blade edge guard tape. Its thin profile, and light weight make it a pretty clean install and miminizes any performance impacts on your paddle.

After searching various vendors we finally found a winner. Puka Tape. Puka tape is not only durable it has a softness to it that makes it absorb the energy that comes from abuse. It also comes in 2, 3, and 4 inch widths and on 300 foot rolls making it easy to customize. Our Puka tape is set up in 300' rolls so we can custom fit your rail tape install to any length of board. In fact we recently introduced the "double stuff". If you're a "known rail killer" on your quiver then the double stuff may be the ticket. We float a piece of 2" tape over the 3" tape giving you double layer protection – double stuffed!

Over the years we have perfected the application process to make it nearly invisible. While at first glance this may seem an easy do it yourself project it is in fact a skill that can take some time to master and doing it wrong can have some pretty bad consequences. With that said we wanted to pass on some of our tips and tricks to doing it right. Our first piece of advice is let us do it. We charge $25 to install the tape on any board. Our years of experience result in the best finish with the least risk to you. The tape is sold by the foot; $5.75/ft for 4", $4.40/ft for 3", and $3/ft for 2". Here's some tips on a DIY install

- Use the tape float install method in the video below. Trying to carefully apply your tape any other way can result in lots of bubbles. Worse yet trying to fix bad installs can remove graphics and layers of the board's surface.

- Never remove freshly installed tape by ripping it up. You can destroy all the graphics on your board's rail. If a tape install "goes bad" be very careful in how you approach removing it. In addition to the graphics you may pull up the first layer of gloss protectant on your board.

- Keep your tape clean. The tape has a static charge to it that draws in dust. Keep it clean.

- If the rail tape starts to come off do not rip it off. See above. Cut off the extra flapping tape and then either let the tape come off naturally or use light heat and be very careful to remove a test section to see if your graphics may come off.

- When peeling the backing off the tape make sure the end you pick at to remove the backing goes to the tail end of the board – not the front where it may be the initiation point for a peal back. .

- You needn't over tape width wise. You really only need to hit the widest part of the rail. In general 10 foot 6 boards and under should use 2". 3 inch wide tape is best up to 12ft and reserve the 4" tape for the 12'6 and longer boards.

- Be careful of aggressive rocker lines. You do not want tape wrapping too far under the bottom of the board as it creates another peal back point.

- Make sure to round all 4 corners of the tape on front and back. No square edges.

- Take your time and go slow. Rushing this job is a big mistake.

- Watch this video multiple times and good luck.

Rail tape installs here at the shop can usually be done same day, but may require an overnight stay. To find out our current schedule give us a call at 415-524-8492 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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