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The Journey of Buying A Surfboard At Your Local Surf Shop

You can almost smell it. Photo: Annie Theby//Unsplash


The Inertia

You walk through the door of your local surf shop. The moment you get that first whiff of surf wax mixed with fresh neoprene, you feel at ease. This is home – or your preferred home anyway. It’s a treasure trove of apparel, gear, and knick-knacks that only a surfer could truly appreciate: a signed surfboard from a local pro hangs from the ceiling, eight feet of wall space is dedicated to nothing but beige-ish, brown-ish sandals, and every item in the store somehow includes either a wax comb or bottle opener.

But you aren’t here for any of those items. Because today, you are here to buy a surfboard. And not just any surfboard – the surfboard. The one you’ve been eyeing online for months. You’ve read the reviews, double and triple-checked multiple volume calculators, and watched videos of former CT surfers ripping on it. You’re certain that this off-the-rack surfboard is for you.

You begin to wander towards the back of the store. New boards are never kept in a convenient location near the front, they must always have their own room (or, at the very least, an elaborate corner) somewhere near the rear of the building. As you pass a never-ending t-shirt rack that makes you question which is saltier – one’s crew or one’s life – you are suddenly face to face with a living nightmare conjured from the deepest, darkest corners of the retail world: a teenage surf shop employee.

“Heyyyyyyy brah!” he enthusiastically cries.

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You cringe. He doesn’t give his name, but he gives off strong “Dylan” vibes. He assures you he is there to help you find whatever you need. His motives are questionable at best.

You politely tell him to go away. The allure of a new surfboard beckons.

From across the room, the pristine white radiance emanating from the Board Cave almost demands you enter it. As you arrive inside, you swear you can hear angels begin to sing over the Jack Johnson song playing on the shop’s speakers. Every board is flawless. Not a drop of resin out of place. The power of so much untouched beauty together in one space is overwhelming. This is paradise.

You eye up a pearly fiberglass fox in the corner. Volumous outline. Thick rails. Wide tail. Five fin configuration. This is The One.

It’s so smooth. So unwaxed. So…perfect. Is this love? It must be love. You approach it with all the suaveness of Butthead approaching a woman. “Hey Baby,” you whisper into the wide nose of this glorious slab. Ignoring the nearby sign in the corner that reads “please ask for assistance before touching the surf boards,” you reach a hand out towards its exposed rail.

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“Sweet sled, ay brah?”

God damnit. It’s Dylan. You were so close.

“You looking to score a freshie? Did you see Kolohe in the new edit? Cheeewwwwwwww! He was absolutely ripping on one of those. They look sooooo sick. My buddy’s got one too and he says it flies.”

Dylan offers to put the board on the shaping rack so you can have a closer look – surfing’s equivalent of a lap dance. You agree. He starts babbling about rocker and tail lift, but you aren’t listening. You’re too busy thinking about how this board is so much better than the three other boards with equal dimensions you have tucked away in your garage. But this board is newer. Faster. It will definitely make you surf better. Man, maybe you could even land an air on this thing!

With visions of stomping rodeo flips in Waco fresh on your mind, you whip out your credit card and demand to know how much. “Eight-twenty-five, plus tax, brah,” Dylan says. Even love is prone to inflation.

You feel a sudden pang of guilt for not talking to your local shaper first. He’s a great guy that has never steered you wrong, and usually for hundreds less. He’s part of the core of what makes surfing great. Are you some kind of sell-out, easily swayed by hype and slick marketing? Should you return this board and simply request your shaper make you a similar design?

No. You’re no sell-out for your dalliance with major label competition. You’re just in love.

After paying the absurd price for your new board – plus traction pad and matching leash – you feel equal parts excited and hopeful. Buying a new surfboard feels good because it’s a clean slate. It represents an opportunity to start anew at becoming the surfer you want to be. But while you may have convinced yourself that this new board is the key to unlocking your true potential, the reality is you just haven’t had the chance to fuck it up yet.

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