Where do I buy the board? How much do they cost? How will I know which is the right board for me? Like cars and clothes and furniture, and all other objects of consumption, there are a variety of aesthetic, ethical, and economic factors to consider. Below I’ve outlined some options for buying a new board:
Custom shape by local shapers ($750-$1300): There are many upshots to supporting your local shaper: it’s a time-honored practice; it limits the carbon footprint; you can get whatever colors and fin set-ups you want (for a price); and you’re establishing a relationship with the person who puts the magic under your feet. Check out these New York shapers: Malwitz (Rick Malwitz), Faktion Surfboards (Mark Petrocelli), Natures Shapes (Mike Becker), Phoenix Surfboards (Squeak).
Custom shapes by non-local shapers ($800-$1300): Probably not the best bet for a complete beginning surfer, but an option. There are a number of extraordinarily talented shapers in CA, HI, and Australia—so many that I can't even start to list them all. If you feel drawn to a particular shaper and want to figure out how to get a board from him or her, you won't regret it. One of my favorite shapers right now is Ashley Lloyd in Santa Cruz, CA, a shaper of epic boards and one of the few women in the industry.
Sundown Ski + Surf, Levittown ($500-$1000): Tyler Breuer at Sundown is a great guy who will even deliver a board to you in Brooklyn or Manhattan if you can't make it out to his shop in Levittown. For the best value, you can buy a “pop-out”--a few years ago Tom Sena bought the labels on a bunch of defunct surf brands like Challenger, Surfboards Australia, and Canyon, then took these labels and some basic designs and collaborated with Chinese factories to shape affordable mid-length and longboard surfboards. These are made with the standard foam/fiberglass combination that surfboards have been comprised of for the past 60 years. There have been a number of surf forums debating the ethics of this model and it what it means for the US board building industry. These boards ride well and serve the needs of people in search for an affordable board, though the issue of globalization, outsourcing, and US/China relations is enormously complex. I'd say it's up to you to consider where you stand on this issue as you make your choice. Sundown also carries a few classic logs by Harbour shaped in CA. These are pricier, but a true part of surfing history and great performers in beach and point break surf. Sundown’s stock is huge, so you won’t have to worry about whether they’ll have a board in stock or not.
Pilgrim Surf + Supply, Lost Weekend NYC, Saturdays Surf NYC, Salt Surf NYC ($650-$1400): These shops carry very beautiful hand-crafted midlengths and longboards by shapers such as Kookbox, Folklore, Gato Heroi, Bing, Josh Hall, Andreini, Tyler Warren, Chris Christenson, Yater, and Anderson. Boards in the 8’0” range start at around $950 (though Salt Surf has one starting at $650). Don't let their beauty intimidate you. They are all meant to be waxed, ridden, beaten up, and like an expensive pair of jeans, will look a lot better once they have. If your aesthetics lean towards the hyper, your ethics are strictly American-made, and you can find it in your budget to grab one, it's worth it.