Buying Your First Surfboard in New York--Part III

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.

Buying Your First Surfboard in New York--Part II

Like a great vintage suit, finding a used/secondhand board takes a little digging, a lot of patience. But there are great finds out there if you're willing to spend some time trawling the internet and keeping your eyes open. Here are a few places to start your search:

Board swaps: These are great places to pick up a new-to-you stick for a really decent price. You also get to speak to the person who's been riding it for the past however long and get a few inside tips on how the board handles. There's a swap coming up June 7-8 at Sundown Surf and Ski. See their website for details.

NY/NJ Craigslist: In my experience, it's hard to find longboards on here--mostly there are lots of people trying to sell subpar boards for way more than they’re worth. Still, CL is usually the first or second stop in the search for a board on a budget and you may just find what you're after.

Ebay: look for boards sold in the NY/NJ area. Shipping is expensive on surfboards, so you’ll want to save yourself a headache by buying locally or trying to see if they’ll ship via Amtrak. Same quality/price issues as Craigslist, but deals can be found.

San Diego/LA Craigslist: Longboards galore, usually under $300. You can either take a trip to CA or communicate with the seller and ask them to put the board on an Amtrak to be picked up at Penn Station for a mere $50 (takes a little while to get there, but worth it for the great price).

Surfshops: East Coast shops don’t have used board racks to the extent the shops on the West Coast do, but they do exist. Longboards go like hotcakes. Pilgrim Surf + Supply, Sundown Surf and Ski, Maritime Surf, and Unsound Surf Shop all have used board racks. I’d call ahead to see about the stock before making a trip.

Swaylocks: At this online surfboard shop and forum you can search for boards by length and even post for surfboards wanted. Like Ebay and CL, you’ll want to look for boards being sold in the NY/NJ area or else figure out a way to get them shipped out here for as little as you can.

Buying Your First Surfboard in New York--Part I

The season is upon us! The weather is warming up, the water is warming up, and the collective unconscious drives us into the sea. This is often the time of year when people start to consider buying their first surfboard. If you’re on the fence, I recommend that you take a leap and join the ranks. There are many factors to consider in making that purchase, especially for New Yorkers, who often have particular storage and transportation concerns.


Buying a surfboard is not unlike buying a car. You have to shell out a bit at the beginning (it’s probably going to be hard to find something in the NYC area for less than $400), but if you don’t like it or grow out of it you can always sell it. The good news is that unlike cars, surfboards don’t depreciate much. Also, surfboards, especially long and mid-length surfboards, will pretty much last a lifetime—you don’t have to worry about their engines breaking down or parts needing replacement. You will get dings, but these are fixable and in larger boards rarely affect performance.


I always recommend that people buy a longboard. This means 3-5 feet above one’s head (8’-12’). I recommend these because you need to paddle quickly in order to catch waves, and you also need the stability that the bigger board provides to make standing up easier. Besides, all surfers should have a longboard in their quiver. They’re always great for small days—and let’s face it, barring hurricane swells, the NY summer is made up of mostly small days. Furthermore, you can use your longboard to get in shape and increase your paddling capacity at our paddling boot camps!

If you’re going to go the mid-length route (which is fine--you’ll just have to work harder to catch waves), I recommend a board in the 8’0”-8’6” range with a full outline—these are often called eggs or hybrids. What you don’t get in length you should make up for in width and thickness. As for the fin set-up on your first board, there’s no need to be too picky. I always prefer a single fin or a 3+1 (one big single fin and two small side fins) for stability, but anything will really do.

Storage and Transport

For those with NY apartment storage issues and no car the longboard presents a number of problems. This is definitely one of the factors that make surfing and learning to surf in New York unique. In this case I have two suggestions: 1. Get the longest board that will fit in your apartment and is relatively easy to maneuver onto the train; 2. Buy a longboard and figure out a storage situation at the beach. This can be at a friend’s pad, at a timeshare, or at one of the surf lockers (check out Locknsurf, or Boarders). I also recommend making friends with people who have cars or looking into Zipcar. Investing in a pair of soft racks (a pair of single soft racks is a good investment generally, especially for travel) will certainly make car-sharing a lot easier.

Board line up at Sundown Surf and Ski. Pic: Dion Mattison.

Board line up at Sundown Surf and Ski. Pic: Dion Mattison.