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Whats happenining to the surfboard industry? - 2008/09/26 04:15 There was a time when boards were handshaped, if you wanted a big label board like Island Classics (Arakawa), Rusty, Merrick, HIC, Linden, (so many) ect.. you had to wait for a few months for a custom shape by either the main shaper or one of his ghost shapers which they trained. Most of which started their own labels later on. If you couldnt wait, and the local shaper at your beach had good boards you could order one from them & you had an oppurtunity to build a personal relationship with that shaper. So you could give feedback and evolve the shape into your own "model". Then the computer came out, saving the shaper time and money because they didnt have to hire other shapers to help them, or give away their hard earned shaping secrets. They now could invent, tweak , bend lines, play with foils, all on the computer. They didnt have to make rocker templates anymore, or spend an hour roughing out a blank. They could also make sure all of their designs were always the same, everytime. Now they could mass produce and flood the market. But the backyard & local shapers still had their niche, their local following, and some even have access to those computer shaping machines to run their own programs. Then things started to change, the computer machines found their way over to China and Thailand. Soon companies started to pop up like Surf Tech, and Firewire just to name a few. It turned into a goldmine for them. They could take the best shapes, scan them, change one or two things (steal the shape), manufacture it using cheap slave labor, no EPA standards, no workers insurances and have it shipped to the states, or Japan, & Europe for cheaper than it is to make in just materials here in the states.
Soon these companies were approaching the big boys and saying that they could make their boards over there and have them shipped back cheaper than they would pay in just material cost. So these companies (there are quite a few) did just that. Who could blame them? Labor costs, insurances, EPA regulations, material costs, energy costs, workers comp, & rent, really add up. One of my friends had one of these companies approach him with an offer of $130.00 surfboard delivered to his door with his logo on it. Here in Hawaii it costs $200.00 just to glass (labor included)!!! It seems the surfboard industry has turned into a Surfing Wal-Mart. Now the shops are flooded with Chinese imports, the local surf industry cant compete and are losing a lot of work overseas. How can you compete with no regulations & someone who only makes a few dollars a day to do the same job you do?
Merrick sold his company to Burton Snowboards a few years ago, and a good bulk of those boards are made in China now, Same with a lot of other labels like HIC & Rusty has some being made over there as well just to name a few. So what do you do? Is it a bad thing? Are we contributing to cheap labor practices with no worker protections, or are we supporting someones family in a third world emerging economy? Do you support your local shaper or do you buy Chinese? Does your local shaper shape good enough to support? Some might say who cares, I ride whatever I can get the cheapest. Is there a right or wrong in this? Some might say this is our new reality, we dont make shit anymore, everything can be made in china for cheaper. Our economy has been changed from manufacturing to a credit based economy. Surfboards were just one of the last to go down, so get used to it.
Well I guess I'm old fashioned and stuck in my ways, but I'll never buy a board from china, I'll always support my local board scene no matter how small it gets. I enjoy paddling out seeing my local shapers rip it up, researching their designs, making sure they work when it counts. (shitty boards in Hawaii suck because wipeouts and board failures can have serious consequences). I know they surf the same waves I do, and put some heart in this dying trade. Maybe I'll get left behind doomed to watching my board get shaped in a backyard shack and glassed in someones garage but as long as its done right at least I'll be happy riding a shape with soul and know the faces that built my board. Is it the right thing to do? It is for me, but thats my trip. Maybe I cant accept over 50 years of shaping heritage turned into a cheap Wal- Mart rip off---what says you?
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Re:Whats happenining to the surfboard industry? - 2008/09/26 04:29 Good stuff.

I don't know that is a moral issue but more of an economical issue.

When I can afford it, I buy from the local shapers. There have been times when I had to go economical.

It is a shame we outsource almost everything to China. I myself have to buy products from China. I tried to buy in the States and it was impossible, and I do mean impossible. We don't make much of anything!

To be sure, I worry about the situation we are all in.

Kewalos,

You make some extremely salient points, I have no answers but I believe our road has been carved. In the end, greed will swallow every industry!
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Re:Whats happenining to the surfboard industry? - 2008/09/27 16:27 morality may not be the word needed here, maybe "ethics" is more appropriate in this case. sometimes the two terms are inseperable in practise given at some stage or another someone will rightly or wrongly invoke moral principles to steer a course of events. sometimes application of morals and ethics to the same problem gives little room for common ground (such as in the issue of abortion). morals tend to be more based on principles and dogmatically applied while ethics tend to be more focussed on utility and outcomes.

in any any case, just how can we neatly seperate economics from ethics? seems like you can't if you take either economics or ethics seriously and economics may be seen simply as the detailed math of ethics: it's rooted in the practises and problems of supply and demand but it's just a tool for analysing and predicting the utility and outcomes of several combined factors.

the fact is that changes in an economy, such as the economy of supplying boards or the economy of supplying oil or peanuts at the right time, will hurt some people, even destroy some lives. so it's not simply a question of right or wrong outcomes for an economy or a simple minded consumer: shit does happen but there's still valid room for questions of right or wrong reasons to act, harm to others, and effective utility. the deeper problem most of us are going about like mindless robots and letting an abstract heartless concept such as "economics" rule our lives as if it were a universal moral princile which must be upheld at all costs. even if it is, most people don't bother to look any further than the micro or macro issues which they imagine will affect their own tiny world of unbridled consumerism. hey, you only have to look at the overwhelming evidence of global warming and biological degredation (including humans) to get a good feel for the problem: supply has outsripped supply and only a near sighted fool or a liar with a vested interest would say anything is simply a question of economics. the total costs are mounting and user will pay...
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Re:Whats happenining to the surfboard industry? - 2008/09/28 02:28 you`re definately right, kewalos...the problem is that even if you support local products (not only surfboards!!) you don`t know where the glass, blank, material comes from...i bought a board that was handshaped in south africa and was sent to indo to do the glassjob...then back to south africa, then to europe...you can`t look behind the whole industry!!but i agree that you have to support local products with soul...
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Re:Whats happenining to the surfboard industry? - 2008/09/29 05:12 Well, it's a shame what's going on with board design+production.
For us older surfers who know the situation from the 70's it's hard to believe how the industry changed "our way of living".
But the younger generation doesn't mind cause they grow up with it. Plastic boards for beginners, "rubber pigs" for surfcamps...they spoil the beaches. Supermarkets sell everything, no matter what the result is. In former times it was some kind of art to shape a board, now it's only a workflow.
But we cannot turn back the clock. For those who can afford it there will be no other way than riding a handshaped board. It's style, it's culture, and last but not least, it's best performance. But we cannot blame those with small purse for buying assembly line material because they love to surf, too.
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Re:Whats happenining to the surfboard industry? - 2008/09/29 19:03 yep, the times they are a changing. they always have and they always will. not necessarily for the better, not necessarily for the worse. surfing is no longer the thing of cult, it is now fully mainstream and the surf is now accessible to all. hey, anyone with a stinking, noisy pwc can have a go at waves we only dreamed about riding in the past. but that doesn't make it good or right to simply seel your soul in the name of short term superficial economics and buy cheap cloned boards while there's still a wealth of incredible talent available to make boards and prepared to customise in your own back yard. and check this out - it is simple fact of economics and marketing - the price difference between a locally made board and a cheap clone is growing smaller: on one hand, as market demand and acceptance of cheap clones increases so will their price tag and on the other hand, local shapers who are savy and liquid enough to stay small will reduce the price of a real board to stay competitive. so, if you have enough foresight and soul, keep your local shapers in business until the price of cheap clones and real boards reach equilibrium. then lets brace our selves for the effects of radical changes in board technology which are gaining market acceptance, the local shapers will have to dig deep to get through this as well and this is another matter all to getter.
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