Putting art on your surfboard is a big deal for most surfers. Your spray job says a lot about your personality, taste and sense of style. Throwing colour on your craft provides fuel for others to form instant opinions about you – and first impressions last. Some people prefer to keep things minimalist and simple while others get flamboyant. It’s no different  to decorating your car, work desk or self (i.e. the clothes you wear or the tatts you bare).

But surfing is a little different because you have a tool of leisure – a  (usually) white canvas – which has the potential, at least for a while, to be your favourite functional piece of art. Here are a few reasons why a surfer might want to brighten up their sled.

5 Reasons Why You Should Ink Your Board

1. Image

Surfboard art provides an opportunity to reflect and embellish your personality. If you want to be punk and anti-establishment you can show the world your defiance through an Ozzie Wrong black spray job, or a penis, or skull and crossbones. One of my first boards featured Freddie Kruger slashing through the top deck. I was an angry young man. Alternatively, you could show your penchant for the finer things in life by going for .


2. Motivation

It’s no secret that listening to the right song or watching your favourite movie before a surf will give you motivation and energy. For most of modern human evolution paintings were all we had in terms of visual art. Movies and photography did not exist until 150 years ago and the majority of people before that were illiterate, so art was an important form of immediate non-narrative inspiration. Scenes of love, scenes of war, dramatic murals upon which animals stampeded and spirits meandered: art imitates life, but it can also influence life, for it sparks imagination. Perfect waves, dragons, peace signs or frangipanis… whatever motivates you may deserve a place on the deck of your next board.


3. Raw aesthetic

There’s plenty of beauty in the world and as surfers we get to immerse ourselves in sunsets, sunrises, azure skies and glistening waters. But that doesn’t mean you can’t add more beauty to your wonderland. A classic spray, consisting of simple complimentary colours, a symmetric pattern or subtle texture can make your wave-riding experience  even more of a delight. You’ll also look better in photos so choose colours that contrast with the water at your home break… or wherever you plan to go.


4. Reminders

Sometimes art serves more as a reminder than a motivation. Why do you think people carry photos of their loved ones in their wallets and purses? Because we have scattered minds and like to be reminded about the things  that are important. You may choose to write a poem, etch a symbol or screenprint a photo of your favourite place. Doesn’t matter. Kelly used to draw cartoon girls on his boards when he was lonely. – and keep it close.


5. Commission an artist

Surf artists are not generally rich people. They are however more passionate than most about waves and beauty and creatively combining their passion with their lifestyle. If you have the wealth share it with someone who’ll really appreciate it. You’ll feel like a king for commissioning your own artist, plus you’ll look cool traipsing up and down the beach with your unique, custom spray. And if you’re looking for ideas, well… um… you’ve come to the right place.

Surfboard Art Ideas

tom viega

Tom Viega’s clean lines might not make you go faster, but they sure look crisp. You’ll cry when you break this one.


Drew Brophy is famous for his detailed, cartoon-ish style that always seems to reveal new details.
Check out your local artist’s portfolio before commissioning something this complex.

Erik Abel surf art

Erik Abel is a legend amongst surf artists. Here he shows how your board can condense all of your favourite things into a clean collage of symbols.


For the more refined among us, a clean-lined Donald Takayama Scorpion. A quiver of these will make you happy.


This Piccolo by Thomas Surfboards sports an anarchic texture that will blow minds when you blow fins.


Moody, dark, futuristic yet organic, Dick van Straalen’s carbon shapes are probably the most beautiful things you’ll ever stand upon.