Why Are Surfboards So Expensive?

Buying a new surfboard does not come cheaply. This may seem strange as surfboards do not seem like complicated products to produce.

Surfboards use a small number of materials and are, by design, as light as possible, so why are surfboards so expensive?

The price of a surfboard comes down to what it is made from, where the materials are sourced, the labor needed to create the board and the brand associated with the specific board.

Throughout this article, we will take a look at the general costs of manufacturing surfboards from materials to the final shipped product.

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Different Types of Surfboard Materials 

Surfboards are generally made from three main components: A blank (the inner foam shape), fiberglass, and a hardener.

The only exception to this rule is when making a wooden surfboard, but this will be discussed further down.

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Types of Surfboard blanks

There are typically two types of foam that are used to create surfboard blanks, each with its own advantages and cost basis.

Polyurethane Blanks

Also known as PU blanks, polyurethane is a flexible plastic material that is produced in many forms.

PU has multiple uses, from furniture to clothing to insulation, and of course, surfboard blanks. 

Polyurethane is a cheap foam that is easily molded and eventually wrapped in fiberglass to create a hard, waterproof surfboard that is cost-effective and durable.

PU is one of the most common surfboard blanks and is used as a standard for surfboard creation.

PU blanks can range from USD 70 for shortboards to USD 125 for a longboard blank.

The above price, of course, does not include shipping.

Epoxy Board Blanks

Epoxy surfboards generally make use of blanks made from expanded polystyrene (EPS).

Expanded polystyrene is made up of small polystyrene beads that are expanded by using heat and gas. This expansion forms the closed cells of EPS.

90% of the volume of EPS is occupied by oxygen which makes it lightweight and incredibly buoyant.

EPS Surfboard blanks can range from USD 55 to USD 420, depending on the size and style of the board.

Wood Surfboards

Wooden surfboards are made from various types of wood, including paulownia, balsa, redwood, cedar, pine, and poplar.

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Each wood has its own advantages and disadvantages; for example, redwood and cedar are heavy and difficult to maneuver, while balsa is lighter but less durable.

Depending on the wood, and the shapers choice, some wooden boards are covered with a thin layer of fiberglass and an epoxy resin.

Unfinished balsa wood surfboards will cost approximately USD 400 – 500. Although there are not many materials needed for wooden boards, they do require hours of shaping, even if you have bought a premade cut.

Types of Surfboard Hardeners

There are two main ways to harden and waterproof foam surfboard blanks. The first and most popular being polyester, and the second being epoxy.

Polyester

Polyester resin is the most common among surfboards as it is more practical and economically friendly.

Polyester is lightweight and more flexible, which makes the surfboard more responsive and maneuverable. However, it is not as solid and durable as epoxy.

Epoxy

Epoxy boards are lighter than poly boards, although this is usually due to the EPS foam and not the resin.

Epoxy resin is harder and more durable than polyester, and therefore more durable against hard knocks with means less chance of receiving a pressure ding.

Epoxy is also more resistant to color deterioration from direct sun exposure, which makes storing your board an easier task.

Surfboard Production Costs

The cost of producing a surfboard will always vary depending on the material used, where the material is sourced from, where the board is made, and who makes the board will all make a difference.

Huge companies around Asia produce a large number of surfboards. In these mass-producing factories, workers generally do not even know what the products they are making are used for and work for incredibly low wages.

Large surfboard producing companies tend to have lower production costs as they mass produce the boards, which means that buying supplies in bulk is an option.

On the other hand, custom-made, hand-shaped boards are made with less staff, no large machines, and are therefore more expensive to produce.

Large surfboard companies can produce a surfboard for as little as USD 300 or less, depending on the location of the factory.

Independent shapers do not have the privilege of buying their materials in quantities as large as companies and can often spend between USD 400 to USD 600 per board.

Surfboard Transportation Costs

The cost of shipping a surfboard will differ according to the size, weight, and location that you wish to ship it to and from.

As it is not possible to cover all locations and board sizes, the examples below are simply to gather an idea of how much shipping a surfboard may cost.

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You should also keep in mind that large companies that ship surfboards tend to do so in greater amounts and often have their own shipping containers and deals with shipping companies.

This greatly decreases the average cost per board, but this information is not easily accessible to those outside the company’s logistics sector.

The following prices are estimations and provided by Bing Surf. These prices are also assuming that you will be shipping a surfboard from the USA.

Domestic Shipping Costs

Location1 Board2 Boards3 Boards
48 Contiguous states (not specified)$215.00$300.00$355.00
Hawaii (freight)$255.00$300.00$350.00

USA to Japan

Location1 Board2 Boards3 Boards4 Boards
Tokyo$270.00$280.00$285.00$290.00
Osaka$290.00$300.00$305.00$310.00
Nagoya$305.00$315. 00$320.00$330.00
Fukuoka$410.00$420.00$425.00$430.00

*These rates do not include a custom clearance of USD 150 – USD 200 per shipment.

USA to Australia

Location1 Board2 Boards3 Boards4 Boards
Sydney$215.00$430.00$645.00$860.00

It should be noted that prices will vary depending on your required delivery time, the means of transport, the location, and the company that you use to ship your boards.

What Is the Most Expensive Surfboard?

Paying between USD 1500 and USD 3000 for a surfboard may seem on the expensive side, and as far as commercial surfboards go, it is, but this is nowhere near the most expensive surfboards that have been produced.

If you think a few thousand dollars is a lot for a piece of foam covered in resin, then the following list of the world’s 6 most expensive surfboards will blow you away.

John Kelly Surfboard – $42,000

After receiving his first surfboard shaped by The Duke’s brother, David Kahanamoku, in 1920, the John Kelly original redwood was sold for USD 42,000 in the 2011 Hawaiian Island Vintage Surfboard Auction (HIVSA).

The Silver Bullet – $75,000

Designed and shaped by the famous Marc Newson, Dick Brewer, and McNamara, this $75,000 surfboard can easily handle the 60-foot waves of the backdoor section of Jaws.

There were only 10 of these boards made, and you can now expect these legendary boards to go for over USD 200,000.

Damien Hirst Pained Boards – $97,600

Part of a collection of 11 painted boards by Damien Hurst, these two boards were sold at a Gallery in the UK for a combined price of USD 97,600 and are likely to never have touched the ocean.

Captain Kilgore’s Board – $100,000

A perfect replica of the Yater Spoon from Apocalypse Now. This board sold on eBay’s auction block in 2007 for approximately USD 100,000.

Aureus – $183,000

Created in a small studio in North Devon, England. This board is one of a kind and is plated with 24-carat gold throughout its fibreglassing.

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Made by Ellie Miller, this board has a sale price of no less than USD 183,000

The Rampant – $1.3 million

Currently the world’s most expensive surfboard, the Rampant is a 3.2m long Paulownia wood board made by the New Zealand-based designer Roy Stuart.

The wood that makes up this board is not only rare and native to Asia, but there is a 23-carat gold lion painted on its surface.

Why Are Longboard Surfboards So Expensive?

When buying a surfboard, you will likely have noticed that SUP’s and Longboards tend to be much more pricey than their shortboard cousins.

The reason for this is partly because a larger board requires more material to construct. The blanks are bigger, more fiberglass is needed to cover the board’s surface, and additional resin is used to harden the fiberglass.

Another reason why these boards are so expensive is that they are bigger and heavier. The larger and heavier an item, the more expensive it is to ship.

Of course, this is not an issue if you are buying your board locally, but when sending a longboard overseas, the costs can quickly rise.

Which Is Better, Polyurethane, or Epoxy Surfboards?

Both Polyurethane and Epoxy surfboards come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Epoxy boards tend to be lighter and more buoyant due to the EPS foam blanks. Epoxy boards are also harder and tend to be on the more expensive side.

One disadvantage of an Epoxy board is that beginners often find them difficult to use as they float so well.

This may make them difficult to duck dive with, and new surfers could feel as though the board slides too much on top of the water instead of gliding through it.

Pro surfers tend to sway towards epoxy boards for their lightweight, extra speed, and ease of creating good air.

Polyurethane boards, on the other hand, make use of PU foam blanks and polyester resin. These blanks are cheaper, but the foam is denser, which makes the boards heavier.

Due to its added weight, PU boards sit slightly deeper in the water, which often makes balancing for new surfers easier.

PU boards are not as durable as Epoxy boards but are slower, cheaper, and in most cases, well suited to someone new to the sport.

Conclusion

Surfboards can be surprisingly expensive when they are bought new.

This is more true when surfboards are made by hand or custom designed. Big brand names, shipping distances, and even the material used for a board design play a huge role in why surfboards can be so expensive.

Whether you buy an Epoxy, Polyurethane, or wooden board, you should expect to pay for quality.

If your board seems cheap, then you may want to consider looking for a better option.

Why Are Surfboards So Expensive?
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