Built, tested, and designed for the Pacific Northwest in Newport, Oregon!

Surfboard Pricing and Imported Surfboards

In the 1960’s, I (Tom) was paying about $150- $200 for a new surfboard. At that time gasoline was about 30 cents a gallon. In the late 1970’s, I was paying about $200 for a new surfboard, and gasoline was pushing 70 cents a gallon. By the late 1990’s, with gasoline around $1.00 - $1.50 a gallon, surfboards were in the $395 range. Now we've seen gas at $4, and...well you see what i mean.  It doesn’t take much math skill to see that just before the end of Clark Foam (2005), surfboards were less expensive than at any time in my life. Gasoline is a convenient comparison, although it changes too much to be a really good one. But I think just about any consumer commodity would provide similar results.

When Clark called it quits, surfboards rose dramatically in price, and I celebrated. Here’s why: Before the end of Clark, a retail surf shop would typically make a profit of about $75 over wholesale on a $400 board. In business, that’s a stupid and unsustainable model. I started this company building boards, and it took only about a year to realize that it couldn’t pay the bills. So, we sold everything else you see in the store to subsidize the surfboard racks. And we were far better off than a store buying only major labels at wholesale.

I’m not sure when it started, but we are in a surfing lifestyle boom period now (the 4th such episode I’ve seen), and in response, the “China Board” arrived. I think Realm was the first label in the US to be Asia-built, and showed up first in Costco stores in so. Cal. ($200, but you had to buy fins elsewhere). The domestic surfboard industry (including us) was horrified and reaction was swift and bitter. FCS was vilified for providing product (fin plugs) to Realm, and Realm was given a death sentence even Tom Curren couldn’t prevent. I began using RedX fins, worried about job security, and warned you about poor quality and the demise of the custom hand-shaped board.

Here at Ocean Pulse, we tried to take the high road and only carry domestic boards, making us a rather high-end dealer. But as the surfing “boom” struck Oregon hard, we saw the market segment of beginners and typical “surfer dude” posers on a budget going elsewhere. Worse, we saw imported boards being sold in a new business model, which provided a healthy profit margin for stores willing to go there. That combination of huge numbers of new surfers, and availability of cheap surfboards was the beginning of a new era of surf retail.

It took us a while, but we now realize that the imported board is probably here to stay, and custom shaping is probably not going away. I heard from other shop owners, east and west, that the supply of domestic boards was not able to meet the seasonal demands, and that without China boards, their racks would empty before the season ended. That bit of information was my wake up call. It’s fine to try to sell only US made product, but if it’s not available, you have to get it where you can. And ultimately, as a retailer, you sell what the customers are shopping for, or they go down the road.

So, we’re grown-ups, and able to change our minds, and admit that we needed to. We have adapted to a changing business climate, and you will now find boards from China and Thailand here. Some are very expensive indeed, but we can also now offer the customer a new surfboard that is high quality at a lower price. Looking back over the last several years, we’re glad we waited to move on this, as the quality of imported boards is far better now.

Think of us as the same shop we’ve always been, just trying to be a little more inclusive and accessible to surfers of all levels and budgets. And we will NEVER mislead you about a product’s country of origin.