Why are Surfboards so Expensive?
Surfboards range in price from around $200 all the way up to over $1000. I consider surfboards to be an expensive piece of equipment, but just as there is a wide range of budgets there are also a wide range of surfboards.
Because there is a wide price range for surfboards, let’s dive in to look at some factors that determine the price of a board.
These factors are:
- Board size
- Board material
- Shaper or manufacturer
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the size of the surfboard impacts the price. Longboards are generally more expensive than shortboards. This is for the simple reason that longboards require more material to make.
A new, hand-shaped, polyurethane, 9 foot longboard is going to be around $900. A new, hand-shaped, polyurethane, shortboard (5-6 ft) is most likely going to be a couple hundred dollars cheaper, but there are other factors that may bring that price up or down.
Although shortboards are cheaper, I wouldn’t recommend opting for one based solely on the price. Shortboards are more difficult to ride. If you’re a beginner and don’t have the skillset for a shortboard, what you save monetarily will be overshadowed by frustration and wave-less sessions. If your skill level is more conducive to longboarding, focus on finding a longboard that fits your budget.
Board material is another factor affecting the price of the board. A soft top surfboard is going to be made of cheaper materials, resulting in a cheaper board. These boards are made of polystyrene foam with an outer layer of ethylene vinyl acetate. Ethylene vinyl acetate is a flexible, soft material (hence the name “soft top”).
Polyurethane (poly) boards are the “traditional” hard top surfboards. These boards have a polyurethane foam core with a fiberglass cloth layer and an outer coating of polyester resin. More expensive materials are one reason why poly boards are more expensive than soft tops.
Epoxy surfboards are another type of hard top surfboard. These are made from a polystyrene core with an epoxy resin coating. That epoxy resin coating is quite a bit more expensive than the polyester resin used to coat poly boards. Because of the epoxy resin, these boards are going to be more expensive than poly boards.
Shaper or Manufacturer
Poly and epoxy surfboards often require a shaper to hand shape the board. Because these boards require a ton of labor, they are going to be more expensive.
The price of a board often will reflect the quality and reputation of the shaper. A board from a big name shaper is going to come with a big price tag. You may be able to get a great quality, fully hand-shaped surfboard from your local, lesser-known, shaper for cheaper.
This is another reason why soft tops are cheaper. Soft tops are usually mass produced, eliminating the need for a shaper. These are often called “pop-out” boards because they are popped out of a mold and ready to surf. Less labor means a lower price. There are also poly and epoxy surfboards that are mass produced, machine-shaped and only “hand-finished,” also resulting in a lower price.
The price of the board is also of course going to reflect the overall quality of the board. This is part of the reason that hand-shaped boards from big name shapers are more expensive. The name of a reputable shaper is going to indicate that the board is of high quality. Maybe you have a friend who dabbles in surfboard shaping. Her boards may surf great, but there’s not that guarantee of quality that comes with boards crafted by reputable shapers.
Choosing to get a board custom made is, unsurprisingly, going to result in a more expensive board. The price will depend on the shaper. Some choose to charge a rate per foot of board, others have flat rates for different types of boards.
There are also websites that allow you to customize your board, and you’ll find that each modification you choose to make on the board leads to a bigger and bigger price tag.
This isn’t to say that there are no affordable options when it comes to customizing a board. The price will depend on the shaper or outlet you order your board from. If customizing your board to be exactly what you want will cause you to get more use out of it, then it may be worth it to pay a bit more. Shapers can be both craftsmen as well as legends.
Surfboards can be expensive. The size, material, shaper, quality, and level of customization are all going to affect the end price of the board. If you have room in your budget, you may want to go all in on a customized board from a reputable shaper.
If you’re like me and prioritize paying rent over having a top-of-the-line surfboard, you can save some money by getting a machine-shaped board without any customizations.
You also may want to consider buying used to save money. This may mean you have to be less picky about what board you want, but it’s a good way to save yourself a few hundred bucks and still get in the water.
Learn more about Surfboards:
Frequently asked questions
Surfboards can be expensive, but relative to other outdoor sports, surfing can be pretty affordable. Most of the costs associated with surfing are up-front. Once you have a board, a leash (which you can buy for around $20), and a wetsuit (depending on where you’re surfing), you’re pretty much ready to rip. The most expensive part of surfing for me is paying California gas prices to get to the beach.
To answer this in the most annoying way possible, you never stop learning how to surf. Once you master the basics of catching a wave and popping up, you’ll realize just how much more you have to learn. I would estimate that you’ll feel comfortable in the lineup after a couple months of consistent surfing. This of course is going to vary from person to person. Someone who has experience skateboarding or snowboarding is probably going to pick up the basics faster than someone without any experience on a board.
Surfing is a unique form of exercise. Paddling requires both cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance. It’s like running using your shoulders instead of your legs. Once you’re actually on the wave, you’ll also need to have good balance to maneuver the board without falling off.