hardware & gear

Buying a second-hand surfboard: what to look for

When I just started on my surfing journey, I extended my quiver by 100% (i.e. I had one surfboard, and then I decided to buy another one). Now, I knew there was a good chance that I would destroy any surfboards with my kooky ways. I was also hoping to progressively step down in size, and taking my budget as a gainfully unemployed beach bunny into account, I made the thrifty decision to buy a “new” one second-hand. Looking around, I realised I could save myself about half the price of a new board, that’s fairly decent!

For anyone thinking of doing the same thing, here are some tips for your (first) second-hand board purchase.


Where to buy it:

I bought my used board from a private seller from Gumtree (for non-Australian readers, it’s a free online classifieds website), but I also asked around at a couple of surf stores.

The advantage of surf stores is they will usually let you try before you buy. The disadvantage is that they do not usually have a great deal of variety when it comes to carrying used boards.

Ebay is another good option, but whatever you do, make sure you inspect the board before you buy it.

How to inspect a board:

And I mean really inspect it. This means:

  • scrape off all wax first – wax can be used by unscrupulous sellers to hide a multitude of sins.
  • run your hands over the board – you’re feeling for cracks, dings, soft spots, and also to check that the rails run symmetrically down. Start from the nose of the board and run your hands down the rails at the same speed. If one hand moves out of line, you know that there is something wrong with the rails. Do this a couple of times.
  • pay close attention to the nose, tail, and fins – these are parts that are particularly susceptible to cracks and dings. In particular, make sure you wiggle the fins to make sure there are no hidden cracks and that they are not sitting loose.
  • ask about repair jobs – if the surfboard has been repaired, ask the seller who repaired it and how it was repaired. Check the repair job to make sure it covers the entirety of the problem.
  • ask to take it for a test run –  it’s a good idea to arrange the purchase to take place at the beach so that you can take your (potential) new stick for a test run. I was lucky enough to be able to do that with my first purchase and it gave me that added peace of mind.

Warning signs:

  • check for cracks and dings – you should expect used surfboards to have a couple dings (i.e. dents on the surface of the board) and usually they would not compromise the integrity of the surfboard. However, if the board is heavily dinged, reconsider buying it. Cracks are much more problematic. Unless you know the cost of repair would be reasonable, I would stay away from cracked boards.
  • check for discolouration – heavily discoloured parts of the surfboard mean that water has seeped through the protective outer layer (e.g. fiberglass) and into the foam. Yellowing of the board can also indicate that it has been left out in the sun for too long, and this can affect the structural integrity of the board.
  • check for delamination – are there bubbles in the board? Can you see parts of the fibreglass which are lifted from the foam core? Can you feel soft hollow spots? These are all symptoms of delamination in the board. This happens when the fiberglass cloth becomes separated from the foam on your board and occurs mainly where your feet apply pressure to the board’s surface.

When to buy:

Whenever you want – who can resist an (old) new board, right?

But if you’re budget conscious or looking for something quite specific, the best time to buy is just after summer, when backpackers (at least here in Australia) start leaving and there is an influx of boards on the market.

It did surprise me at the speed with which boards were sold. I had to watch Gumtree for a couple of days and ended up buying my board within one day of the seller posting his ad. When I went to pick it up, he told me that four other people had made enquiries with him and that one buyer had offered more than his asking price, but that because he had already promised the board to me, he did not go ahead with the sale – what a legend!

Have you had any bad used board buying experiences? Please share  🙂

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