Buying A Used Surfboard 101

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Whether kook or professional, buying a used surfboard is never a bad idea. But if you aren’t aware of the do’s and don’ts, the experience can quickly become a nightmare. They say experience is the best teacher, and "they" are correct in this instance. Drawing on the bad experiences I’ve had buying surfboards with a few waves on the odometer, I’ve come to learn what to look for when in the market for a “new” sled, and how to choose a great board for a better price.

At the end of the surf session, a surfboard is a surfboard no matter how many bells and whistles (and stickers) it may have. Many surfers, in San Diego especially, believe that if they aren’t riding a replica of Kelly's board they're selling themselves short. This simply isn’t the case. Professional surfers are excessive, mainly because they’re backed by several generous sponsors, but unless you are too, there’s no reason to spend more than $800 on a surfboard (the going rate for a Channel Islands New Flyer EPS is $825). In all honesty, I don’t think anyone should spend more than $300 on a shortboard, and after reading this article you’ll realize just how easy that can be.

1.) First Things First: Dimensions

Surfboards are shaped in a multitude of ways, different shapes evoking different responses from the board when on the face of a wave. When searching for a used board, though, these minute particularities in shape don’t matter as much as finding a shape that accommodates your height and weight as a rider. Taller people will want to purchase taller surfboards. Heavier people will want to purchase thicker and possibly wider surfboards. Below is a volume calculator provided by Firewire surfboards to help you find the best dimensions for your body type.

Firewire Volume Calculator

2.) Where To Buy

Once you’ve selected the most ideal surfboard shape for you, the shopping may commence. But where do you start? Well, there are garage sales, second-hand sporting good stores, surf shops, and more, but I’ve had the most success on fabled Craigslist. Depending on your proximity to the coast, Craigslist can be one of the best places to shop for a used surfboard. One of the reasons being that it ensures you'll be purchasing your surfboard from its last owner, and not a middle man.

If you have a dispensable amount of money (and intend to, well, dispense it), feel free to stop reading this article now. The advice provided on purchasing a used surfboard will be of no use to an individual who's planning on copping a spanking new surfboard anyway. But for those us who prefer to spend intelligently, barely used surfboards can be found for great prices depending on where you look. My recommendation is here.

If you're opposed to Craigslist, though, there's only one other way land a well-priced used surfboard: by getting ‘hooked up’ - meaning you have friend or acquaintance trying to get rid of a surfboard, and the opportunity to snatch it for dirt cheap. Obviously, this option depends on your situation, and is sorta rare. But it's better than your third, final, and most expensive option: purchasing a used surfboard from a second-hand sporting good store or surf shop.

3.) Checking The Condition Of The Board

Once you’ve found a board that fits your preferred dimensions and price range, you’ve completed the easy part of shopping for a used surfboard. The hard part, which I hope I can make a little easier for you, is having the expertise and knowledge to decide whether a used surfboard is in shreddable condition or not. Assuming you’re new to surfing, many used board salesmen - whether Craigslisters or store employees - will attempt to hide potentially compromising damages to surfboards for sale. Here are a few things to look for when examining your potential used surfboard:

(Critical) Dings

In a parallel universe, maybe used surfboards are dingless. But in our universe, it’s practically impossible to find a used surfboard without a few minor dings. A ding is a small indent on the exterior of a board, where something may have hit the board (a rock, another board, someone’s head) and has caused a small pressure dent. Minor dings are nothing to be worried about, and do not affect your ability to surf whatsoever. However, critical dings are extremely bad for the board, and will allow water to soak into the foam, ultimately water logging your surfboard. A critical ding will have more cracking on the glass of the board than a minor ding, and you may be able to see yellowing around the damaged spot where water has seeped into the foam. Any ding with a concave indent of more than 3cm is probably too serious a ding to overlook.

4.) Discoloring

It isn’t uncommon for a well-used board to be at least a little yellowish, as they are often sunbaked from years of being outside. However, if a board is very yellow, or is not very old and is yellow, this is indicative of a breach in the board's water tightness. Surfboards are shaped with foam then glassed over with either polyurethane or epoxy resin, and if the outer layer has been cracked or damaged to the point that water is reaching the foam, the surfboard is a no go.

5.) Delamination

Delamination is one of the easiest forms of damage to identify when examining a used surfboard. Delamination happens when the epoxy or polyurethane resin layer detaches from the foam, leaving what looks like an air bubble on the surface of the board. One method of identifying spots on the surfboard which may have delaminated - if not clearly visible - is by putting pressure on the board with the palm of your hand in search of spots that give. A surfboard should feel as hard as a desk, and if your hand is able to push into the surface, that spot has become delaminated.

6.) Check The Fins

If the fins on the surfboard are removable, remove them and examine the fin slots for cracking. This part of the board receives a lot of pressure, as it is where your back foot is planted and the first part of the board to hit rocks or sand. Most boards today come with removable fins so surfers can try different fin sets. Older boards have glassed on fins, meaning they were molded into the board during the glassing process, which are much more fragile than removable fins. Do yourself a favor and don’t buy a surfboard with glassed on fins. But if you do, examine the area closely.

The tips above will help you purchase a used surfboard that’s ready to be used immediately. There’s nothing worse than paying too much on a used board, only to find out that it isn’t water tight, or that a fin is loose, or that there is some other problem that is preventing you from getting in the water with it. Other details you'll want to remember when used surfboard shopping, but which aren’t as vitally important as those listed above include:

-Make sure that all wax is removed from surfboard, so that you can examine the surface thoroughly.

-Look for creasing, which looks like an indented line running horizontal on the board, and indicates that the board has bent and will probably break in the near future.

-Repaired breaks aren’t always a deal breaker if only the nose has been broken. But if the board was split in half and repaired… move on.

You’re now prepared to purchase a used surfboard. Be smart, be thorough, and have fun. And if you get the chance, show up one of those guys riding a replica of Kelly Slater’s surfboard in the water for me.


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Stephan Aarstol is an American internet entrepreneur and author of the book The Five Hour Workday, which is based on Tower Paddle Boards' invention of the 5-hour workday in 2015 that would eventually spread the idea to over 10 million people worldwide. Since founding Tower in 2010, it has gone on to become one of America's fastest growing companies and Mark Cuban's best investment in the history of Shark Tank. Tower has diversified into a direct to consumer electric bike company called Tower Electric Bikes, a beachfront event venue called Tower Beach Club, and NoMiddleman.com, where consumers can shop all the world's finest direct to consumer brands from one easy place.