Gold Coasters are spoiled for choice when buying a surfboard. The market is competitive and yet not all boards are created equally. Apart from size, performance, shape, etc, when looking for a new board there are many other factors to consider. Once you know what you want, how do you know who to go to? This depends on whether you want custom or off the rack, locally made or imported, hand or machine made. Not all local brands are made here, not all boards are hand shaped, not all shapers glass and finish the board themselves. The following is a brief guide to what to look for depending on what you want.
If you’re wanting a unique board that is handmade from start to finish by one skilled craftsman then you will need to look hard for small manufacturers. The time it takes to make a board from blank to fins, combined with the small profit margin on surfboards makes this a tricky business model. The handmade board is becoming more rare as technology for the industry improves and shapers can get blanks machine shaped. As shaper D’Arcy says, “I’ve gone from being able to shape 20 boards a week to 50.” Few board makers still hand shape, glass and sand all of their boards, fewer still hand make their fins too.
While some board makers like D’Arcy, Chris Garrett, Takeda and 1-DA can, and sometimes do hand make their boards, they have embraced technology. With technology the precision increases. Their shapes may be hand shapes that were scanned and digitised, or computer designed, then computer cut. The shaper usually hand finishes the computer cuts. The glassing and sanding is outsourced to local glassing shops, although Takeda and Garret still do their own. This method does allow for the exact same shape to be replicated but these manufacturers maintain a focus on custom orders only.
Other local manufacturers such as JR have their own factory, most boards are machine cut, hand tidied, and the glassers and sanders in their own factory finish the boards. Even their Epoxy boards are made in house at JR.
Some brands are a mixture of local and overseas, custom and stock boards. While some custom boards are made locally, the stock board manufacturing is outsourced. The value of the stock board is you don’t have to wait weeks or months for your board, you can ride it the day you decide to buy it. You can also buy the exact same board every time you need a new board.
The Surfboard Warehouse focus on racks of stock boards, they manufacture some boards in factories here, many are manufactured elsewhere.
Another brand that focuses on stock boards is Firewire. Firewire board shapes are mostly from notable shapers from overseas, the boards themselves are produced in Thailand.
It’s important to know where your board is coming from, the impact it may be having on the environment and the people your hard earned dollars are supporting. Once you know what board you want you get to choose a manufacturer whose production and values align with your own.
IMAGE (C) Bryan Bates