Nick Carroll: If You’re Waiting for a Custom Surfboard Order, Get Ready To Keep on Waiting

21 Nov 2020 9 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

ed Done at his factory in Pambula NSW. At the start of October, Done put in an order for 30 blanks. After picking them up he put another order in was told it’d be a 10 week wait. A third order? That wouldn’t arrive till March. Photo via jeddone.com

ed Done at his factory in Pambula NSW. At the start of October, Done put in an order for 30 blanks. After picking them up he put another order in was told it’d be a 10 week wait. A third order? That wouldn’t arrive till March. Photo via jeddone.com

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL

A Surfboard Blank and Materials Shortage Has Hit Australia

NSW south coast boardmaker Jed Done is a long term customer of Surfblanks. That means he has a spot in the line for blanks.

At the start of October, he put in an order for 30 blanks — unusually large numbers for Jed, who makes highly customised craft for a discerning client base.

“I picked them up then put another order in,” he says, “and I was told, 10 weeks’ wait.

“So I asked, what if I quickly put a third order in right now? Could I get them before Christmas? They shook their heads and said, ‘You won’t get another go before March’.”

Yep, it’s finally happened. The great surfboard Boom of 2020 has caught up with the Australia’s entire surfboard production mechanism. The word “overwhelmed” springs to mind. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re a bespoke custom order guy or a big retailer manufacturing in Asia — everybody’s flat out. Demand has beaten supply for the first time this century.

Speaking to a wide range of boardmakers and surfboard retailers in the past couple of weeks, we heard some funny stories. People hoarding blanks. People trying to buy materials from other boardmakers. People swapping foam for fin plugs.

At least there’s plenty of resin and glass — there was a minor panic about resin a month ago, which seems to have passed. But even if you can get blanks, can you find a glassing shop with room for your shapes? They’re all flat out, too.

One classic effect of high demand is that it triggers an increase in supply. But in the conservative board-building world, that hasn’t happened so far. After more than 20 years of a surfboard over-supply, people are understandably gun-shy about expanding their operations.

In any case, it’s not as simple as opening another glassing shop. The highly skilled labour pool just doesn’t exist. Says one glasser: “All that needs to happen is a worker gets injured, and everything stops. You can’t teach a kid how to glass in 24 hours.”

It’s all about to be further complicated by a problem in the supply of toluene di-isocyanate — TDI for short.

“It’s out of control, it’s a good problem to have though.” Darren Handley on the surfboard boom of 2020. Photo: Jeremiah Klein

“It’s out of control, it’s a good problem to have though.” Darren Handley on the surfboard boom of 2020. Photo: Jeremiah Klein

Global TDI production has been unexpectedly stunted by problems at two of the largest producers in the world, BASF and Covestro, both based in Germany. This has stalled their production by up to 70% since September this year.

Which might not matter to us — except TDI is one of the key chemicals used in polyurethane blanks.

Sadly, TDI is mostly used by aerospace, car makers and furniture foam manufacturers. Surfboards are a bit, err, downstream from all that.

Checking on it, we called Darren Burford, of Burford Blanks, and got his office admin. “He’s pretty busy,” she said, sounding a bit harried herself. “Is it urgent? Can it wait till next year?”

“It’s out of control,” says Darren Handley, of DHD. “It’s a good problem to have though.”

In 35 years of boardmaking, Handley has seen it all, but even he is having to adjust his customers’ expectations. “We’re honest and tell them how long it’s going to take,” he told us. DHD pulled up pre-Christmas retail orders in September. On custom orders, normally DHD tries for two to three weeks; now, customers are being told six to eight.

Handley has spread the extra work around existing glassing shops, but hasn’t begun to expand, yet. “We’re just sitting and waiting to see how it goes.”

He does expect the boom to hang in there, which probably means at least one unavoidable consequence of demand exceeding supply: “If it keeps going, surfboard prices will have to go up. Maybe not a lot, but a bit.”

Darren has been testing a few new models and relishing the chance to work with the team while they’re out of the contest loop. Of the irony that this boom has occurred during a time when the world tour has been in a coma, he says: “You’ve got to ask yourself that question. I do think it’s been really good for the development of surfboards. It’s interesting times.”

(We’re gonna spend the next few weeks delving into some of the interesting shit coming out of the board production boom. Coming next week, part two: Adventures In 3D!

Tags: (create Alert from these tags)

blog comments powered by Disqus
More From Latest News
Running Blog: Surfline Live Updates from Hawaii and the US West Coast as it Gets Hit by Monster Swell

Running Blog: Surfline Live Updates from Hawaii and the US West Coast as it Gets Hit by Monster Swell

Checking in with Jaws, Waimea, Pipeline, Mavs and the people charging them

4 Dec 2020
Nick Carroll: Adventures in 3D Shaping

Nick Carroll: Adventures in 3D Shaping

Recreating an 80s Sunset dream board by way of computer, is this the future for specialist custom orders?

1 3 Dec 2020
RIP Marty Tullemans

RIP Marty Tullemans

Sean Doherty on the passing of a beloved and iconic Australian surf photographer

2 2 Dec 2020
Recent

Running Blog: Surfline Live Updates from Hawaii and the US West Coast as it Gets Hit by Monster Swell

Checking in with Jaws, Waimea, Pipeline, Mavs and the people charging them

4 Dec 2020
Nick Carroll: Adventures in 3D Shaping

Nick Carroll: Adventures in 3D Shaping

1 3 Dec 2020
RIP Marty Tullemans

RIP Marty Tullemans

2 2 Dec 2020
Watch: The Surf Lakes Pool is Now Better Than You Could've Imagined

Watch: The Surf Lakes Pool is Now Better Than You Could've Imagined

6 2 Dec 2020
Growing up on Maui To Becoming One of the World’s Premier Watermen – Kai Lenny Tells His Story on Jamie Mitchell's Podcast

Growing up on Maui To Becoming One of the World’s Premier Watermen – Kai Lenny Tells His Story on Jamie Mitchell's Podcast

1 Dec 2020
Latest News

Running Blog: Surfline Live Updates from Hawaii and the US West Coast as it Gets Hit by Monster Swell

Checking in with Jaws, Waimea, Pipeline, Mavs and the people charging them

Nick Carroll: Adventures in 3D Shaping

Recreating an 80s Sunset dream board by way of computer, is this the future for specialist custom orders?

RIP Marty Tullemans

Sean Doherty on the passing of a beloved and iconic Australian surf photographer

Watch: The Surf Lakes Pool is Now Better Than You Could've Imagined

They've been doing some major tinkering in Queensland

Popular This Week

The Beautiful Peruvian Pointbreak Surfing of Jaleesa and Josie, Binge This Kai Lenny Series, and a New Resort-Style Wave Pool Near Sydney

This Week In Surfing: Ten Things from Surfing & the Internet on the Week That Was November 27 2020

Watch: The Surf Lakes Pool is Now Better Than You Could've Imagined

They've been doing some major tinkering in Queensland

Padang Comes to Life as Late Season Swell hits Bali

Golden hour at perfect Padang Padang - it's been a good week to be in Bali... Photo: Childs

Video: The Fizzlot kids – SW Grom Bash

A stoked out portrait of Australian Junior Surfing in the year 2018.

Go to Top