A complete guide to buying a used surfboard

Depending on what you get, buying a used surfboard can either be a great way to score a good deal or a complete waste of your hard-earned cash.

Whether you’re buying at a garage sale, on Craigslist or at a surf shop, here are a few tips to ensure that you don’t get ripped off.

Do a ding check

A photo posted by About:Blank (@aboutblanksurf) on

As long as dings (i.e., punctures, holes, cracks) are fixed well, they aren’t deal-breakers.

Look for a smooth, watertight finish in a repaired ding. If the ding is still open or is in critical spots like the fins or tail, be wary and lower your offer, as you’re going to have to pay for a repair job (or buy supplies and repair it yourself).

Tip: Be wary of cracks and stress marks around the fins.

Look for buckles

A buckle is when the board is creased across its width. While buckles in the nose can be repaired, a buckle in the middle or tail of the board should raise red flags.

Some unscrupulous sellers will paint over a buckle or paste stickers over it. Bottom line: If a board is buckled, it’s one wave away from breaking in half and not worth the money.

Look for tail cancer and delamination

Once a surfboard sustains a ding in the tail area, it can lead to “cancer” if not fixed professionally. “Tail cancer” is when a board keeps absorbing water in the tail: Like cancer, it’s bad news.

If there are little cracks in that area and it feels soft to the touch, walk away. Matter of fact, if there’s anywhere on the board that feels soft to the touch, that means it’s suffering from delamination (when the fiberglass stops adhering to the foam) and is worthless.

Do the under-the-arm check

If you can't hold it properly standing still, running to catch some waves just ain't gonna happen. Photo: brandonreinhardt/Twenty20
If it doesn’t feel good standing still, running to catch some waves just ain’t gonna happen. Photo: Courtesy of brandonreinhardt/Twenty20
Once you’ve checked for dings and buckles, put the board under your arm and see what it feels like. Do you like what you feel?

It’s totally unscientific, but any surfer worth his salt will do this before buying a used surfboard.

Where to buy

You’ll find the best deals on Craigslist and at garage sales. Expect to pay a bit more at a surf shop, but if they’re reputable, your chances of getting ripped off at a shop’s used surfboard rack are much lower.

Don’t be afraid to haggle

The used surfboard rack at Surf Station in St. Augustine, Florida; photo courtesy Surf Station Surf Shop
The used surfboard rack at Surf Station in St. Augustine, Florida. Photo: Courtesy of Surf Station Surf Shop
Ask the seller a few questions before throwing down your cash: “Why are you selling it? What do you like about the board? What do you not like about it?”

Most sellers start high, too. If they’re asking $400, it should be barely ridden and one of the top brands.

One more piece of advice is to know how much a new board retails for. Much like a new car, boards lose a lot of value once they leave the shop.

If someone is trying to sell a “barely used” Channel Islands for $500, it may prove wise to just buy a new one off the rack or find a local shaper to make you a new one for around the same price.

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