Jim Banks On: They Said, "Don't Glass Them Too Strong!"

29 Dec 2016 35

Jim Banks

Surf Legend

The Uluwatu drop in 2009

The Uluwatu drop in 2009


Don’t Glass Them Too Strong!

“Don’t glass them too strong” was exactly what a major, high-volume surfboard brand was overheard saying to one of its production glass shops. When I heard this it kind of shocked me, but actually wasn’t a huge surprise either. The surf industry has long been cursed with short-sighted thinking and this was just another classic example. Don’t glass them too strong so the boards break easily, so they could sell more boards. It made me wonder which boards they rode themselves.

But really, this is a disastrous approach. Not only is this highly unethical and environmentally negligent, it’s actually bad for business. For a start, it’s a major reason why surfboard manufacturers cannot get a financially viable price for their boards. Who wants to pay $900 - $1000 for something that might only last 20 minutes in the right sort of board snapping conditions? This is current situation for most off the rack boards, and what customers and manufacturers are currently faced with, and it’s not healthy for both sides.

SEE ALSO: Jim Banks Surfs Uluwatu In 1977

Currently, the majority of the surfboard market is still largely driven by the white elephant of pro surfing and it’s pro surfers who need their board’s to just last the heat or get the shot. It has created a market that is demanding and expecting very light, high-performance surfboards. That is fine, but when they want them for less than a thousand dollars, what we get is a board that can break in half way too easily.

Has the surfboard industry been negligent in providing durable, high-performance boards? Currently there are very few options for a high-performance board that’s also durable. Why is this? Well for one, because the market is resistant to paying a higher price for boards, even though this stems from the fact that boards can break too easily. And two, there is very little incentive for the already severely underpaid manufacturers to spend the extra time to develop better products. I personally spent a couple of years attempting to develop environmental alternatives for building boards and in the end I had to sell the family home to pay for the failed experiment. As you can imagine, there’s not many who are prepared to take those sort of risks and rightly so.

Another lose/lose aspect of the current industry standard, disposable surfboard is that not only have the manufacturers created a ceiling for board prices, they have actually increased the market cost of buying a new board without seeing a cent of it themselves. With current standard production boards being so lacking in durability, the arse has completely dropped out of the second hand board market. This means that the real cost of replacing or purchasing a new boards has effectively increased by hundred of dollars because value of the average second hand board has dropped by hundreds of dollars. Now we have a situation where the customers are paying for it, but the manufacturer’s are not getting it.

SEE ALSO: Jim Banks On, Thickness Reigns Supreme

What do we want? High-performance boards that are durable, yes? It is possible, but highly unlikely for under a grand and maybe not even for under two grand. Even at current prices and production standards, surfboards are already severely underpriced when we look at the full cost of producing and selling a board, but I’ll explain that in more detail in another article. What would be a fair price for high performance, durable surfboard? If it was a fully dialled, off road bike (bicycle), it would start at $3500, head all the way up to $10,000 and come with a warranty. Should we expect a durable high-performance board to be in the $3500 - $5000 price range? One thing’s for sure, at that price it’s gonna need to last at least 20 years or more and have a strong resale value. But it’s so far out of the current pricing structure that it seems unimaginable at this point in time.

Some of the bigger labels have been offering improved and alternative construction methods recently. The Lost brand in particular, appears to offering a solid selection of more durable options, but many other new offerings still appear to be more focused on performance rather than durability.

Personally, I have been offering glassing options that are twice as resistant to snapping as a standard board for many years now, and I also have customers who tell me that they are still loving the the board that I built them 25 years ago. But for a small production brand like myself to continue selling them for $1100 is just not sustainable and so next year, the starting price for my own boards is going to be around $1800. I will be offering glassing options that will vary from double to quadruple strength of a standard board. Will I guarantee them? Well, thats kinda tricky. I’d like to and actually probably will, even though we all know that mother ocean is mother ocean and is capable of snapping anything in two when she wants to.

Matthew Banks on a twin fish keel

Matthew Banks on a twin fish keel

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