How to Buy a Used Surfboard – a Mini Surfboard Buying Guide

While looking for a surfboard, consider all three dimensions: length, width and thickness.  While most people focus on length, you should be equally, if not more, concerned with the width and thickness.  Generally, beginner surfers will do better with thicker boards because of the added buoyancy (to help you float and catch waves), and wider boards for stability (so it’s easier to get up and stay standing).

The typical epoxy longboard that you’ll use here is 9’2″ X 22 7/8″ X 3 1/4″.  This board is large enough that it floats, paddles well, and catches waves (very important), but is not so large that it is not maneuverable.

The more time and effort you have to put into going daily/ 3-4 times a week, the smaller the board you can get.  You may even want to downsize if you feel comfortable.  Lengthwise, you should stick with something between 9′ and 10′ long.  Anything longer and it’s tough to carry, anything shorter and you will struggle your first 20 hours (consecutive days) of water time.

More important than length is having a wide and thick board.  You want it to be close to 23″ wide and 3″ thick.

It probably does not matter if it has one or three fins, just make sure it comes with fins.

Now some of the things you should ask before you go to visit the board (besides for the dimensions) is:
1. Has the board been broken?

2. Does the board have any buckles (a place the board has been stressed severely and will break–looks like a crack or buckle usually accompanied by a break in the stringer and delamination around that break) or significant stress fractures (hairline cracks running perpendicular to the stringer on the top and/or bottom)?

3.  Is there any delamination (fiberglass separated from the foam, usually on the deck)?

4. Are there a significant amount of dings (over four)?

If they answer “yes” to any of these questions then don’t bother to look, unless there were minimal stress fractures or dings that were professionally repaired.

When you visit the board, you will be looking for all of these things. Do not buy a painted or very “stickered” board because generally boards are painted or plastered with stickers to hide things.  Make sure the whole board is air tight, especially check the tail and nose for cracks and holes.  The last step will be to remove all wax (you may want to bring a wax comb with you to strip it), especially around the stringer.  You will need to inspect the stringer for any irregularities or delamination which will look like air inside and will press down easily.  Check the whole deck for delamination by pressing down on the deck to feel for separation.  Check each rail for dings as well.  Also check the leash plug and fin system for dings.  You should be able to run your fingernail smoothly over any part or apparent “crack” in the fiberglass or resin without your nail catching on anything.  If your nail catches on a ridge of a crack, it’s likely that water is seeping in there somehow.  Also look for discoloration (yellowing or browning) around shattered or cracked areas on the board.  If you see yellow, it’s likely they’ve been riding the board with dings in it for some time.  Some dings are more difficult to repair than others, so check everywhere to make sure you see everything and can report back to us.  Ask if fins (how many) come with the board.  Fins can be expensive so that matters for pricing.

There are two types of resin used to make surfboards: polyester and epoxy.  The standard has been polyester for years and continues to be.  You may come across an epoxy board.  They are generally more ding resistant and lighter in weight, but are floatier (more buoyant), ride differently, and require special resin to fix.  They are also usually 10-25% more expensive.  We use epoxy boards here (the 10’2″, 9’2″, and 8’6″ boards) for the resin’s durability.

That’s it for now for used board shopping 101.  It might help to take someone experienced with you when you go board shopping.  For $500, you should get something that is in great condition–only a couple well repaired dings, but you may find a great board for $100 too…  good luck!

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