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Magic Board Center is a surf shop in Lagos, Portugal that lets you try surfboards before you buy them. Photo: Magic Board Center


The Inertia

For any potential car buyer, the test drive is a crucial step toward signing the paperwork and leaving the lot with a new vehicle. Why? A few reasons. First and foremost the test drive is an opportunity to see how a car performs on the road, and whether or not you like it. Second, it’s an opportunity for the salesperson to demonstrate to you (the bait, er, potential buyer) how all of the features work, e.g. the radio, heated seats, GPS, and cruise control. You see, car dealers have come to understand that the test drive and allowing the customer to see how an automobile feels, as they say, when the rubber meets the road, is a crucial selling point. Can you imagine if a dealership tried to sell cars simply based on everything they could show customers in the showroom? Sounds crazy right?

Funny thing is, that’s precisely how surfboards are sold out of surf shops each and every day. Customers admire the resin tints, fin setup, and look under the hood at the dimensions of a board (don’t forget the under-the-arm test for good measure), but few surf shops actually let customers test drive the product before handing over their heart-earned dough. It can be a frustrating guessing game trying to self-diagnose a shape, envision how it might ride, and get it in the water and be completely wrong.

Rik, a Belgian surfer and manager of Magic Board Center in Lagos, Portugal, says that very problem was the inspiration for implementing a “try before you buy” policy at his shop. His philosophy being the only way to understand how a board performs is to actually get it in the water.

The under-the-arm test never was and never will be the best way to choose a surfboard off the rack. Photo: Magic Board Center

The policy is pretty straightforward. If someone is interested in buying a board, they have 24 hours to give the tester a shot (Magic Board Center says that for every board in the shop there’s a new and used version). Within that 24 hour span, they can swap their test board out as many times as they like. If the customer decides he or she likes a board and buys one, the testing period is completely free. If they decide that none of the boards tickled their fancy, they’re charged as if the board were a rental, i.e. between 15 to 25 euros.

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What about pressure dents, dings, or breaks you ask? The policy is “simple and very open,” says Magic Board Center. Normal wear and tear is to be expected, but if a more serious accident occurs, the customer is liable for the repair. In the case of a break, the “try before you buy” becomes a “you break it, you buy it” policy.

Rik’s goal is to curate a collection of quality boards for customers and traveling surfers interested in renting, test driving, and buying. According to the shop’s site, Magic Board Center carries many different Rusty, …Lost, Channel Islands, Chilli, and Firewire models, among others.

The “try before you buy” concept is novel, and it’s amazing it hasn’t caught on yet. But, it’s quite possible that very soon it’ll be as normal as test driving a car.

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