Rail tape is becoming increasingly popular among SUP boarders. It promises to protect stand up paddle boards and keep them in tip-top condition for longer. But does rail tape actually work and is it worth the investment?
What is SUP Rail Tape?
Rail tape is simply an adhesive tape that’s applied along the rails of stand up paddle boards. It protects the rails against damage from the paddle, reducing the risk of scratches and chips.
Initially, SUP tape was designed to protect vehicles against bumps and chips and was installed in tailgates. It’s why you will occasionally see it advertised as Tailgate Protection Tape.
How Do You Apply Rail Tape on a SUP?
Rail tape is clear, and if you install it properly, without any bubbles, it will be nearly invisible.
Keep the following in mind when applying rail tape to your stand up paddle board:
- Dry the Board: Dry your SUP board before applying the tape.
- Set the Temperature: Ideally, you want a temperature between 70 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Any hotter and it may not stick; any colder and it will be too firm.
- Take it Easy: Don’t rush. Apply the tape slowly and be sure to press it down every step of the way. It’s just like applying a screen cover or some vinyl artwork, and you want to avoid bubbles.
- Buy What You Need: Rail tape is sold by the foot or meter. Measure what you will need and buy a little more just in case, but don’t go overboard.
- Round the Tape: Don’t leave square edges and be sure to round them off on both the front and back.
- Don’t Rip the Tape: If the tape starts to come off, don’t be tempted to rip it all off as you could take some of the graphics with it.
If you’re struggling, head to your local surf shop. They might offer to install the tape for you. In such cases, don’t buy the tape first just in case that comes as part of the deal.
How Do You Remove Stand Up Paddle Board Rail Tape?
As noted above, removing tape too quickly from the rails could destroy the graphics. A little peeled paintwork is better than a dent or chip, but it still defeats the purpose when you consider why you bought the tape in the first place.
If you apply it wrong or simply decide that you don’t need it anymore, use a little heat first to loosen the tape and then peel it away slowly, making sure you’re not taking any of the graphics with you.
Do You Need Rail Tape for a SUP Board?
If you’re a beginner, you can benefit from applying rail tape. Unless you’re a natural, there’s a good chance that your paddling technique will be poor and haphazard, causing the paddle to clash into the rails and take chips of paint with it.
After a few sessions, that sloppy paddling will result in unsightly marks, potentially reducing the resale value of your brand new stand up paddle board.
It’s not just beginners, either. Even advanced boarders are guilty of a few paddle whacks every now and then, and if you ever plan to sell your stand up paddle board, or you just want to keep it looking nice, you can benefit from using rail tape.
Types of Rail Tape
Although the purpose of rail tape is always the same (to protect the rails on your SUP board), the type, size, and quality of the tape can differ greatly.
Choose a bigger tape if you have larger rails and smaller tape if you have smaller rails. Look for a tape with high water resistance and check the reviews to ensure you’re getting something that will hold and protect, as opposed to something that will peel away as soon as it hits the water.