One of our Stoke Magazine readers asked me whether Rail Tape is necessary. I did some research, here’s the results..

What is Rail Tape?  Rail tape is used to re-enforce the rails of your boards to prevent or reduce damage from a variety of sources (see below). The tape is a clear plastic material that sticks on and runs the length of both rails (2pc) adding additional protection to your rails. RailSaverPro does have decorative rail tape. Rail tape is popular with SUP rental operations as inexperienced paddlers can afflict a lot damage to boards.

Rail tape can also be used to re-enforce soft rails on super light carbon and fiberglass race boards.

Light often means that the exterior material isn’t strong or may ding easily. While standing up on a few light boards, I’ve seen the rails and upper deck by the rails flex.

But is it necessary?
For rentals – yes!  In my opinion, if you don’t hit your rails, carry and treat your board well, then it’s not necessary.  Some ask if a paddle should be taped. Maybe for rentals who may hit the board, but for experienced paddlers if you don’t hit the board, neither paddle or board needs taping.  Those with super wide blade paddles (Werner Spanker) may hit the board more often, but practice not doing so does help.

Tip for not hitting your board with your paddle – 
Use a vertical shaft (upper hand over water) and draw your stroke from your catch (nose) to your feet in a straight line. This means don’t start the blade at the nose, instead place the blade in the water a few inches from the nose but in line with the rail at your feet. Doing so means you paddle straight and you don’t hit your board.

Fancy Rail Tape – Fiberglass.
Sea kayakers have been using keel tape for years. A similar product, keel tape is thicker and runs the hull length of kayaks from stern to bow preventing from dinging the hull on rocks or beach landings. The tape on my kayak collected sand in the seams and eventually came of in places. So we began apply a strip of fiberglass instead.  Some SUP paddlers I know have applied a strip of fiberglass done the length of their rails not only to reduce dings, but to re-enforce thus make their board stronger.  If you’re not skilled with fiberglass, hire a professional. I do, I usually end up making a mess of things.

How can your rails get damaged?
– Boards banging against other boards on water
– Dropping, sliding or sometimes even resting a board on the ground, especially concrete
– Collisions with rocks, docks, or armored shorelines (concrete bulkheads, pilings, etc).
– Stacking boards on each other for storage, especially boards with raised rails (use foam for racks).
– Riders falling on their board deck (not recommended)

Board that don’t need rail tape – 
Soft tops that have a non fiberglass rail, plastic sups, inflatables or boards with a super strong hull with lots of fiberglass. I used to have the Surftech Universal boards which used closed cell foam (didn’t absorb water) and several layers of fiberglass – downside was they were super heavy. Glide boards have truck liner sprayed on their exterior and Bounce have a super solid exterior without the weight that doesn’t ding easily.

Best Products – 
The following seem to be the most popular – RailSaverPro and Surfco.

How to Apply Rail Tape – 
Click here to see this great video by BluePlanetSurf in Oahu. They’re using RailSaverPro

Additional info on Rail Tape to check out..
How to Apply
– Interesting chat about Rail and Paddle tape on Standupzone

Any questions give me a holler: salmonbaypaddle@gmail.com / 206.465.7167
Check out our SUP classes – beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

Salmon Bay Paddle SUP Tips

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