Why Are Surfboards So Expensive?

why-are-surfboards-so-expensive

Surfboards can be a pretty expensive investment. Boards range in price from $350 (£250) to $5000 (£3500). And many factors go into pricing, including the manufacturer, size of the board (7-foot or 10-foot) and materials used for construction.

In this post, we’ll look at some of the reasons boards might cost more than others and hopefully help you gain some insight into why.

1. Surfboards are expensive because they are highly labour intensive items to make.

2. Quality shapers are few and far between. For a brand to charge a premium, they need experienced craftsmen. These artisans typically have a higher cost of labour.

3. The price for a board depends on its size and type – larger boards (such as longboards) made from premium materials cost more money.

Whether you’re an experienced surfer looking to upgrade or someone who’s just starting out, knowing what goes into a surfboard can help you make an informed decision when purchasing one.

We have given prices in both Pounds (£) and US Dollars ($). So those of you on either side of the pond can relate to these figures.

Let’s get started!

What materials go into making a surfboard?

To understand why surfboards cost what they do, it is good to know what goes into their manufacturing process.

Foam Blanks: The first building block of the story begins with the blank. Blanks are most commonly made of polyurethane foam (PU) or expanded polystyrene foam (EPS). The foam gets laid on either side of a wooden stringer (typically made from balsa wood) that runs through the centre of the foam blank.

Resin: Polyester or Epoxy resin are used to make your surfboard. While polyester is by far the most common, it is also considerably cheaper than epoxy resin. Epoxy resins are used in high-end surfboards due to their higher mechanical qualities.

Fibreglass Cloth: Once mixed with resin, the fibreglass is what gives the board its strength. Different thicknesses of cloth are used according to the type of board. For example, longboards typically have thicker material and vice versa. High-end surfboards use S-Glass, which has silica inside, meaning the shaper can use less cloth to achieve the same rigidity. 

Waxed Styrene: This is used in conjunction with resin to make the outer shell you see on today’s surfboards.

MEKP catalyst: For the lamination of the fibreglass cloth to the board, a catalyst is used to complete the chemical reaction with the resin.

Glass Microspheres: These are mixed with resin to fill in the cuts made to insert the plugs

Fin Plugs: A revolutionary idea at the time because fins were fixed in position. The arrival of plugs made the changing/removal of fins a possibility. Fin plugs are small plastic inserts set within the board during the manufacturing process.

Leash Plug: Another small but essential step of what goes into making the end product.

How much does a surfboard cost?

Let’s assume that you want to know what they retail for. The answer depends on several factors, including;

  • The brand
  • The size (in feet)
  • Type (longboard or shortboard)
  • Quality

For this article, we are basing the figures on a 6ft shortboard. If you also want to know what size surfboard you should get, click here.

The lower end of entry price points is around £250 ($350) for a generic mass-produced shortboard up to £700 ($950) for a premium lower volume production board requiring skilled shaping. If you want to go old school and ride like the inventors of surfing, then a wooden balsa board will set you back around £3500 ($5000).

There are so many different surf brands out there making boards at every price point you could imagine. So it is a buyers market due to how saturated the manufacturers side is. 

How much does it cost to make a surfboard?

Considering the raw materials that make up a surfboard, we can get an accurate estimation of how much a surfboard would cost to make.

Resin: £40/$55 (laminating) £45/$62 (sanding resin) per gallon

Foam blank: £110/$150 for a pre-shaped blank and £50/$70 for a gross blank

Fibreglass (base S-cloth 40Oz): £1.50/$2 per foot (top S-glass 4Oz): £2/$2.75 per foot

Fins & leash plug installation kit: £130/$180

Catalyst, microspheres & wax styrene: £20/$25

So to make your own surfboard from scratch, you would be looking at around £360/$500. Bear in mind that you will need various other tools and supplies, such as a routing machine and personal protective equipment (PPE).  

Alternatively, you could get a DIY kit from foamez.com for £140 ($189).

Knowing what raw materials go into a surfboard will give you a better overall picture of what a particular item costs to make. And hence you can derive the value for money. 

One caveat is for custom shaped boards. A skilled shaper will charge a hefty fee to do their work, and the cost correlates accordingly.  

Mass scale surfboard manufacturers benefit from economies of scale. Therefore, unless you already have all the necessary tools to shape and glass your own surfboard, it is probably a cheaper (and easier) option to buy one from the shelf. 

Can I make my own surfboard?

Anyone that has access to some basic tools can make a surfboard. You will need some patience and not let minor mistakes dishearten your efforts.

Then your next decision will be to start entirely from scratch. Meaning you would buy just the foam board, cut, and then bond the two pieces on either side of a stringer. Or source a blank from a supplier and skip a few steps ahead.

In addition to the raw materials mentioned earlier in this post, you will (at a minimum) need or have access to the following:

  • Surform plane
  • Spokeshave
  • Routing power tool 

Follow this link for a thorough 39-step video guide on how to make your own surfboard.

How much money do surfboard shapers make?

Surfboard shaping is more of a lifestyle job than it is a lucrative career choice. That being said, your working days will be a lot shorter when the waves are good.

On average, a shaper can expect to earn anywhere from £19k-£29k ($25k-$40k) per year. To break it down further to the average labour cost of a US-made surfboard of $225 (£160) per board. The average labour hours to shape a board is 16 hours, which works out to be around £10 ($14) per hour.

Competition from the Asian market has been a huge factor in bringing down the cost of labour in the craft. Only a select few legendary shapers such as Simon Anderson or Bob McTavish have carved out lucrative careers as shapers.

What is the most expensive surfboard? 

There have been some eye-watering amounts paid for surfboards over the years, with collectors stopping at nothing to get their hands on these coveted items.

Roy Stuart’s Rampant: The eccentric Kiwi shaper crafted the 10ft Paulownia timber longboard and got $1.5 million (£1.1M) at auction. It is by far and away the worlds most expensive surfboard.

Some other honourable mentions are John Kelly’s Redwood board which fetched $42000 (£30k), and Damien Hirst’s Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) sold 2 of the 11 in the collections for $88000 (£64k).

Final Thoughts

There are so many different price points when it comes to surfboards. And generally speaking, they are expensive for what they are. A foam board bonded together in fibreglass and resin.

The expense comes from the labour involved in shaping the surfboard into a ridable product that is well crafted and sturdy under stress.

We looked at all the raw materials that make up a surfboard and the related cost of each of these inputs. Then we were able to deduce the average labour costs of a mass-produced board by subtracting the cost of materials from the average retail price.

Some surfers might benefit from the experience of crafting their own by sourcing raw materials from suppliers. However, it should be expected to have some imperfections in the end product if you are shaping a board for the first time.

Read Next: How much does a surfboard cost? (every type of board)

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