Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Future is (un)certain

We Shall Overcome...

I know that I am only a small, and relatively new surfboard builder, but the state of the global market is disturbing. As I have moved and lived in several countries in the last 8 years one thing has been constant. Surfing is on the verge of losing its identity, individuality, and ingenuity. The cause? Mass consumerism, and the turning of stoke into a commodity.

I started surfing in the 80s, and while there was already an established 'industry,' there were some remnants of the original, outcast/renegade/individualistic soul of surfing. We bought used boards if we couldn't afford a new one, and weren't afraid to stand out. In fact, you were respected for doing your own thing, except if you were a longboarder of course... But seriously, if you wanted a good board for you, you sourced you local guru and got one tailored to you. Or at the least, the local shop would have staff that understood the stock boards, and could recommend a board that actually would work for you, not just what makes the shop the most money.

These days, most people are opting for close enough, or going the cheap option. I have recently seen, locally, a package deal for £300 for a board, wettie, and bag. Surely, anyone with some sense will realize thats actually not a deal, because you can place a bet that they will fall apart in the following year.

What has happened here in the UK, has been happening in the US for sometime now, and they have been fighting it, to a degree. By insisting on 'made in xxxxx' stamps being placed on the imports, and asking for fair tariff/tax on them as well. The bottom line is these boards are putting respected and talented, if not legendary shapers in serious risk of closing. This is now happening here at home, with companies in the UK closing down. The shops however, seem to be flourishing, making record profits off the imports. Some, that even started out carrying(marketing) only high end, or high quality boards are now stocking mass produced imports under the guise of 'custom.'  You can get a custom spray job, picked out of a book, but forget softening the rails, having a 6x4x6 glass job, or shaving that extra 1/8" off the width.

When I was moving here I emailed two of the biggest UK companies that make 'high quality custom boards and products,' and got the same response : "Sorry but all of our manufacturing has been moved out east for business reasons." Surely.

What will happen in the future? Who knows, but let's hope we can retain our identity. There are some big-ish companies here making beautiful boards, and there are some smaller guys as well. There is a glimmer of hope. A lot of people who are currently riding these cheap boards are finding that they do fall apart, or aren't ideal for them, and they want something better. They want to talk to someone who knows what makes a board work, and can tailor it to their needs.

When you look for your next board, no matter where you are, ask more questions, educate yourself on design from a reputable source, and don't settle for a bland, homogeneous board. Get something that works.

For more information or to get involed, email Homeblown, and support your local businesses.

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