Searching For Surfboards
For surfers, a surfboard is their true girlfriend/boyfriend that understands them better than any other person that exists in the world. The board lets them easily control their movements on the waves, so it is very important to get the right boards for maximum enjoyment of riding the waves.
Surfing’s origin is from Hawaii, where the native people used to slide over the waves after fishing. It was Captain James Cook who first introduced surfing to the western world, and it has now become a very popular sport. Surfboards were first made from wood, but those wooden boards have evolved using modern and high tech materials.
BUYING A SURFBOARD
Modern surfboards are most often made from polyurethane or polystyrene foam covered with fiberglass cloth and polyester or epoxy resin, which is much lighter compared to ancient boards of the Hawaiians. The lighter material makes the boards more maneuverable and faster, not to mention easier to carry around. The smaller the board the lighter and faster it will go, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easier to ride. Smaller boards are for more experienced surfers, while for beginners a longer board is easier, as the bigger board makes it easier to balance as beginners learn to stand up on the board.
To make a normal surfboard takes from 4-16 days to go from blank to finished product, including shaping, fiberglassing, sanding and painting. Bigger boards, such as lifeguarding boards, use Styrofoam and use a slightly different process which can take more time to make.
Buying the right surfboard is not easy, especially if you’re still a beginner. If you’re in Bali for longer than a week, we suggest you rent a surfboard for your first two weeks instead of buying one. This is important to find which surfboard suits you well, so you don’t end up buying a board that doesn’t work for you.
There are several types of surfboards, from the big ones to the smaller ones, different tails, number of fins, etc. It’s a very fashionable product, which style changes very often and the available options are plenty, so it’s very important to try using as many as possible types of boards before you decide to buy your surfboard.
Shapers still make surfboards manually for the most part, although some of them generate the designs by using a computer. The process is done in a workshop and taken care of by several people who concentrate on each process. As the technology is getting more advanced today, some of the businesses also make surfboards by using a computerized machine that is able to produce a mass quantity of surfboards at a cheaper price. But even so, some people still prefer to buy it from shapers so they get the exact surfboard they need and want.
The best thing is to buy from a shaper so you can consult with him to get your preferred board instead of picking it up right from the surf shop rack. Surfboards are made by surfers for surfers (usually they’re experienced surfers) so they know exactly what you need. It’s more expensive, but it worth the money.
BALI’S SURFBOARD-MAKING INDUSTRY
According to a contributing article published in Bali & Beyond in 2005, surfing was brought to Bali by the American couple Robert and Louise Koke, who are credited with building the first hotel at Kuta Beach in 1936. They brought over wooden surfboards and slipped into Bali’s waters.
At first it was only traveling surfers who enjoyed gliding on the waves of Bali, as the locals just watched them from the beach. During that period, the Balinese still believed that the ocean was a place where demons and spirit lived. But after they overcame their fear, the Balinese boys easily picked up the sport, joining the tourists and surfing on the waves.
Not only teaching them how to surf, the tourists also shared their knowledge and equipment, which later became a way to make a living for some of the locals. They started to rent surfboards to surfing travelers and opened surfboard repair shops around Kuta Beach.
In 2006 we interviewed surfing legend Kim ‘Fly’ Bradley, who claimed that he had made the first surfboard in Indonesia. He came to Bali for the first time in 1974, when Kuta was still a quiet fishing and farming village. He left Bali, but managed to come back few years later and decided to stay after marrying a Balinese girl.
Kim Bradley was among the first people who established a surfboard design and shaping company in Bali. But even with plenty of waves available throughout the year, the surfboard industry in Bali has grown slowly, because the supply of materials to make surfboards was hard to get. About 30 years ago, the government didn’t want to allow the imported material, but fortunately this has changed. Now there are plenty of board-makers in Bali that produce surfboards in both large and small scales.
According to Pete Matthews, Global Surfboard Manager at Rip Curl, production costs to make surfboards in Bali is still relatively expensive because the materials are imported from abroad. The profit is actually very small, even for a big company like Rip Curl. Rip Curl itself has been doing surfboard production in Bali for 4 years now from its factory located on the Bukit. We asked him, if making surfboards generates only a small profit, why does a big company like Rip Curl still do it? He answered, “Because without surfboards, there is no surfing. We want to be a real surf shop that sells surf equipment, not just surf clothes or boardshorts. And that’s why Rip Curl is the only surf brand in Bali that focuses on surfboards.”
Rip Curl has also successfully exported their Bali-made boards overseas and gained many good customers. They produce over 1,000 surfboards throughout the year to be exported to many countries, including Australia, Hawaii, Japan, etc, as well as to supply Bali and the Indonesian market. People from all around the world come to Bali to surf, even people who have never surfed before. It’s a very good potential market because Bali is also a door that connects all surfing destinations in Indonesia.
Rip Curl sells their surfboards in the price ranges from US $500 to US $700. Pete said because they use premium material, the surfboards are not as cheap as other places, but in the end the customers will be happy because they get a high quality board.
Not only big companies, small businesses also face the same problem. They have to struggle with the high production costs of the imported material and have to sell the board at competitive prices. “We used to sell more boards, and we had plenty of customers who requested us to make boards and sent them overseas. But now we only make few. Sometimes we sell more, but sometimes not. Lucky the demand to repair surfboards is high, so we’re safe,” said Hafi, the owner of Rezeki Selancar Jaya Surfboards and Sunrise Surf Shop.
Hafi has been doing this business since the first Bali bombing. Before, he rented surfboards on the beach, but after the incident the tourism industry in Kuta collapsed. As he had nothing to do (and apparently no job), he learned how to shape surfboards and started doing it from his small boarding room. His business began to grow and now he has his own workshop in Tuban and can produce up to 50 surfboards per month. But not always.
“Thailand produces a lot of cheaper boards. If our price is US $300 – 400, their boards are US $200 – 300. We cannot beat their prices, as we’re only a small company. But I’m lucky I still have loyal customers, some of them from overseas. But I mostly supply the local market, like Legian surf shops and my friends who also own surf shops. Beside, my surfboards are much better than the Thai production.”
Pete believes that Bali will be the number one place to sell surfboards. “Bali has the best waves, available throughout the year. If you make surfboards, you have to be near the waves so you can test them right away. If the board works well, we throw it into the market, but if it doesn’t, we discontinue making that type. Hawaii used to be the leader but the players messed with the industry by giving too cheap a price and they’re beating each other up. Bali also is a hub to other surfing destinations within Indonesia. Traveling surfers usually arrive in Bali first before they head to other destinations, so the market is huge. I am sure that soon, Bali will lead.”
Text by Intan Tanjung
Photo by Kristin Robins
Jl. Sunset Road No. 69, Kuta
(0361) 754-455, www.ripcurl.co.id
Sunrise Surf Shop
Jl. Poppies Lane No. 22, Legian, Kuta
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Posted by » Bali and Beyond Magazine