It's about life - not "lifestyle"
It is with fear and trepidation that I put this picture on this page. The Blob was my frist attempt to shape anything out of foam, and my first "large" fiberglass job. It was my first attempt to "airbrush" a piece of foam, and my but aren't the sparkles pretty?

Actually, the sparkles
are pretty, and the paint colors look good under the winter sunshine. The whole thing was a real kick in the pants to do and kept me busy in occasional free moments for several months during one odd winter. It didn't cost much - maybe $30 in materials and that or a bit more in aquiring tools; the blank was a salvaged chunk of broken board. The fact the craftsmanship was amatuer and the design didn't really work is beside the point. It makes me smile every time it pops up in the garage.

I said it was with fear and trepidation that I put this picture up, because so many people are so judgemental without giving thought to perspective. Top shapers have usually done tens of thousands of surfboards, and obviously the same with glassers, sanders, color people. They all had to start somewhere, and I doubt if any of them would be proud to remake their original pieces today - smart people obviously learn from experience.

Surfboards today are made in a climate of controversy. Close-tolerance blanks reduce the volume of foam which much be "shaped" off to maintain the structural strenth of the foam, which on the face of it makes them seem molded and fairly easy to finish. Yet close tolerances mean micro-margins for error. It is amazing how easy it is to mess up a piece of foam. If you don't believe me, mess with some yourself. It's a huge, eye-opening learning experience.

Fiberglassing is a messy, nasty business at best. There are all sorts of environmental issues involved, because there are all sorts of health issues involved - very serious things can happen to your lungs, the materials are flamable, and more. On top of that, the glass job can bring to the surface, so to speak, the flaws of your shape. Try it yourself... ;-)

Costs to produce top quality surfboards have really risen in the past few years. This is hard to imagine for a lot of people, but the manufacturing environment dictates a lot of it. The issue gets confused with the infusion of cheaper boards wholly manufactured overseas - as in Asia - and which look virtually the same and allegedly carry the labels of well-known manufacturers. The home-grown workers get antsy and defensive as they see their own not-very-lucrative business diluted by interlopers. New methods of manufacture increase their frustration. Surf magazines gloss over the issues and participants as surfing, though a multi-billion dollar industry, remains a small town.

Consumers, which is what we all are, have various degrees of knowledge about surfboard design and construction. The easiest thing to see is the price of a board. Stand one board of a certain design next to another of similar shape, and what sets them apart visually is the colors and graphics and the labels. Yet frequently one will have a price tag of $475 and the other $650. There is usually nothing attached to the board to explain the difference, and it goes without saying surf shop workers may not be able to shed any light.

Engage proffessional surfboard builders in discussion about this subject and you hear the other side of the coin. Many will tell you of frustrations with customers who think their boards are too "expensive". They know the profit margins. But they can lose sight of the consumer view - how are consumers to ascertain the true value? It isn't their obligation to learn the perils and pitfalls of the building business, and there is a bewildering variety of surfboard designs these days. If pointed out to someone they can obviously see that something with a fish/swallowtail takes longer to shape and glass than a squared off squashtail. There is a huge difference between the concepts of "expensive" and "overpriced". Both consumer and manufacturer need to be aware of this difference, and increasing knowledge of individual products is the way to do it.

A good first step is to write off a little money, open the mind, and take a little walk in another's shoes. The best way to appreciate your surfboard is to mow a little foam youself.
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