How To Buy A Used Surfboard

What to look-and look out-for when buying a used board.

Buying a used surfboard can either be an ideal way to get a deal on a good board, or it can be a complete waste of some hard earned money. Whether you’re buying a board from a surf shop, Craig’s List, a friend, or some random garage sale, there are some key things you need to know so you don’t buy a total heap that’s going to fall apart in a month.

There are basically two categories of dings: fixed and not fixed. If a ding is fixed, it’s all about the quality of the repair. If it’s a shoddy repair job, it’s just as bad as an open ding or potentially worse because it can trap water in. A good fix should be flush with the board, have no rough spots, and no cracks or yellow spots where water might be getting in. If it’s colored to match an airbrush, how well does it match? All these are indications about the quality of the ding repair and how long it will hold up.

As far as open dings, it pays to know how much it would cost to fix ’em. Also consider the fact that if someone is selling a board with open dings, it probably means they’re in a hurry to sell the board, or they’re kinda lazy. Either way, it puts you in a better bargaining position. After all, there’s a built-in inconvenience fee above the cost of fixing a ding if you have to do repairs to a board after buying it.

The Buckle Test
The number one thing that’ll ruin your day is buying a board that has a buckle. Buckled and broken boards can be fixed and can sometimes be stronger than before, but you need to make sure it’s a good repair. How can you tell if a board’s jacked up or fixed up? “Push on the board right in the middle with the palm of your hand,” advises Dominick Dimaggio, manager at South Coast Windansea in Pacific Beach, California, which has a giant used-board inventory. “If you feel it or see any bubbles come up on the stringer, you’ll know that you’ve got either a big or slight buckle.” If it’s just a crease in the glass, it’s a fairly minor fix. But if the blank or stringer is cracked, that’s a major repair and you’ll be rolling the dice on whether the board will ever ride the same after it’s fixed. A word of caution though, make sure you get the okay before trying the buckle test, or have the shop employee do it.

Nose Job
A broken nose isn’t always a bad thing, especially if it’s within the first twelve inches of the top of the board. Sure, a fixed nose can look funky, but if the repair matches the angle of the board’s original rocker, it usually won’t affect the way it rides. It’s a good option for someone who’s looking for a deal on a board, just make sure the repair is quality.

Stressed-Out Fins
Sometimes stress cracks around fins or cracks in fin plugs are minor. Other times, they can really affect how a board rides. If the area is brownish, there’s discoloration, or the cracks look like they’re taking in water, you’ll want to steer clear. If it’s more minor, it’ll likely be fine for a little while, although you’ll want to get it fixed if you plan on keeping the board for any length of time.

Tail Cancer
Tail cancer is a major bitch and should be avoided in a used board. It’s when there’s a crack or ding on the rail of the tail of a board. Stay away from tail cancer-it’s the one thing that’s nearly impossible to fix permanently and usually ends up cracking again.

Delamination is when the fiberglass separates from the blank, creating an air bubble, and usually occurs under areas on the deck that get heavy foot pressure. If only a very small area is delaming, it’s more of a cosmetic problem. But once it spreads, it’s likely to start taking in water and can make a board more prone to breaking. It can be fixed, but it’s typically expensive, so if you’re gonna buy a board with delam maake sure the cost of the repair is factored into the price.

Strip It
Most shops will clean their used boards up before they hit the racks, but if you’re buying from the general public, make sure to peel up any stickers and clean off the wax to get a full picture of the board’s health. You never know what sort of disaster could be lurking under a well-placed sticker. And if there’s anything suspect underneath the tail pad, take that off, too.

Pro Foam
There are lots of reasons a pro will sell a board. Sometimes they have too many boards to take with them, other times they might not have liked it. But even if they didn’t like a board, they’re the pickiest guys in the world, and whatever they might not have liked you probably will never notice unless it’s a real dog. One thing to keep in mind most pros get their boards glassed very light and it might be more fragile than a typical board.

Cost Of Fixes
A general guide to costs of common repairs
Small dings (smaller than a square inch): $25-40 each
Bigger dings: $40-80 and on up
Broken nose: $50-75
Buckled board: $50-100
Broken board: $80-150
Fin plug: $30-45 each
Color matching: Add on $10-25

Websites That Sell Online:

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