With the current extortionate prices being charged by airlines for shipping surfboards, an ever increasing number of visitors to Oahu are choosing to purchase their boards on the island, rather than paying up to $250 per board round trip.  If you know where to look it’s possible to buy a board on Oahu, sell it before you leave, and spend less money than you would bringing your own boards, all without having to schlep a giant board bag through multiple airports.

There are many different options to choose from when considering a board purchase, each suited to a particular buyer or situation.  The least expensive option is, obviously, to buy a used board; though with a little local knowledge it is possible to get a crisp, white, new board for only slightly more than you would pay for a used one.

Anatomy Of A Surfboard

History of the Surfboard

Surfboards are as unique as surfers themselves. Today, the varieties of shapes, styles, materials and designs are endless. Each board is made for a particular purpose – big waves, speed, advanced maneuvers etc. – and many times a surfboard is even designed for a specific break and/or surfer. Although every board has its own story, several types of boards have been invented and reinvented throughout surfing history that provide the basic templates for the countless variations seen in the ocean today.

Arguably, the first and original surfboards were the “longboard” and the “bodyboard.” Although neither term was used until the 1970s, ancient Hawaiians were riding wooden boards up to 12 feet (up to 24 feet for royalty) long before travelers from the western world saw their first surfer. The four original types of boards were the olo, kiko‘o, alaia (larger boards reserved for royalty) and paipo (for prone riding or “bodyboarding”). The original Hawaiian surfboards were made of solid planks of wood and were a centerpiece in religious as well as recreational practices. Using these heavy wooden boards, surfers could enjoy the momentum of the waves, but had limited ability to maneuver in the water. As the popularity of surfing grew and efforts were made to enhance the “ride,” the original styles of surfboards faded into the background of surfing.

Over time, surfers from around the world worked relentlessly to develop suitable equipment for riding bigger waves and for improving their ability to maneuver in the water.  One of the first surfboard designs that enabled surfers to ride bigger waves and have more control of a board in the water is a board now known as a “gun.”  Although the term “gun” did not emerge until the 1950s, the effort to ride bigger waves started in the 1930s, with the invention of the finless “hot curl” design. The hot curl design reduced the back end of the wooden plank and made it narrower, which reduced the tendency to lose traction and allowed for a tighter angle when riding a wave. This design initiated the movement toward “big wave” surfing, which has grown in popularity and prestige and is currently one of the major draws of modern-day surfing.

One of the most dramatic changes in surfing history was the introduction of the “shortboard,” which emerged in the 1960s and exploded in the 1970s, creating the “shortboard revolution.” The shortboard was substantially shorter and lighter than previous generations of surfboards, and its lighter synthetic materials, pointed shape and tri-fin base enabled surfers to navigate waves and execute moves in ways they had never done before.  As technological advances in design and materials progressed, emphasis on “high-performance” boards and surfing grew.

Although high-performance shortboards dominated the waters for about a decade, the reinvention of the “longboard” in the late 1970s rejuvenated interest in straighter and smoother rides. The term “longboard” was given to boards of considerable size (generally over nine feet long) with rounded noses, in response to the plethora of shortboards (averaging just over six feet long).

Around the same time that longboards returned to fashion in surfing, a reinvention of prone-riding boards or “bodyboards” emerged as well. These boards were soft and pliable and meant to be ridden by lying on the belly, rather than in a standing position. Bodyboards quickly grew in popularity, especially with tourists and non-surfers, because they were cheaper and easier, and safer to ride.

In addition to these different types of surfboards – longboards, guns, shortboards and bodyboards – there are a number of boards used for hybrid sports such as windsurfing and wakeboarding. One recent spin off of the surfboard is the stand-up paddle (SUP) board. This form of surfing originated in the 1960s with surf instructors and “beach boys” who would stand up on boards and either manage large groups of people or take pictures of tourists.  John “Pops” Ah Choy is known as the father of stand-up paddle surfing.  SUP began with the use of standard longboards and a one-blade paddle, but its recent popularity has developed SUP into an industry of its own, being promoted as a flat-water as well as ocean sport with specially designed boards and accessories.

The adaptation of the surfboard is a reflection of a culture and industry in a constant state of change. The drive to surf bigger waves and have better rides continues to drive the evolution of surfing and propel the development of the activity, sport and culture of surfing into places we can only imagine. A look back at the stories behind the surfboards indicates that although many changes have occurred over the years, one thing remains the same; regardless of what you are standing, kneeling or laying on, it’s all about the ride.

Board Buying – Used Boards

Craigslist Oahu usually has dozens of boards posted for sale.  Unfortunately, many sellers expect unreasonably high prices for boards that are often times in poor condition; and less knowledgeable buyers run the risk of being scammed.  Stolen and defective boards are commonly sold on Craigslist, however, if you know your business you can often find a great deal on a beautiful board.  The biggest downside to buying boards on Craigslist is that they can sell fast, leaving little time to shop around and tap into the shop’s experienced sales staffs.  If you are buying your first board, we definitely recommend buying from a surf shop.

Most surf shops also sell used boards and have consignment boards.  Consignment is when the board owner leaves the board at a shop hoping the shop can sell it.  If the board sells, the shop owner charges a small fee and the board owner takes home some cash.  The positive side to buy your board at a shop is that you have access to assistance when it comes to choosing your board.  Furthermore, shops are generally far less likely to take advantage of a customer’s lack of board knowledge.

A word of caution, it is not uncommon for less than upstanding individuals to pawn off expert level surfboards, especially on Craigslist, to beginners who lack the knowledge to make an educated purchase.  As a general rule:  a pointy nose and a pointy tail means the board is for expert level surfers only, no matter how thick it may be.

 New Boards

There is no lack of shops on the island where you can buy a brand new board.  The trick is finding the right board that fits within your budget.  Some brands and shops may be more expensive than others, though a little comparison shopping can find you the best price.  The cheapest board is not always the best choice, spending a little extra cash never hurts in the long run.

A positive aspect of buying a new board (beyond riding a new board in firing Hawaiian surf) is the potential resale value when your stay is at an end.  A well cared for board will net you a higher price, thereby reducing the total amount spent.  Also, shops will spend much more time helping you choose the right board for you, ensuring you don’t end up paddling out at one foot Canoes on an 11 foot Waimea gun or a 6 foot short board.  A potential downside is that if you break your board (and the ocean does tend to eat boards out there) you’re out the whole amount.  Or if you are a ding magnet, you can surely watch the value of your board drop dramatically.  A new board is a gamble, but it’s one that can really pay off.  Aesthetics is important to many people.  The idea of a shiny new board shaped by your favorite shaper or manufacturer is a no-brainer to most core surfers and people with a little extra cash to spend.


If you’ve never surfed before you’re typically better off renting than buying.  Surfing is a very difficult sport to learn, and often times a week or two is not enough to gain the proficiency necessary for more advanced shapes.  Most rental boards are thick, stable, and sturdy; perfect for a visitor to ride a few crumblers in Town, without spending nearly the same amount they would to purchase a board.

If you’re a ripper, renting can be an option for you too, if you can find the right shop with your favorite boards.  The ease of use inherent in rental boards means that the same board will not perform very well for someone of a higher ability level in legitimate surf.  Still, even the best surfers in the world can have a blast on a 12 foot log in tiny little mushburgers.  So, if you find yourself in Waikiki on a nearly flat day, why not rent a barge and practice your noseriding?


Well, now that it’s time to leave, how can you get rid of your board?  There’s always Craigslist, but that can be a real nuisance if you’re keen on getting every penny you possibly can, but your board will probably go fast.  Still, a low priced board (especially if it’s nearly brand new) can be quickly unloaded by a motivated seller.

Hopefully you’ve made a few local friends during your stay.  Ask around, often times there is someone who knows someone who is looking for the exact board you’re selling.  Sell it for a good price, stoke them out, earn a little positive karma, and head on your way.

The final way you can sell a used board would be via consignment in a local shop.  This is definitely the most painless way of selling a used board, however the shop will take its own cut, meaning you will get less for your board.  While putting a board on consignment is often the slowest way to sell a used board, you also have access to the shops sales staff and clients.  Furthermore, you don’t need to sell the board before you leave the island, most shops will gladly mail a check out once the board has sold.  If done correctly cosigning a board to a shop for sale can net you a good return on your board, without having to deal with the headache of selling it yourself.

Finally, if you try these tips and still have a hard time finding a board, just ask around.  The aloha spirit is in full effect, and most people will be more than happy helping out a new surfer.  Have fun and always remember: if in doubt, don’t go out.

Know Your Boards

Know Your Boards

Short Board – The board has changed surfing as we know it, and rules in men’s and women’s pro surfing.  For serious surfers only – ideal for 3’ to 10’ surf.

Long Board – The standard beginner’s board and the minimum length is longer than you can reach in the sky.  Although used by most beginners, longboards can rip and shred waves by advanced surfers.  Good for surf up to 6.’

Fun/Hybrid – Continuously evolving shapes that combine the strengths of both short boards and long boards, offering more versatility in many wave conditions.  Other variations include the thruster, fish, mini and egg.  Ideal surf is 2’ to 6.’

Tanker/Tandem – Usually 9’ to 12’ but sometimes smaller.  Thick boards, usually too big for beginners.  Good for 1’ to 3’ surf.  Aka. Log.

Gun – Big wave board for anything over 10.’  The board is long and narrow resulting in more speed in big waves.

Tow-in – Tow surfers tow into waves with up to 75’+ faces.  Use of jet-ski, tow rope, and other equipment and involved, and teamwork is essential.  In Hawaii, certification is required to tow surf.

Body Board – Great fun for most ages and many wave sizes – from little Johnny riding ankle biters at Bellows Beach, to Mark Stuart dropping into a 15’ wave at Pipeline.  Try to get some swimfins if you plan to body surf.

SUP – With the development and evolution of Stand Up Paddle boards currently underway, designs have made significant changes over the past few years.  SUP offers various recreational uses including surfing, big-wave surfing, rivers, open water, racing and a fun way to exercise.  Boards are designed to meet each activity’s needs.