Jim Banks On: The One Dollar Surfboard Theory

24 Feb 2016 20 Share

Jim Banks

Surf Legend

Jim Banks charges the lefts, Photo supplied.

Jim Banks charges the lefts, Photo supplied.

COASTALWATCH | From The Pen On Jim Banks

*Jim Banks, himself is giving away a custom surfboard. Click here to enter now!

Much to my amazement, I still hear people say it, ‘Surfboards are expensive!” Really? Are you sure about that? Last time I did the sums on it, they looked pretty cheap. Around about one dollar actually. Yep, Just one dollar!

On a daily basis, that’s how much, on average a surfboard costs a surfer. Currently, volume production, quality brand boards are retailing around $850. If a new board is kept for say, 18 months (about 550 days) and then sold for $300, the board will have cost $550. One dollar a day! Or, if it’s kept for two years and four months (about 850 days) and then thrown or given away, it comes out at one dollar a day either way.

For the same price as one-third of a cup of coffee, or less than one-fifth of a beer, you can have a brand new finely tuned surfboard every 18 months or so. GREAT NEWS!

Or, for the same daily price as one coffee you can have three brand new boards every eighteen months. For the same price as a beer, five new surfboards every eighteen months. For the price of one beer and one coffee, eight new surfboards every 18 months. Almost a new board every two months! All for the price of one beer and one coffee!

SEE ALSO: That One Monumental Moment In Surfing, An Interview With Kirstin Scholtz

But maybe you like small production, up-market boards, such as mine or Joel Fitz’s which start at around $1100. Actually, they’re a lot cheaper because most people keep these type of boards much longer. Many of my customers keep their boards for five to ten years, and 20 years is not uncommon. I had a customer on the boat last year who was still riding (and loving) the board I custom made him back in 1991. That’s 25 years he’s been enjoying that board.

*Note to those who need to get surfboard purchases past the boss, the above is a very good argument for buying more boards. Be warned, they will now be counting exactly how many beers/coffees you drink a day. HA.

So where’s the expensive part, you say? It’s definitely not the ongoing costs of owning a board. Maybe they’re referring to relative costs.

In 1980 the Sydney median house price was $68,000 and the average weekly wage was $200. A pub beer was around $0.54 and surfboards were about $350. Currently, Sydney median house prices have hit the one million dollar mark, the average weekly wage is around $1200 and pub beer is $5.38. House prices have increased fifteen times, beer ten times, wages six times, but surfboards not even two and a half! Surfboards have fallen way behind the costs of living.

Jim drops into Uluwatu in September 2009, Photo supplied

Jim drops into Uluwatu in September 2009, Photo supplied

Maybe they’re referring to the costs of producing a board? Let’s have a look. I should be punched, hard! Yep! That’s what I said. Well, actually the full quote was.

“Rip Off! You should be punched hard for charging that price.”

That was a Facebook response that popped up a couple of years ago. When I posted a hi-glass, brand new, 7’0” pintail gun, discounted to $775. (Hi-glass is a specific glassing technique that more than doubles the snap resistance of a board while adding very little weight).

So here was a specially glassed board that had been built, drawing on my 45 years of skill, knowledge and experience of the art of surfboard building, for $775. Is that expensive? Maybe it is? How much did it really cost to build?

Before we crunch the numbers, lets’ check a couple of facts. Forty-five years of building surfboards, that’s knowledge that doesn’t come easy. You can’t read it in a book or download it online. If you’re really lucky, you might have an older shaper pass on some of this highly guarded, almost secret knowledge. For many us, it’s been a lifetime of trial and error, including thousands of hours of perplexed puzzlement as to why the beautiful, fantastic looking new board we’ve just built, doesn’t perform exactly how we want it to. (And sometimes nowhere near, how we want it to!)

Then there’s the thousands of lonely hours, pushing screaming electric planers up and down the lengths of a dark, stuffy shaping rooms, while toxic clouds of petrochemical dust invaded very single pore and cavity of our bodies. Dust that invades pores so deep, that it can’t be washed off by a single shower. There’s also dragging plastic squeegees through pools of eye-watering fuming resin, working it into the layers of skin irritating fibreglass whose micro fibres float unseen through the air, looking for unsuspecting skin to land on. There’s the sanding too, let me just say right now that my hat goes off to every single surfboard sander. It is an unbelievably tough, dirty, dusty and noisy task.

Jim Banks in the shaping bay, Photo supplied.

Jim Banks in the shaping bay, Photo supplied.

Building surfboards is no easy task! It’s hard, dirty work! And to make good a great one takes a crazy amount of skill, knowledge and patience!

After reading the above Facebook quote, I sat down and worked out the figures for myself. I started by adding up the blank and glassing price, calculated a small percentage for business running costs; car, petrol, phone, rent, website, internet, tools, sandpaper and then a little more for advertising and marketing.

SEE ALSO: Jock Serong's Short History Of Surfer Greetings

Then I added up how many hours a year I spent working on surfboards one way or another and finally, divided that by the number of boards I was building. It was a shocker! When I looked at how many hours were behind each board, even if I only paid myself a mere $20 an hour, the COST of building a board was almost one thousand dollars! That’s above the $775 that I had posted for the 7’0”. I was actually selling boards for less what they cost me to make. If I paid myself $20 an hour, too. As Wayne Lynch famously said, “The pizza delivery guy is getting better money!”

Maybe next time you order or buy a board your shaper a smile for all the blood, sweat, tears and possibly a lifetime of devotion that he’s put into building boards. Maybe instead of insulting them and hassling them for a lower price, you could ask them if they’re getting enough out of the deal?

Surfboard shapers and builders, maybe it’s time for you look at your true costs and honestly calculate the real amount of time you spend each year working on boards one way or another.

For myself, I can’t justify all the time, skill and knowledge that is put into surfboards for just $20 an hour. At the same time, I’m currently more passionate than ever, about building the best boards I can and I’m not ready to give up my passion and lifetime of dedication. Currently, I am trying to build up my current production numbers to a point where the return for my efforts becomes somewhere close to reasonable. Wish me luck!

--------

Jim Banks is a Cronulla boy at heart. He was red-hot grommet and a huge star-in-the-making in the 1970s and 80s, grabbing the world's attention by beating Mark Richards in his prime. Known as insane tuberider he was totally fearless. After competing as a pro in a couple of comps, he famously ditched it all to become the ultimate tube warrior.

Banks moved to Indonesia and became the explorer of perfect reef breaks and has dedicated his life to the search as well as building amazing, world renowned boards. Jim Banks still lives in Indo. He is soulful, easy going and  still is an unbelievable tube rider; three qualities that allow him to make incredibly well designed and built boards. 

The inspection before glassing, Photo supplied.

The inspection before glassing, Photo supplied.

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