There are thousands of poor, unloved, discarded secondhand surfboards crying out for a kind master and a new home. Some are battered, bruised, unsightly things, but others remain in fine fettle and have many good years ahead of them; perfectly good used surfboards can be picked up at remarkably cheap prices.

Where to buy a secondhand surfboard?

Secondhand surfboards can either be bought direct from the owner, from a surf shop, or from the factory or showroom of a surfboard shaper/brand.

These days the internet’s the best place to look for private sales. Sites like Ebay and Gumtree can yield good deals, as can local Facebook groups, but even better are surf-specific secondhand websites, such as Surfvault, a free-to-use community for buying and selling surfing equipment online.

Surf shops, which often have a whole rack dedicated to used surfboards, generally act as intermediaries between the customer and the surfboard's owner, who leaves the surfboard in the surf shop’s care. You may pay slightly more on average, but you're probably less likely to get ripped off. You also have the benefit of being able to inspect the surfboards in person and to discuss your purchase with the shop staff.

Lastly, surfboard brands often have a selection of second-hand surfboards for sale at the showroom or factory. Some may have been returned by regular customers in part exchange for new surfboards; others may have belonged to surfers on the brand's roster of pro riders. Be careful when considering a surfboard that used to belong to a pro, as it's unlikely to be well-suited to your surfing; not only will it probably have a light and therefore fragile glass job, but it's been specifically designed for a very advanced surfer.

Situations in which buying a secondhand surfboard may make sound economic sense

  • Extreme poverty. Surfvault's Harry Jellicoe breaks down the financial benefits of going second-hand: "For a brand new shortboard from one of the major brands like Channel Islands or Lost, you are looking at paying between £550-£650, with some boards approaching the £700 mark. On the other hand, you can get a near new surfboard for about £350 buying second-hand."
  • When buying your first ever surfboard. Your rate of improvement is much higher in the early stages of your surfing career, and if you’re getting in the water regularly you’ll hopefully grow out of your first surfboard fairly swiftly. To put it crudely, a beginner surfboard is a means to an end. On the other hand, beginner boards such as mini mals hold their value relatively well, such is the demand for second-hand ones.
  • When looking for a step-up board or semi-gun to take on your yearly Indo trip. Is it really worth buying a brand new 6’6 if you’re only going to surf it a handful of times a year, especially given that, out of all your surfboards, it’s the one your most likely to break?
  • When you’re not really sure what you want, and have limited disposable income. By going second-hand you can experiment fairly cheaply with different designs and dimensions as you hone in on the elusive perfect board.
  • If you're going on a surf trip to a place where you know there's an abundance of used surfboards for sale, and where airlines will charge you to bring your own surfboards. Such places include Hawaii, where you're probably better off riding a surfboard made by a local shaper anyway; California; and, depending on where you're flying from, Bali.

Top Tips For Buying A Second-Hand Surfboard

  • Buying second-hand over the internet can be a risky business; if possible, try and see the board in the flesh before coming to an agreement.
  • "If you have a chance to inspect the board," says Harry, "make sure all dings have been professionally repaired. Also, gently squeeze the board -- if you can feel the board compress around your fingers from not much pressure, this is a sign of either poor glassing or that water has got into the board."
  • Running your hands along the rails, check for dings that haven’t been repaired — not only will they need repairing, they may have already let in significant amounts of water.
  • Discolouration may simply be the result of sun damage, which isn’t disastrous but looks ugly and means the outer layer will be weaker than it once was. Alternatively, especially if the discolouration’s limited to one particular area, there may be a leakage nearby.
  • "Look out for painted horizontal stripes across the middle or the nose of the board," warns Harry. "This is a sign that they have been creased or snapped and the repair has been hidden under a bit of paint or posca pen." Paint jobs over the glass will feel courser than normal paint jobs, which are applied to the foam blank before glassing and are thus left with the same smooth finish as the rest of the board.
  • Advanced surfers often complain that traditional PU surfboards (polyurethane foam, polyester resin) gradually lose their spark and responsiveness as they age. (Beginners and intermediates are unlikely to notice this subtle deterioration.) Besides being generally sturdier, surfboards that combine EPS (expandable polystyrene) foam with epoxy resin and a carbon or balsa frame tend to retain that lively feel for much longer. Such surfboards (Firewires, Slater Designs, Haydenshapes, many of the newer Lost boards) usually make solid second-hand purchases, although naturally they retain their value along with their flex.
  • Check for pressure dings too, ie. impressions in the board’s surface where the glass job hasn’t been punctured. In themselves they’re usually not too big a deal, but large quantities suggest a delicate glass job and thus a surfboard that’s easily damaged/snapped. Inspect the back half of the deck: are the stringer and the foam still flush, or has the foam been stamped down by the previous owners feet, leaving a central ridge running along the stringer?
  • Look for long, thin pressure dings that run perpendicular to the stringer. If you find one it may be a crease, and this is a big deal: a structural weak point that suggests the board’s not too far from snapping.
  • If a board still has copious amounts wax on it, ask yourself if a battered deck covered in pressure dings is hiding beneath.
  • Haggle aggressively.

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