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Buying A Surfboard: Off The Rack vs. Custom

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If you are going to buy your first surfboard, or are just thinking of adding a new board to your quiver, you will have to choose between buying a board off the rack or finding a local shaper and have him make you a custom surfboard. It can be a tough decision and there truthfully are pros and cons to each one. Let me help you make your decision a little easier with an explanation of the pros and cons of each.

Off The Rack: Buying a brand new surfboard off the rack feels great. It’s even greater than that time your mom let you go to the toy section and pick any toy out, because unlike that toy, your new surfboard is your baby and you love her. You don’t want her to get dinged or scratched, you rinse her off after you get out of the ocean, and you make sure she is kept in a safe place in your room. With how much money you will have to spend for that brand new, off the rack surfboard, it should receive that kind of treatment. In fact, the high price of off the rack surfboards tops our pros and cons list.

– Pro: Expensive boards are highly priced because they have been proven to be the best boards money can buy.

– Con: Unless Mom and Dad are paying for the board, or you have a great career job, buying a board off the rack will take some time to save up enough money. New shortboards start around $450 and can cost as much as $850. Longboards cost anywhere from $550- $1400. SUP boards will break the bank costing from $900-$2500.

– Pro: Surf shops carry boards made by the best shapers in the world. You will find Merricks, Firewire, JS, Lost, Stretch, etc.

– Con: The best shapers in the world make all kinds of boards, but you might not find a shape that best suits your local break.

– Pro: The day you see the board and have the money to buy it, you walk out the door with it and can surf it right away.

– Con: There really isn’t a con to having the board right away.

– Pro: You can see and feel the board before you purchase it.

– Con: You might not be able to find the exact board dimensions you want.

– Pro: When you are going to spend hundreds of dollars on a surfboard, the shop employees (especially those getting paid commissions) will treat you like royalty. Try and get a discount. Tell them you really want the board but you can’t afford a new leash or traction pad and you’ll seal the deal if they throw one in free.

– Con: The same shop employees will say anything they can to sell you the board. As nice as they are, they will stretch truths to sell you the board.

image32Custom: The day you pick up your custom board from your shaper will be one of the happiest days of your life. You will finally get to see and hold the creation you have dreamed of and sketched all over different bits of paper. The waiting process was between 3-5 weeks and the call that your board is ready couldn’t have come and quicker. Topping off the list of pros and cons for custom boards is the dreaded amount of time you will wait for your surfboard to be made.

– Pro: Your board took a couple weeks to make, but for good reason. The board is made exactly how you wanted it to be made.

– Con: Waiting for your board to be finished is worse than waiting for Steve Jobs to announce the latest Apple product. Depending on how long your shaper takes, the 3-5 weeks spent waiting can be the longest of your life. And if a good swell rolls in while you are waiting, those weeks will be that much harder.

– Pro: Your local shaper will know how to make a board for the local surf breaks in the area. The board will be specifically made for the spots you surf most often.

– Con: When you take that trip to some exotic island with hollow reef breaks instead of the usual mushy beach break you surf, your board won’t perform as well.

– Pro: As you get all your boards made from the same shaper, you start to create a beautiful relationship that allows the shaper to better understand your style and likes and dislikes in boards.

– Con: You and your shaper might never click and you never find that “magic” board that works best for you.

– Pro: Custom boards from local shapers are much cheaper than off the rack boards. Also as you order more and more boards from the same shaper they will often charge you less and less.

– Con: Some shapers that are super cheap are cheap for one reason, their boards suck. So ask around before you dedicate time and money to a shaper.

– Pro: By buying custom you are supporting your local surf community and are keeping that little bit of “soul” in your surfing.

– Con: There are none.

If you feel there are too many cons to both buying off the rack and custom surfboards, remember that you don’t always have to buy a brand new board. Check out Tyler’s article on used surfboards. Buying used might be the better option for both you and your bank account.

We want to know what you love and hate about both custom and off the rack surfboards. Leave a comment and let us know your opinion.

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