Buying a used surfboard is a rollercoaster of emotions. From finding the perfect bargain to getting sold a waterlogged hunk of fibreglass there’s so much to think about before you buy your new stick.
With that in mind, we’ve created the definitive guide to buying a second-hand surfboard so you can get your hands on a board you love.
Whether you’re just starting to look for your first pre-loved surfboard or you’re an experienced shredder trying to fill a gap in your quiver, we’ve got all the tips and tricks to make sure you get the best bang for your buck!
9 tips for buying a second hand surfboard
Before you go scouring the internet for pre-surfed blades we’ve got nine tips you can’t miss if you want to find a bargain. Better yet we’ve included some simple checks you can do before you buy your board to make sure you’re not going to need a trip to the surfboard repair shop anytime soon.
Identify the right surfboard for you and don’t rush into a purchase
It’s easy to get excited when you’re buying a surfboard and just get the first nice sled you see. While this will give you an initial fuzzy, warm feeling as you stare lovingly at your new board, it can quickly fade if you paddle out at your local surf spot and bog rail on every turn or paddle like crazy for every wave to pass under you.
Taking the time to wait for the right board to pop up is essential if you want to improve your surfing, let’s take a quick look at what you need to think about to make sure you find your perfect surfboard.
Your ability – If you’re early on in your surfing journey it can be tempting to buy a high-performance shortboard like you see the pros riding. In reality, these boards are incredibly refined and you need a considerable level of surfing skill and experience to be able to even stand up on a wave successfully.
Buying a surfboard that’s not big enough or completely impractical
If you’re looking for a good first surfboard to master the basics and start riding along the open face opt for one of the following:
- Large fish surfboards
- Longboards up to 9ft
- Funboards with lots of volume (if you don’t know what surfboard volume is we’ll be covering it very shortly)
Try to avoid:
- High-performance shortboards
- Stubby grovellers
- Longboards over 9ft
- Boards with glassed-in fins (where the surfboard fin is attached to the board with fibreglass)
Your weight – All surfers pick their boards based on their weight and to a lesser degree height. If you’re too heavy for the surfboard you’re riding you’ll struggle to catch waves or paddle effectively, ultimately this will slow down your progression and can lead to unnecessary frustration.
Surfboards have a metric called volume that you can use to get a basic understanding of how much ‘float’ it has. The majority of surfboard shapers and surfboard shops display volume on the underside of the board next to dimensions or in the product description if you’re shopping online.
Armed with this simple number you can use one of the many surfboard volume calculators to enter your height, weight and ability for a great guideline on what kind of second hand surfboard you should be aiming for. Here are some of our favourites below:
Always meet in the daytime
Now you’ve found the right size board and a perfect one’s popped up just down the road. When you arrange to view the surfboard (never agree to buying a second hand surfboard before you’ve seen it) always make sure to meet during daylight hours.
Sunlight is perfect for highlighting pressure marks, dings, cracks and even discolouration, all of which can go unnoticed in poor lighting.
The first and most important issue to look for is delamination sometimes referred to as ‘delam’. Surfboard delamination is a serious issue and it can happen to any fibreglass or epoxy-constructed surfboard.
It’s when the fibreglass layer of your board starts to crack and separate from the foam core beneath. The result is a weakened board that can break easily, and it reduces the board’s performance considerably.
While it’s not common, it often occurs in older surfboards because of wear and tear over time. To check for delamination first look for any raised areas where the board’s outer layer of fibreglass is peeling away from the inner core.
Following this run your hand across the board’s surface and try to feel for any bubbles under the layer of fibreglass which are clear indicators that the board is starting to delaminate.
Avoid purchasing any surfboards with delamination, the problem will only get worse and while it can be repaired it will often raise its ugly head again making for an expensive repair bill that’s better spent on another surfboard.
Dings and repairs
Dings, pressure marks and small repairs are all a part of buying a second hand surfboard and are to be expected. But for peace of mind here are a few checks we like to do before buying a pre-loved stick.
- Give any repairs a gentle push, they should be sturdy and shouldn’t indent at the push of a finger or you’ll likely be repairing it again very soon.
- Lightly push on either side of any dings (if any water squeezes out you can be fairly certain the board is waterlogged to a certain degree and will need to be left to dry out and repaired).
- Run your hand up and down the rails, tail and nose of the board to feel for any cracks or dings that you may have missed on your initial eyeball search.
Dings and repairs are by no means a bad thing but understanding what you’re buying and the work you’ll need to put in to get the board watertight is really important (plus it’ll help with knocking some of the cost off, which we’ll look at later).
Spray jobs & stickers
Make sure to carefully check any boards that have had spray work done after the initial shaping of the board, while these are sometimes just artistic expressions but they’re often used to hide nasty repair scars and occasionally buckles.
Any stickers of surf brands on the board could be hiding dings or repairs. If you’re unsure give the area under the sticker a light push, if it feels like it’s going to give way you can be fairly certain it’s hiding some form of ding or hole in the board
Buckles occur when a board is forced to a point where it snaps to a certain degree without completely snapping in half. It’s characterised by a long pressure mark that runs in a straight line along where the surfboard has folded.
If you see any sign that the board you want to buy is buckled avoid it at all costs. Even when repaired a buckle reduces the structural integrity of your whole surfboard leading to a weaker board and less flex, making your turns less dynamic.
All boards fade in the sun and white surfboards tend to turn a lovely shade of nicotine-stained yellow. While this is natural, there are some yellowing signs that you need to look out for.
If the second hand surfboard you’re looking to buy has yellowing in specific areas that are clearly not caused by the sun it’s an obvious sign of serious water intake.
Drying a board out that’s been soaked to its core can take months and you’ll need to repair the areas where the water initially got in. If you do decide to buy a board with yellow water marks make sure it’s for a heavily discounted price but ideally, avoid it if you can.
Once you’ve checked your pre-used surfboard from nose to tail and you’re happy with what you see, it’s time to close the deal.
Now depending on how ruthless you feel (and how good your haggling skills are) you can highlight any issues you found in your checks to try and lower the cost of the board.
Don’t offend people with overly low prices but being the first to mention a price can often lead to setting the stage for further negotiations, bagging you a cheaper surfboard after all is said and done.
Fins and a leash
If there’s no room to budge on price then try and get some surfboard fins and a leash thrown in, even if you’ve already got these having a backup in your car for any breakages is a must-have if you’re starting to surf regularly.
Where to buy your second-hand surfboard
Scouring the internet for bargains is part of the magic of buying a second hand surfboard, but if you don’t know where to start you can end up trying to search Amazon with no success whatsoever. Here are a few good places to start the search for your next used surfboard:
Common questions about buying a used surfboard
Is it better to buy a surfboard new or second hand?
This is really just a matter of personal opinion and budget. Buying a new surfboard lets you dial in your exact dimensions by approaching a surfboard shaper or picking a fresh off-the-rack. That being said much like new cars, one surf and you quickly wipe 20-30% off the value of the board.
Are old surfboards still good?
Yes, if properly cared for surfboards can be surfed for tens of years and even handed down through generations. Follow the steps outlined above and you can find a surfboard that can last you for years to come.
How do I know if my surfboard is watertight?
Any cracks or dings will likely let in some water over time so making sure all of your repairs are completed promptly is key.
If you want to know whether a particular crack or ding is letting in water, you can create a seal over the ding using your mouth and suck inwards. If you can feel air or water entering your mouth it’s safe to say that you’ve penetrated your surfboard’s outer layer.