The BASE failure: What it means for the industry

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)

This is the second article Swellnet has written regarding BASE. The first article, written one day after the collapse and featuring 40+ comments, can be found here.

United they stood, united they fell. Eight years after BASE began, the collective of big name board manufacturers has collapsed leaving huge debts and approximately 35 employees out of work.

The surfboard manufacturing industry has been struggling in recent years and many smaller operators have silently gone under. BASE however, included Darren Handley, Simon Anderson and Murray Bourton - three of Australia's most successful shapers - and was conceived as a new business model for the industry. The gravity of the failure can't be ignored.

The original impetus for BASE was to counter cheap imports by combining the purchasing power, manufacturing space and distribution costs of individual shapers. The venture however created a new set of problems and rumours had been circulating regarding BASE's precarious financial situation. Now that the rumours have come to pass people in the industry are left to ponder the ramifications of the failed business model.

Mike Psillakis is a shaper running his own label on Sydney's Northern Beaches. Psillakis worked with Simon Anderson for eight years when Simon was working out of his Mona Vale factory. Because of the close ties Psillakis is sympathetic to all those involved at BASE. "I have the utmost respect for Simon, and Darren too," says Psillakis.

Asked why the BASE concept didn't work, Psillakis believes one of the reasons is they were too top heavy in staffing. "There were a lot of people who worked at BASE yet didn't touch a surfboard – reps, bookkeepers, secretaries, you name it. There's simply not enough margin in surfboards to cover all those wages."

"Team riders too," Psillakis added, "they are another cost. You've got to facilitate such payments just to break even." Darren Handley sponsored World Tour surfers Mick Fanning and Steph Gilmore. Another shaper I spoke to, who declined to be named, also said, "The outgoing costs, on admin and team riders, was never going to be covered by market prices. Workers need to get paid and each wage is a percentage of the final price. The margins aren't there in the surfboard industry."

The view, shared by a few shapers I spoke to, is that surfboard manufacturing is a very difficult business to scale up in size. Production line manufacturing is the typical method of increasing output, yet it's hard to make production lines viable with surfboards – they're notoriously time and labour intensive. The result is that time spent working on each board remains the same while staffing costs increase. Asian manufacturers can make it succeed largely through cheaper labour costs.

Some people I spoke to think it was as much the current economic climate as anything BASE did wrong. Luke Short, who shapes LSD Designs and up until a month ago was part of BASE, refused to point the blame. "Times were tough," said Short, "but they were for everybody."

It's a sentiment shared by Michelle Blauw, President of the Australian Surf Craft Industry Association (ASCIA). Blauw wouldn't share her opinion on the cause of BASE's demise saying, "the economy is tough for everybody," though she did concede, "they must've known they did something wrong. I don't know how anyone could get in so much debt."

Rather than pointing fingers Blauw would instead like to see the BASE collapse throw a spotlight on the industry and how badly it's faring. "Small manufacturers go broke all the time but you don't hear about it, yet now the big guys have fallen and the media is giving us attention. I'd like to see some positives come from this."

The Australian surfboard industry once had a very lucrative export market but the strong Australian dollar is now restricting exports and making imports - from both Asia and America - very competitive against domestic boards. I asked Blauw what is possible. "At this stage I'm not too sure. I couldn't rule government subsidies out, or tax concessions to protect the industry. What I do know is that if something isn't done soon in ten years we won't have much of an industry left."

Another thing Blauw is sure about is the need for all imported boards to be correctly labelled and the issue is high on the ASCIA agenda. "All imported boards need to be labelled so buyers know what they are getting." The bugbear is unbranded Asian-made boards masquerading as locally-made boards.

Mike Psillakis however, feels no threat from Chinese imports. "The Chinese market doesn't concern me. They make entry level boards only." On top of his model and stock boards Psillakis builds 3 to 4 custom boards per day and says "no custom boards come out of China." A staunch hand shaper, Psillakis says the only way to improve his craftsmanship, and hence create a better product, is by hand shaping.

Cory Roberts shapes Cory Surfboards in Victoria and he too feels less threatened by Chinese imports. "It's up to the market to show what we can provide differently than the Chinese," says Roberts. Like Psillakis, Roberts thinks custom shapes for the average or better surfer are an obvious point of differentiation. Diversifying with alternative shapes is another.

Asked about the BASE collapse Roberts was sympathetic to those involved but also optimistic about the outcome. "It could be the best thing to happen to the market in ages," Roberts said. "The last 12 to 24 months have been an incredibly creative time and this may enable young guys an entry into the market. This could help a cottage industry take a great leap forward."

Cottage industry: it's a term I heard many times while researching this story. The perception I gleaned was that, at the time BASE was conceived, the surfboard industry was in a semi-organised state and vulnerable to cheap imports. BASE sought to counter the threat by conglomeration but it has now failed and some are thinking that smaller, leaner operations – those lending themselves to a cottage industry – may be the best way forward.

Mike Psillakis was frank about it. In his view the top heavy staffing at BASE was a perfect example of why large operations don't work. "The surfboard industry should be a cottage industry," he said. "Rather than hiring lots of staff the shaper should be the secretary, bookkeeper and salesman. The surfboard industry can only work as a cottage industry."

Smaller and leaner may be one of the answers but Michelle Blauw believes all manufacturers - irrespective of their size - need to be clever, efficient and customer-driven. "The cottage guys will always be around and probably underpin the whole industry as that is where trends and innovation usually start." However, they "need to ramp up their game a little and find a balance between creativity and the basics of business," citing unanswered phones, late deliveries and environmental short-cuts as typical.

Further, Blauw says for the surfboard industry "to be taken seriously, so we can pass on our skills through proper apprenticeships, training and education and entice a whole new generation into the industry, we have to not only make great boards but also run businesses."

As a last point, Blauw says of the BASE failure, "Let it be a lesson more than anything else."

Australian Surf Craft Industry Association Psillakis Surfboards Cory Surfboards Luke Short Designs


freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Monday, 17 Oct 2011 at 9:34am

Sure would be interesting to see how Firewire and JS are doing.

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talkforce Monday, 17 Oct 2011 at 11:35am

Just watch this space... Firewire are rumoured to be headhunting investors just as BASE did continually... Stu Nettle will no doubt be writing a simmilar article in the near future...

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wreckybuddy Monday, 17 Oct 2011 at 7:54pm

I agree with Mike. Our industry doesn't have the margins to accommodate the staff required for a large business model.
Firewire has struggled but I think in the case of JS, they roll with the times and cut back where necessary. JS's partner manages the operation efficiently.

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smeeagain Monday, 17 Oct 2011 at 10:16pm

What should the real price of surfboards be? Forget the Asian popouts. You get what you pay for. A high performance surfboard custom made for you after good consultation with an expert shaper. What do you pay for that? Not $700! What is the real figure? $2,000+? Is the price so low because surfers are considered poor and incapable of paying the real price. Like a lot of things in life if you want the good stuff you have to pay for it.

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jonesurfer Monday, 17 Oct 2011 at 10:28pm

Here's something to consider - why is the cost of making a board so much more in Australia than America? You can get a custom board from any number of reputable shapers for about US$400 and at least the one's I used to buy from seemed to be getting by alright. Why is that figure nearly double here in Australia? Yes, labor is higher, but if you are working for yourself? Are materials that more more expensive here?

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thermalben Monday, 17 Oct 2011 at 10:33pm

smeeagain - the real price of surfboards is what the market will pay for it.

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ritchie-rich Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 12:24am

More often then not my friends and I surf Sth Straddie on the Gold Coast and we snap quite a lot of boards. I'm lucky and work afternoon shifts so I get to surf whenever I want. If boards were $2000 plus some of my friends and I simply couldn't afford to surf due to the amount of breakages, and dud boards we've had to replace, that by the way were made custom after talking to reputable shapers.
Surboards are fickle. Some go good, but some made with the exact same dimensions and same board plan can go like crap. So bad luck if you've just spent your $2000 on the latter.
Basically board manufactures are in a horrible predicament, the product is labour intensive and expensive, but the reliability and durability of the product is not worth any more then what we pay for them. Sad but true.
For the record I've been surfing for over twenty five years and am not adverse to buying expensive boards. I just bought three Js boards off the rack and I don't think I ever have to talk to a shaper again. At least off the rack you know exactly what you are getting. All three go amazing.

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freeride76 Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 12:41am

I got to agree Ritchie-Rich. That is the fly in the ointment for shapers wanting to charge big bucks; it doesn't take too many snapped 800-1000 dollar boards before people start looking for cheaper alternatives.

That is the main difference between boards and other sporting items: it's a lottery whether they will last long enough to be worth the money you pay for them.

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stunet Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 12:52am

Same. I'm of the opinion that shapers should charge more, but then I've also gone through the experience, in fact, a few times, of buying a board for top dollar and having it snap within the first few surfs.

Who can afford that?

I've been trying to think up ways around it. I don't think warranties would ever work - surfers will just go out in the biggest surf and not care about their boards, or if the board isn't performing they'd find another way to snap it.

I wonder if something like a 'customer card' would work. You know, like some cafes do it: get a card stamped each time you buy a latte, get your tenth cuppa fee.

Maybe if it was: get charged full price but get your fifth board free? Shaper gets an almost guaranteed four full-price boards out of the customer. Surfer gets a deal if he sticks with the shaper.

Wonder if that would work..?

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brutus Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 1:04am

hmmm..... more than $5m in debt and $1/2 m in assets,seems like the problem is/was the management of the company,nothing to do with high dollar,or the price BASE were getting for their bds.
Looks like really bad management.

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freeride76 Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 1:25am

I think the problem was too many hands in the cookie jar Brutus.

Now, as to whether any of those hands shouldn't have been in there, that may come out in the wash.

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brendo Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 2:55am

margins are obviously slim on custom boards, but I kinda agree with stu, if you keep going back to the same shaper, you should get at least a good deal after you buy 2 or 3 boards from them. Maybe not so much as a free one every 5, but at least you should get a discount rather than pay normal full price. I get my boards from one local shaper and am happy to pay almost full price each time, you get what you pay for. Plus all the blokes that ride his boards do a bloody good job and making other guys want one as they are fantastic boards. I'm sure he gets plenty of orders from word of mouth.

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s-r Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 4:18am

This is a topic that has interested me for 20 years ....I've always wondered how come all surfboards haven't reached a stage of mass production with way less labour intesity....sure, I know the machines have come in...but recently I saw photos of simon, in the shaping bay finishing blanks....surely, a guy of his immense status...has gone way beyond shaping or touching me he should be looking at a prototype that then goes into mass production...and the market buys these well created and reseached boards...that become super cost effective.....and these boards be so well produced that they are better than semi hand shaped boards?

These shapers then spend time on Research and development to improve, ranges for all....

For a sport the size of there any other sport that produces the equipment via such a high degree of crafting and such labour intensity?

if there is, please tell me what they are? - snowboards/ski's/cricket bats/skateboards/tennis rackets/yachts???

without any disrespect and all sympathy to the shapers....I reckon the shapers should be super secure and not caught in such a hard industry...they have been the backbone of the sport.

Firewire...seem to me to be a model that will eventually succeed in a massive way.....quality high performance and durable product....and I think, based on mass production...with great research underpinning a highly refined product...I think...never sure but thats how they look to me.


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hovercraft Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 4:21am

I paid 200 for a new HB in 1981 and just paid 700 for a new board 2011. Boards are worth more no doubt. The industry need to look at the market, lime splice eating dole bludgers are the minority of surfers now, its groms and teenagers with parents who are super consumers, middle aged people with coin and the middle teir i.e aged 18-25 who are the better surfers generally but will pretty much scrape up enough for a new board.

why do you need on shore customer facing sales people, onshore admin, onshore shaping machines and glassers. You dont. keep the local staff skinny, brand up the shapers and that may well work.Profits still go into teh Australian system.

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yoohooo Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 5:14am

BASE along with many other shapers, have no thought into INNOVATION in construction, was there any RnD into anything besides testing how a shape went ?
They're business model relies directly on design redundancy. i.e.: same old pu that lasts 6 months if your lucky.

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saltman Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 8:37am

Fact is Simon has licensed his established shapes to Surftech and they are made in epoxy
It hasnt hurt him one bit I imagine

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s-r Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 9:15am

When McTavish created Pro Curcuit Boards....I thought the surfboard world would change then,,,the boards surfed well....but Bob attached an outragerous warranty and they went belly-up!.....When Soloman came along...I thought's muscle and technology that will change the surfboard world....they gave up despite a great product....I have a gut feeling, the surfboard shaping world self perpetuates on itself --- the cottages somehow kill off efficiency and mass production attempts....and therfore can't break out of this labour intensive, probably totally unsustainable mode
of labour intensive operations.

Interestingly...the big surf companies never seem to really commit to surfboards...they have probably all briefly dabbled and quickly realized it's not profitable...stick to t/shirts and boardies and watches and even wetsuits but steer clear of the purest most essential product to the sport!

Someone...give me any sport of similar global size or bigger that produces for the masses, the equipemnt...with the same labour intensity as surfboards....table tennis? badmitton? lawn bowls? ten pins? netball?

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freeride76 Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 9:40am

Steve, think you'll find Bob took a bath on PCB because the manufacturing/design process was fundamentally flawed leading to all kinds of undesirable outcomes like delamination, and fins breaking off. Like all sandwich construction using EPS and epoxy they were bitches to repair.

Same went for the S-Cores. Surfed great. Complex construction that was basically unfixable when dinged (expect by a skilled ding repairer).

That had nothing to do with cottage surf board shapers. In fact it was just such an operation (Warren Cornish) who bailed Bob out and enabled him to keep shaping.

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s-r Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 9:58am

Thanks for the feedback...and semi see some points of merit there...BUT, the PCB's i had lasted longer than most of my boards of that era....and of this era, probably significantly longer than those refined hand shaped boards I see....but for sure, getting them fixed was probably a problem..., but again....had they become successful, legit talented board repairers to deal with that type of board would probably have evolved and become efficient...

A lot of people who surfed S Cores used to tell me one of the reasons they loved them was because they wouldn't break up anywhere near as easily as foamies.

I have a theory, that maybe the catalyst that might kill off hand shaped boards might eventually be the consumers who give up on paying big prices for such fragile pieces of a father who buys the kids boards.. with many of these same boards complete wrecks within 6 months and often broken in half....I'm already telling myself to look closer at Firewires --- just watched Taj go nuts on his!

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freeride76 Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 10:06am

Steve, the extra durability is for real with FW's but the point remains. Run into a rock, fin etc etc and you will not be able to either surf the board or fix it yourself.

A better option is to get a custom board glassed a bit stronger, use a stronger core (denser blank) and let the thing cure.

My two short boards (glassed by Phil Way in Ballina) are light, a year old and have very light deck denting. they are in very good nick and easily repaired.
Shaped by Mark Pridmore.

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s-r Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 10:30am

See your points Freeride..BUT...I've never fixed a ding myself anyway so would always hunt out a good a more durable is better....and --

stronger glass great...but there's this insatiable desire to keep things super lightweight...and probably influenced by the culture in shops and on don't seem to want stronger....

all the above said....i keep coming back to the one belief that sits in my head on surfboards...they are super labour intensive pieces of sporting equipment and the prices probably are totally too cheap for what gets put into them....and the anomally of that is...if they were successfully mass produced....we'd probably be riding cheaper/stronger...and from the profits that go back into the companies who extend their reseach and development 'cause they're finally making a buck...better peformance boards as well...and probably lighter...with expert repair and after sales services!

Yoohoo's comments above made sense to me...but, despite what might seem expensive to us, the viability of surfboards the way they are made probably doesn't allow for much real research and devlopment ---

I reckon Nev Hyman would have an amazing view on all this stuff...the reason I like Firewires...having never ridden one!...but...I see that they are actually going a step further, creating boards that are slightly different to foam hand shaped boards...based around different materials perform more boyant to start the shapes to be optimal..need to be slightly different....I've digressed...

Bottom line...The labour intensity of the surfboard sits at the core of it's inevitable longterm destiny...Terry Fitz would be another with great insight on this --- went from boards to clothes and bodyboards??

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fullyloadedman Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 11:12am

Boards are a touch to cheap at moment, but the blame has to be on both sides. The Pro's paid to ride their boards have to have the thinest and lightest possible so they can make them look good. So naturally thats what punters want too. But punters could quite easily walk into a shaper and ask for a stronger board with heaps of glass and big laps and theres a good chance it wont break and it'll be good value for money, but it'll be heavier and probably wont go anywhere near as good. Which would you rather? The longer lasting board, or the better performing board that doesn't last more than a few months? Realistically, if you want the light performer, you have to know it wont last long and you'll have no come back on the shaper. Its what you asked for.

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rees0 Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 11:14am

Steve i couldn't help but notice you referring to boards as been "hand shaped" i think you meant "hand finished". Very few shapers hand shape their boards anymore most going down the same route as JS, DHD, Simon and pretty much every other big name shaper you might think of.

I pay roughly 600-700 for a custom board. Hand shaped entirely. there is much more to making a surfboard last than just glassing. picking the blank for instance. My shaper will go to the blank factory and hand pick his blanks. 40 years experience can give you a bit of an idea.

I can just imagine the discount these larger machine shapers get for buying there blanks in bulk. discounts you won't see on the shelf. As well as having no quality control over the core of the board. Bet you all wonder why your JS's last 2 months before creasing or been covered in compression dings. The foam on the blank is stronger the closer to the surface of the oven it's baked in. another thing not taken into consideration by the machines that cut down the blanks.

when you go to one of these large scale manufacturers the board you buying is one of thousands just like it. no personality no individuality made by a robot. that will come through the board.

just because you changed the tail shape or made it into a quad doesnt make it a "custom" your in most cases making the board worse because the rest of the board has been designed for a certain shape or fin set-up. Something a hand shaper can integrate into the board but for which a computer is not capable. A computer doesnt recognise a nice rocker curve or a rail that just feels right in your hand. it recognises data.

Some of those boards that come of those racks just look and feel awful. Plan shapes that look as though they have been stretched to far one way to compensate for a bigger surfer or something.

There's no soul in foam according to Mr Merrick....

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freeride76 Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 11:16am

There are plenty of compromises now. Fibreflex, different density cores and glassing schedules, epoxy resin on standard PU cores.

Never been more options as far as boards go.

Up to shapers to educate the consumer. And educated consumers to ask for what they want.

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freeride76 Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 11:19am

Agreed Reeso. MOst stock surfboard construction is mass-produced by shaping machines and finished by hand.

Over-shaping of the blank is one of the main reasons for poor durability.

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ritchie-rich Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 1:00pm

@ Reeso, This is the funny thing, my mass produced JS boards are in better condition then most of the custom made boards I've bought in the last five years, for the period of time I've had them. All of them have seen solid Straddie on a regular basis.
I've got nothing against boards being shaped from scratch but they do tend to be inconsistent in performance, and when your paying $800 a board, this to me isn't good enough. I want something that I know will perform.
The personality of a good board is in the surfer that rides them. I give all my friends turns on my boards and every single one of them still surfs the same board with their own signature style. I'm sick of having to adjust the way I surf due to an individuality of a shape that doesn't suit my style. I'm happy that there is a bit more consistency in boards today. Having said that, they are still all hand finished and no two boards go exactly the same.
I'm not having a dig, just merely pointing out a different experience.

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smeeagain Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 8:44pm

The $2,000+ comment was to get a bit of feed back. It appears that the durability of the surfboard is a major issue. Always has been. The Firewire is definitly on the right track. Performance and durability is a hard equation. Heaps more money needs to be spent on R&D to find the answer but where is the money going to come from to achieve this?

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freeride76 Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 9:35pm

Not sure about that Smee.

There are plenty of options that have been thoroughly R and D'ed.

Some coming from boat building, alot came from windsurfing, kitesurfing, aerospace etc etc .

There are extremely high tech surfboards out there right now.

More options than ever before.
But boards will still snap.....though it is easy to make a strong light board, there comes a point where every material will fail.

The question is about a successful business model for domestic surfboard production.

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yoohooo Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 at 11:13pm
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stunet Wednesday, 19 Oct 2011 at 12:43am

The D'arcy story isn't quite as dramatic as that news story makes out. According to D'arcy they are downsizing not closing. A combination of factors has led to this. They being:

-D'arcy stopped stocking shops as they'd been stung a few times by shops going under and defaulting on payments.
-So they concentrated on export but the climbing Aussie dollar went against them.
-Finally, Japan was one of their main markets but the HQ was in Sendai (affected by recent Japan disaster).

End result being he and Michelle scaling back their factory to a size that suits their current manufacturing output. He's still shaping and plugging away.

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johnson Wednesday, 19 Oct 2011 at 1:17am

So many problems can be fixed if you actually talk to your shaper - recurring breakages, performance, durability, etc can all be improved if you have direct access to the guy actually shaping your board. Unfortunately direct contact is something that gets lost in bigger companies who have ghost shapers, desk jockeys, seperate sanders and glassers, etc. The bigger the company gets, the harder it is to get an individual product that suits you.

Also, to the guy who said his expensive JS's have lasted better than any other board, they probably just look better after 1-2 years because of the white spray. Many smaller builders don't spray the boards white, but the bigger ones do. It makes the boards look newer for longer, but silly little things like this are what your extra $200-300 per board pays for compared to other smaller manufacurers.

After getting boards from the same shaper for 6 years, I was devastated when he moved away. I bought a couple of JS's and hated them all despite thier shiny white coats. I now drive the 800km return trip to visit my original shaper each time I want a quality surfboard shaped, because nothing can beat a board that results from 6 years of working together.

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rees0 Wednesday, 19 Oct 2011 at 1:34am

I don't feel there currently is a way to make domestic mass production work.In relation to base the quality of the product went down yet the price stayed the same. In some cases of mass production the price got higher.

The offshore market's quality is low, comparable but to domestic mass produced but at least the price reflects it.

Agree with you Johnson. Once you've had a real custom you will never go back. Each one gets better as your understanding with your shaper increases.

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wheelsndeals Wednesday, 19 Oct 2011 at 2:08am

If any of you run a small business you will understand what is happening in this country at the moment .. ..It is the government and the over regulation of every aspect of running a business .We are the highest taxed country in the world .The taxes, benefits, regulations, are beyond understanding by most people, and you need to employ specialist in the tax system/ book keepers, to keep up with all the paperwork. Our family loved a supported dhd surfboards its a real shame .

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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Oct 2011 at 2:27am

...."The offshore market's quality is low, comparable but to domestic mass produced but at least the price reflects it."

Don't know what u mean by this Reeso. Both Firewires and Surftechs( the most common mass produced Asian surfboards) are more expensive than Aus made PU/PE surfboards.

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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Oct 2011 at 2:34am

Wheels are you saying that Govt Regulation sank Base?

Is that an opinion or do you know for sure?

And Aus tax rates, particularly corporate/business rates are pretty standard.
Thats bullshit plain and simple to suggest we are the highest taxed country in the world.

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rees0 Wednesday, 19 Oct 2011 at 7:30am

Freeride, I was referring to the cheap popout brands i.e na papa and the other 300-400 dollar brands you see floating around.

Right you are i failed to think about them and now you mention it there's another brand i can't quite remember but have seen floating around. The "made in Thailand" stamp on the bottom side of the tail is quite an eyesore.

What i was implying is that the quality of these cheaper brands is somewhat comparable to boards that are mass produced here. I havent had much to do with firewires nor surftechs however i do have a epoxy board a friend bought on ebay for around 300 bucks if memory serves me correct. Funny part been i swapped it for a machine cut board by a large gold coast shaper which went absolutely shithouse in comparison to the ebay board.

He retails his boards for around the $700 mark new as well so hes not exactly on the cheap side.

Hopefully out of this some of these shapers or shall we say corporations will have a long hard look at the shit products they are flooding the market with.

But in saying that it's up to the consumer to take a stand and not continue to buy sub standard products when better alternatives are available and often at a cheaper price.

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nopro Wednesday, 19 Oct 2011 at 4:37pm

Does anyone know or reckon any of the Base shapers will keep shaping under their own brands in the future?...DH successfully helped me find that magic board recently. After moving from south oz to the north coast of nsw i really had to change my boards a bit ie shrink them generally. But also i spent considerable frustrating time and money finding a board with a good rocker curve. Anyway after snapping one of darrens team boards and trying a couple others he lent me, he made me a bueety....hope he still doing boards soon because im afraid that this board is the one i wanted to run a computer template off for years to come!...those poor buggers have got way bigger issues to deal with than my little thing i know. Anyway ill be right there for one, if DH can get some boards out in the future at a competative price.

Maybe a few less boards to mick may have helped...i wouldnt want to be a shaper. dont give mick enough you run the risk he will go somewhere else. its a bugger boards are so labour intensive because really they are as delicate as to use...not worth paying more than $700 at the rate that you can go through them...

The old diaganol glass seems to work...4 on the bottom and 4 on the deck with a back food pad, still get a bit of compression (who cares) but snap factor seems a lot better...touch wood.

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barry-mccockiner Wednesday, 19 Oct 2011 at 5:46pm

1 board
Raw materials...$250
Base labour...$30/hr -> $240
Other(Time spent with customer ironing out details, storage space, promotion, %rent & %utilities per board, etc...) -> $110

I'd say the $590 total above might be Johnny the boutique board builder's cost for building a single short board. Of course it is slightly more efficient to build multiple boards at the same time, but let's just keep it simple.

Sticker price $800. In this case, it is unlikely Johnny has a high enough sales level to qualify for Pete's R&D tax credit, so he is liable for a minimum tax payable of 10-12%. Now we are looking at a profit margin of $100.

If he could stow away 3K per month selling 30 boards per month, recalling that he has already paid himself the labor above, that is what I consider a reasonable and sustainable home business. Goodonya Johnny!

However, that $800 sticker price is the max he can set his price to be able to sell 30 boards a month because the industry supply far outweighs industry demand thanks to overseas business models. Oversupply keeps industry prices low and since vulture capitalists' only option is to ride out market dips and peaks in the case of Firewire, Canyon, Mama & Papa Popout they will perservere until the red is really RED and all loans are called.

That Base model was genius from the beginning, but obviously mismanaged along the way. It is the middle ground between overseas and boutique builder Johnny. That model does have the opportunity to flourish because of brand preference attitudes, but it needs the right bean counters and consultants leading the charge on the spreadsheets at the same time the foam blowers are crafting evolving designs.

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brutus Wednesday, 19 Oct 2011 at 9:22pm

the problem with BASE,was not costings of the boards or the was mismanaged by the directors,

$5m cash put into the business,and nothing left!

it looks like criminal charges will be brought and the seizing of directors assets to pay back creditors....the real story here is not about why the surfboard industry is not able to support the big high production,lower profits formula....its about what happened to all the $'s,were they trading insolvent,and have certain directors increased their asset base thru their familly's......
the investigation will be thorough,so we will have to wait a few months to see the final result...
the only reason some s/bd makers are suffering is they are still producing the same bds year in year out....wheres all the designers gone?
No wonder China's threatening some aust s/bd makers...because they make the same ol designs year in year out...
try building back the idea that that constant design evolution is what differentiates the sausage factories fro the real factories

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smeeagain Wednesday, 19 Oct 2011 at 9:46pm

Barry, Good to see someone put some $ cost to make a surfboard. I think your estimate is still under cooked. Insurance etc is going to add a few more $ to that price. Seems to be a few people joining this thread that could fill in the associated costs of production.
It still appears that some people believe that $700 is still too much and with the snap rates of standard glassed boards it is expensive.
Freeride you are correct in saying that even the strongest boards will still break. With for eg. a Firewire you have dramatically reduced the odds of this happening and you have to pay for that.
I think there is no doubt that part of the demise of BASE is bad management.
We are now at a quandary where the consumer cant see the value of the product/don't want to pay for it and the producer can't make a good enough product for the money it can get for it to stay viable.

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lukesripping Wednesday, 19 Oct 2011 at 10:10pm

Ask Terry Fitz where and how to make money in surfing . T.F is a smart cookie and has rolled in cash for a while but he did start out shaping his own at brookvale when doll bludgers would bargin for a rock bottom price just because they can surf . dont forget every body there is a world recession going on . If the shapers can out ride the recession they will be in for the boom time me im ordering a brand new Warner today . lb

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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Oct 2011 at 10:38pm

True Smee.

Nothing personally against FW's but I prefer the Surftech business model: at least the designers/shapers get a royalty cheque for their intellectual property.

I'd rather get custom equipment made for me though by blokes on the ground here.
That might be old fashioned but I like dropping off a six pack to the shapers/glassers etc etc , rather than getting sold a board by some clueless salesman in a boutique surf-shop.

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batfink Thursday, 20 Oct 2011 at 7:17am

..."If any of you run a small business you will understand what is happening in this country at the moment .. ..It is the government and the over regulation of every aspect of running a business .We are the highest taxed country in the world ."

Utter bullshit imbecile. There have been bugger all changes to the average small business regulation in the last 5 years of Labor government. It's pretty much what JH left us with.

Steve, your questions about why the Model T Ford method of manufacture hasn't worked or hasn't been adopted here has numerous reasons behind it. It isn't analagous to say that tennis or skiing or badminton can do it, no other sport has such technical equirements in each board, things that only a true craftsman can bring to the table.

But it's much more than that, and much more complex. You seem to deride the cottage industry idea, but it is the most efficient operating environment, in economic and in time/motion methodologies. As soon as a company goes to 2 people in the business the complexity increases manifold. There are efficiency gains by adding some people, but they soon diminish, and complexity adds costs continually.

A backyard operation is the cheapest way of making surfboards, full stop. Next best would be a couple of guys with a very small factory/shop space punching it out as many hours as the two or three can do.

After that point the overheads and farnarkling around start to crap into what are already tight margins.

The reason the production model isn't in place except for a limited range of asian pop-outs is because the cottage industry model is a better one.

Economics my dear boy.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of small businesses in Australia, and every other democracy, fail in the first year.

Overheads explains 90% of those failures.

If you are setting up any type of business, keep your overheads to a minimum or you will go down.

BTW, things are pretty tight out there.

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s-r Thursday, 20 Oct 2011 at 8:52am

These are hard eco times, but, seems like surfboard industry has always been hard to crack into good times -- TF, who has been mentioned multiple times, I recall interviews with him 30 years ago explaining how it was an industry run on thin ice.....maybe why the major surf companies have continually avoided getting too involved in making surfboards.
So, to service a massive surf population across shortboard/Mals and everything in between...we need multiple backyard operations? Don't make sense to me...I recall a time not all that long ago when fulltime shapers weren't happy about the abundance of backyard shapers....

I'd never thought about the craft being so refined that it will always be a requirement that it be customized...maybe that's is right...and if so, then the industry is truely forever labour intensive...

I just have this gut feeling....that there's a less labour intensive model...that can pop put a superior product...and a stronger, durable product with a fair price...heaps of choice and adjustments based on weight/size and expectations...with experts like the Andersons/Handley's/etc...pushing the moulds!....I know there's heaps of resistance to that sort of thinking....but I'd like to see these guys making good livings...because shapers have really probably been unsung heros of development...and I also think that if they could succeed through mass production....the same mass produced models would get better and better with increased research and development.

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craggles Thursday, 20 Oct 2011 at 1:24pm

Steve-, you're on the money.

For all the statistic-regurgitators out there, I think it does need mentioning that small businesses make up almost 100% of the Australian business landscape and its associated financial turnover (I am not talking net wealth), and the government is well aware of this. There are already countless systems in place that cater to small to medium enterprises, and the notion that the little guy is up against a wall is simply not true. The claim that almost all small businesses fail within the first year is totally false - it only takes a few minutes on the ABS website to find this out. Here is a link to it (

At the risk of pigeonholing those who choose the surf industry to make a living, I don't think it is too much of a stretch to assume that many of these board manufacturers aren't exactly experienced MBA holders. In many other manual trades in which the proprietor is also comparatively undereducated in business administration, the profit margins and sheer demand for their products/services outweighs their relative lack of business sense, and they get rich. Really rich. But in the surf industry, with the overheads they have (and I'm not denying they are significant), there is much less of a buffer.

It seems that BASE suffered from either some pretty abysmal management or a lacklustre business plan/model to begin with (or both), though they did have the cards stacked against them to start with.

The cottage industry approach, for all its limitations, does seem attractive, but it does not mean that scaling up is impossible. It's just about knowing how to scale up in a sustainable way - it can be done, just look at the successful guys out there!

Looking at it objectively, we need to take at least some of the blame ourselves, as surfers. Many of the above comments perfectly illustrate how fickle, picky and vague we are when it comes to these "unfortunate" shapers. We talk about how machine-made, hand-finished boards lack soul, we talk about them being either too cheap or too expensive, and we wax lyrical about our deep-seated loyalty to our favourite shapers. Hey, it's a free market, and we can buy what we want, but in the end, we are the market. And we suck.

The differences in performance between a mass-produced board based on a R&D-honed design and a hand-shaped-from-scratch board are so miniscule that 99% of surfers would never realise. Don't we all usually talk about just riding waves and having fun? Since when do you have to own a Bugati Veyron to go for a Sunday afternoon drive?

If this was any other industry, be it guitars, cricket bats, clothing or watches, there would be an established way to mass-produce. Well, there is, and most of the surf industry is doing it already. It's just that our snobbishness when it comes to choice is putting the little guys out of business. Most of us will pay a 1000% markup on a pair of plastic boardies made in China, but then go all Pauline Hanson and whinge about the local shaper doing it tough. Get real, people! Consumers (and whether we like it or not, that's what we are) will always go for the best trade-off between quality and price, and shapers need to understand that there is a limited market for bespoke boards.

If people make the decision to go into shaping and they struggle, then tough titty. Anyone who thinks they can make it in business without educating themselves and planning for the pitfalls is a fool, no matter what industry they're in.

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abc-od Friday, 21 Oct 2011 at 1:02am

Your speaking a lot of sense Steve (and also you Craggles, as harsh as it is). But I'm a small shaper and if mass-produced boards come in then what are the pathways to working in the industry? Sure Simon (and also Greg Webber and Greg Brown and many others) should be rewarded for years of effort, but if mass-production takes hold then what happens to the learning curve? Where do the new, young guys (me) go to learn our chops?

I reckon we need the backyard/small-time operators so young guys can learn to shape.

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goomba Friday, 21 Oct 2011 at 2:31am

A shame really. It is an industry that caters to a generally young demographic group and the typical surf 'lifestyle' rarely results in much free cash. So there you have it in a nutshell... youngsters without much money as a client base. To top it off, the 'pro lifestyle' portrayed in the media involves free boards, sponsored tours, etc, etc. Every wannabe pro who can surf thinks he/she should receive a discount at the very least. Bro deals and 'steals' dig in to the profit margin of every manufacturer. The Asian imports are simply icing on the cake. For doing basically the same process, a guy who knows his way around fiberglass can make more repairing boats, motor coaches, or refinishing bathtubs than glassing surfboards. Getting gritty, dusty and itchy while working with toxic chemicals for shit wages... What's the point?

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s-r Friday, 21 Oct 2011 at 3:02am

This is directly at Stu at SwellNet!

You started the fire on this Stu and have been obviously quiet as it has flamed...I have a request...

Follow it through and get some amazing interviews from some on the inside...

Start with Maurice understanding is he was the first in and first out at Base and he has probably 40 years experience....I'm not sure we'll get any sort of answer that we'll understand...but I'd be intruiged...

Follow up with TF/Nev/ your GSI connection....give us some real insite! (get Greg Webber as well please)

Throw some petrol on this fire!

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s-r Friday, 21 Oct 2011 at 4:09am

I'm closing on a final comment....and in response to abc-od...

I have nothing but great respect for shapers/glassers/fin grinders...whatever..and they got it to a stage of amazing refinement -- and the sport and the rich industry (who don't touch surfboard production!) will never repay what these crew are owed..but, without any real feeling is, drmatic change needs to happen.

I reckon the future is about boards produced in mass...and when they are and sold in volume...multiple great operations compete for the market and produce better and better mass produced boards that are probably superior to the hand crafted products and because of the success and volumes in trade...sell cheaper!

Crazy thoughts...but we'll see if there's logic there soon..I think!

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stunet Friday, 21 Oct 2011 at 4:34am

Stay tuned Steve (and others), there's plenty more to tell in this story.

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freeride76 Friday, 21 Oct 2011 at 4:55am

Completely disagree with your assessment Steve.

2 points.

There are already mass-produced surfboards in the market.

Some produced in Asia (FW, Surftech , GSI etc etc etc ) and some produced in Aus (JS etc etc ).

So, that part of your argument: about wanting to see mass-produced surfboards is completely moot. That is current reality.

Second; the best and most advanced surfboards are being made by small backyard or factory operations. I cite Maurice Cole in Aus, Stretch in the USA, Bufo in Europe. There are many examples.

I can't see what your problem with this model is?

Shapers who can adapt to current realities and market direct to consumers are making a living.

Some have long waiting lists.

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freeride76 Friday, 21 Oct 2011 at 4:57am

Mass production and homegenisation has already proven to be suitable for some surfers but not others.

There is choice now and the market can decide.

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seethesea Friday, 21 Oct 2011 at 6:00am

Freeride is correct, mass production already exists. There is no reason why both can not coexist, Aussie manufacturers need to lift their game though to stay ahead of some strong competition here.

I would also argue that the local custom based industry is what pushes the sport forward, that includes the mass produced boards, they struggle to keep up with ideas surfed the next day. Surfing Australia's funding by the sports commission relies upon success, without access to high level customized equipment the next generation of Aussie surfers may not be quite so competitive, what would happen to to the funding then??

As Freeride says: let the market decide but can't we at least make sure we provide some competition.

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s-r Friday, 21 Oct 2011 at 6:49am

As a blog...and I look back on it..i've exposed my thoughts..and at the same time openly declared I have no real expertise on any of this....the back and forth comments have started to change my views and I'm probably more confused than ever and I'm seeing there are two models that are working...customized and mass produced...well...maybe they're working for some...end of the day, fully appreciate that shapers have been unsung heros of surfing and I truely hope they end up being financially rewarded for what they do --- maybe most are and it's only the Base model that has fallen..I'm out!

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freeride76 Friday, 21 Oct 2011 at 7:08am

Everyone benefits from a free exchange of ideas here.
Thats the best thing about comments on a blog: they extend and continue on the conversation.
Hopefully Stu will follow up soon on your requests Steve.
Because no doubt shapers in the game may have a very different POV.
Esp those who have seen alot like Maurice Cole.

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lee-cheyne-surf... Friday, 21 Oct 2011 at 11:22am

I think the problem with the industry is greed. You will never beat good personalized service from a shaper back that with a quality product at an affordable price and your on a winner. Quality shapers will never die! Mass production is a dying model. education is everything.

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brutus Friday, 21 Oct 2011 at 9:35pm

I spoke recently to maurice cole about his thoughts on BASE etc,and he is unable to comment until next week,as he had an agreement with BASE not to talk publicly about his departure from BASE,and that as BASE will cease to exist next week at the creditors meeting,he has a story of egos,promises,incompetence,betrayals,illegal actions.......
on a positive note,he has a pretyy good grip on whats happened to the s/bd market in australia,and it makes sense...
The days of mass producing s/bds in australia is over.The business model of doing volume s/bds with low profits,does not work because,its reliant on the retail/wholesale market ,and the chinese products offer better margins to shops,and better service,as there are real business people involved.
the mass produced models in australia are struggling as there is no real new designs each year,so that there is no real differentiation between the shapes from china and the aust models....just changes in model names.....why has there been slowdown in the big brands producing some exciting new designs to whet the appetite of the customers...?
the future for the aussie bd makers is go back to smaller,custom orientated business's,where there is little or no wholesaling done,and to provide excellent personal service,quality,direct to the public,at prices where the shaper is actually making.."more money for less work"....
forget the wholesale market,and concentrate on your website,and or local customers....
the BASE original model was to be technology based,and BASE was to become a vertical business model with its own blanks,machines,shops...what happened.....?
the next few months will tell a horrific story of.....

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marbles Saturday, 22 Oct 2011 at 8:28am

Happy to help Ben. Not sure either the tax concession or the grants would have changed the outcome in any event.

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peterb Sunday, 23 Oct 2011 at 1:16am

- figuring out the finances and cashflows of a 50 man boardbuilding operation can be done in a week - provided it isn't the week everybody goes bankrupt.

- years ago Barton Lynch was quoted as saying that he could think of nothing worse than being an accountant, I'm betting Simon and his directors wish they had hired a better one.

- doesn't matter what the product is made of, everything can be measured in dollars and kgs and hours.

- no accountants here by the look of it (scratch me, I got over it) - so there's not a lot of discussion in that flavour - just like Base I expect.

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mikehunt207 Sunday, 23 Oct 2011 at 10:07am

Board prices are always an interesting topic just talk to any shaper. The prices of surfboards have not really gone up in price according with most other surfing products ie wetsuits or boardshorts. 20yrs ago a new board was about $300, a wetsuit was just over a $100 and a pair of boardies was $20, now a board may be $700 (presumably made locally and involving hours of hand labour both shaping and glassing) A wetsuit which is made by a factory in the 3rd world can sell for $700 while a pair of boardies upward of $80 again from a overseas factory, both products mass produced and costing only a fraction to make compared to final sales cost. Most people would,nt think twice about paying a plumber $90hr or carpenter $50 but the poor old shaper covered in toxic dust works out getting $30 ! Shaping abeit hand shaping I should say is another skilled trade and should be paid according . The shaping machine can reduce several hrs work to 15min and with another 15 the board can be finished thus reducing the hrs spent and perhaps the cost, glassing and sanding will never be done by machine and will always have to be charged at hourly or piece work rate.
Looking at paying a skilled tradesman $2000 for a hand crafted, unique item such as a surfboard with all the bells and whistles (good glassing, tint or paint, fins etc) maybe should be a reality looking at the work involved, if you care less about what is under your feet the machine shaped, light glass, fin plugs only option is there and should be price reduced to match and then finally there is the asian pop out boards for the masses who really have no idea or care about what they riding.
What it comes down to is that many shapers acknowledge they will never get rich from their craft but the love of what they do and the lifestyle that accompanies surfboard making is what keeps them in the industry . There just is not enough profit margin in making boards for the big business such as BASE to succeed as we are seeing now, too many people to pay, big rents and all the other costs associated with running a business. The world and local economy is taking a beating at the moment and lots of businesses other than surfboards production are feeling it and this also needs to be taken into account when looking at the BASE situation.
If you really want to make money from surfing take a leaf from Gordon Merchant, put down the planer, pick up some sewing machines and watch the dollars pile up.

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wreckybuddy Monday, 24 Oct 2011 at 8:49pm

I think there have been a few factors that have contributed to the demise of the surfboard industry.

1. Shaping machines - Don't get me wrong, they are amazing tools, in fact I own one and love it but they've ruined our industry. They have made it possible for brands to mass produce and therefore dominate a percentage of the market. In turn, this makes it much harder for the local shaper, who is most likely a good shaper, to get a reasonable slice of the pie. And the machines have also given rise to what I refer to as the "non-shaper", someone who has never realised the basic foundations of shaping- learning the craft from the ground up. I won't name any names but they know who they are... The upsides are consistency and design capabilities.

2. Too many clowns in the industry -those guys who have never touched a surfboard but know everything about the marketing and execution of mass-producing surfboards and making heaps of cash. Yeah right! Funniest interview I heard was the CEO from Super Surfboards stating that surfboards were not about the shaper anymore, they are about the graphics on the boards. Boards will always be about the shapers, in most cases, they are the brand.

3. Margins for the manufacturers are too low - I know it has all been stated before, but Maurice nailed it. The wholesaling of boards is what drags the manufacturer down. They have to wait to get paid up to 90 days for something that costs them 400-450 to make for a measly 50 dollar profit. In the end the best way for them to go is factory direct customs.

Much has been said in this forum about outdated materials and construction, but if you contact your local shaper, you will find that he has other options in making a more durable surfboard. Different cores, resins, glassing techniques, etc., but they all come at a cost and there is almost always a trade-off in performance. PU/PE is still the best and most cost-effective process for performance boards.

My advice to anyone making or thinking about making surfboards - learn the craft properly, keep production numbers small and tight, have an open mind, keep your ego in check and above all, love what you do.

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yoohooo Monday, 24 Oct 2011 at 11:59pm

I will happily pay 1000-1500 of MY hard earned dollars,
if you give me a board that lasts more than 6 months and doesn't have 20 heal dents after the first session.

I haven't surfed a PU for 5 years now, and i'm not going back.

Nothing lasts forever, but I'm so over the whole design redundancy thing.

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pattiecannon Wednesday, 26 Oct 2011 at 12:58am

Hey Yahoo and Richie, next time you want a board gmail my name and we'll talk.
There are a lot of good points here, such as the benefits of cottage industry and surfer/shaper relationships and the bummers of a new board broken. One further point I would like to add is that a lot of the risk of a board breakage is due to the cost cutting due to 2 factors.
1- Making the lightest board possible - lighter than Micks mate!
2- Competing with China .
In '86 I earnt 250 a week as a labourer. Thats a 10 hr a day rate today. ie labourers get 1250 a week now.
A new board was $650, that was nearly three weeks wages. But the risk of snappage back then was next to zero, so you got something for keeps. Glass schedules were heavier, foam was thicker and nearly every board had some sort of a spray or paint job or tint.
Today most boards are the same price (China products aside), while wages have gone up at least times 4.
How do you compete in a market like this?
You do shitty 4x4 +4oz patches glass jobs on foam twice as weak as back in the day.
This is the first reason we have become reluctant to spend 600 - 1000 nowadays. Yet it is still a third to a quarter of what we paid for our boards in the 80s.
Yahoo, smeeagain and richie rich have all made similar points but what is missing so far in this discussion is the resistance of the localized industry in the embracing of stronger more durable and lighter materials.
Epoxy resin is more flexible. Period. It has a longer shelf life, a longer post cure life and it is a closed cell resin. vs It is a pain in the butt to work with = more labour = higher price.
EPS and XPS foams are lighter than PU.
It seems one solution to the dilemma is to ask our shapers for beefier Epoxy glass jobs and Eps foam. 'feral' Dave is doing great things here amongst a few others.
Another would be to ask for a carbon rail on your standard custom.
These things work.
They cost more.
But if you compare every price to what you 'can get from china' instead of looking around locally then you'll get what China can give you no matter who you buy it from. Unless you're family.

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wishy Wednesday, 26 Oct 2011 at 6:50am

Looks like there are many reasons why BASE has gone broke.
The first thing I notice is that they charge more for a surfboard than just walking into the shop of a local shaper.
The internet's main advantage is that you go straight from the warehouse to the customer with no middle man, thus being extremely competitive on price. If surfboards online are not cheaper than in a shop where you can ogle it's curves there is no reason you would ever buy it online, ever.

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dc Thursday, 27 Oct 2011 at 5:35am

Been some great points mentioned above, especially craggles, as everyone else I feel the need to tell my two cents haha... I have worked in surf retail a long time, still do, and sold most big branded boards as well as local shapers supplying... I wont say who or when etc, that's not the point, but from an industry end you hear a lot more than you do from mates in the lineup... some points on imports;

Firewire - Many people rave about their performance and strength, but the move to Asia and the incorporation of inferior materials means they can have warehouse sales full of factory seconds, does this represent a trustworthy process? Taj does ride them, but like EVERYONE on tour, not exclusively, he also gets blanks shaped with decals on the rails to make the public think he is riding firewire. Chief point here, they surf good, but be wary buying one thinking they are indestructible...

Surftech - Strong, but they really don't surf that great...if you are strapped for cash better this than anything Hong Kong Harry can make, but they are too stiff for performance... This being said I know some fantastic surfers who wont ride anything else...

G.S.I - dependent on what avenue you go for here you can get quality product, but there is some bad stuff in there... most of the pricing is close to or above a good local shaper, pick a design not the company... Some boards ride terrible...

The above three are Thailand factories that look to to use cheaper labour but retain a higher quality product, you can get a great board that will last and when you want it too, due to being wholesalers. This is in direct opposition to the following;

China - The original push was to create a system like mentioned above but cheaper, with the appeal of cheap materials however greed took over. Now boards are mass produced with low costing materials (think WFS fins) trying to capture clothing margins while undercutting everyone else... This is the system that brings down great local shapers, bigger designers (can you call someone like Greg Webber a shapper anymore?) and eventually BASE (among financial reasons as well). The amount of people who would try to sell me boards to stock in the shop at a price higher than a local shaper was disgusting... When i would say "your price is too high, I don't want Chinese boards in store and can get it local for cheaper" they would be confused... Eventually anyone with $20k and wanted an investment would be walking in the door...
The worst part of this system is we fueled it and continue to do so... Sure the entry level market does not know better and $400 for a shiny mini-mal is attractive, but serious surfers who know quality are also buying...
The other point that I feel is underestimated is the hate on the shaping machine... It seems a lot of people saying this is ruining design but that really is not the case... With the programs that are made, you shape a board, scan it, surf it, then go back to the machine and tweak it... It is making shapers able to properly tweak a board and gain fantastic subtle refinements... This is where R & D is going, not to overly tweaked out rubbish, know that the general outline has not changed that majorly in a long time, there is a reason why, what has changed is the subtleties that merge this together...
I have two boards on order, both from reputable Australian designers, and both made in Australia, both using a machine to create the outline... Will this effect performance, not a chance... What remains to be said on what I have said and everything else, surfing is the biggest subjective environment I know, remember about anything said above is opinion, it is not fact, I say surftechs surf terrible, that is my opinion I can assure you it isn't fact...

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seethesea Thursday, 27 Oct 2011 at 6:11am

I'd like to chime on the machines as well. In a previous life I done a few hundred thousands k's in and out of surfboard factories somewhere. One thing that always got my attention and made me excited: the sound of an electric planer. Trust me, it is very rare. Everybody, even people saying 'handcrafted' are using machines. With that in mind there are probably 2 factories I know of that I would trust to handshape me a board. By handshape I mean completely shaped from the blank with a planer. Most people use a machine these days, why?? Because with the right designer on the mouse they make better, more consistent and believe it or not stronger surfboards as there is more control on the amount of foam removed from the deck. There's one to argue...... Match the deckline with the design file and that is what happens though.

The problem is that there are heaps of guys that know nothing using machines and calling themselves shapers. Here's a tip, doing the Aku tutorial and designing something from the generic files and having it glassed doesnt mean you are a shaper, it means you are someone with 1 hour experience and the phone number of a contract glasser! These guys probably create more issues than China. Not that people shouldnt have a go but I can tell you from experience hacking a blank with a planer and an idea is far more satisfying.

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stunet Friday, 28 Oct 2011 at 12:13am

@ DC and Seethesea,

Thanks for the input and keep an eye out for more articles/interviews next week. Especially you DC, got a few things that you may be interested in reading.

lee-cheyne-surfboards's picture
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lee-cheyne-surf... Saturday, 29 Oct 2011 at 6:08am

I agree with DC on most things re the machines, they have enabled me to progress with my designs and get my existing hand shapes that go well to be replicated fairly consistently. But with a machine on every street corner It's enabled anyone who wants to be somebody become a so called shaper as seethesea pointed out.

Also the amount of inferior blanks and glass on the market is astounding, this is how people are getting their margins. How many people would reorder a board from a shaper if the previous one fell apart and no medium could be reached? I cerainly wouldn't! And what would you do if the next one was the same?

Surfboards are an emotional investment and can be made to last do some research talk to your mates and your mates mates and make an inform decision based on your needs and if the shaper doesn't want to talk to you don't give him your money.

Can't wait to read some more articles stu, I have a feeling there's gunna be some good reading over the next few months.

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hahnsolo Monday, 31 Oct 2011 at 1:08am

The problem with most currently availabel surf boards costing us around two grand is the durability. Why is the surf industry obsessed with ultra light glass jobs? The only people this could be an advantage to is mabey the top pros. Jim Banks has the right idea with the glassed to last concept, 2 + 1 x 6. His boards are worth that kind of money as they will last.For the average surfer the extra weigth makes absolutley no difference. Turns come from speed and momentum and being able to put a board on its rail properley. Ive just returned from an indo and had two boards custom made from two different Aussie companies for the trip. I just about had to beg my mate to glass one heaveier he almost refused to do it!! For the other board the company said that they would ensure that my board had a good glass job and it came back super light. After one test surf the latter board deck was sinking like crazy. Lucky I know how to glass as I reglassed the deck with a 4 once patch and one extra layer on the deck and its now bullet proof. (Mind you both of these boards went incredible.) Ive had to do this with several Aussie made boards. All of he pop outs Ive had purchased from the internet have been really durable and gone insane and I havnt had to touch any of them. I think weve all been hoodwinked by most the local surf industry into thinking light board weight will somehow improve your surfing, crap I say! I think in the future the only local board industries that will survive are the small ones making $2000 quality unique boards that last, and not the large ones making expensive $700 throw aways.

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wreckybuddy Monday, 31 Oct 2011 at 10:44pm

Some points well made. I think the public needs to learn a bit more about what they are riding in regards to materials etc. in PU/PE boards.

As DC states boards "back in the day" used to last much longer because there was twice as much glass on them. I made boards back then and this was not always the case, we used 4oz on boards in the 80's but the foam was much denser with less deck roll and boards had thicker foils so they didn't snap as easy.

Go ask your manufacturer or retailer about the foam densities, cloths used, are they adding significant amounts of styrene to thin the resin? UV photo initiation? Stringer configurations? Are there other options?
It's true most of the manufacturers are trying to get the best deal on materials, but because some materials can save cost, doesn't necessarily mean the board will fall apart. If the manufacturer is aware of the elements of making a quality board regarding materials and procedures, it will be of reasonable quality. But if he cuts corners on every stage of manufacture, there will be problems.

A high percentage of the the time, if a deck drops significantly, it is undoubtedly due to a breakdown of the core (blank). Order a firmer blank and more glass on the deck if you are paranoid about deck drop. Most shapers are aware of the pitfalls of shaping too deep into the deck these days but every now and then you get a dud blank that no amount of glass will save.

If a board snaps, it is usually from the bottom up, so the more flex from the bottom and a weak, styrened out, overcatalyzed, and paper thin stringer can contribute to this. If you want your board to stay in 1 piece, order a stronger stringer, have laps cut longer, order higher quality cloth like S-glass or 6oz. on the bottom and these measures will help to keep it together.

A majority of boards in the rack will be made to a cost and most retailers won't be fully educated on surfboard manufacture. So if you know what you're after and what you expect out of your board, you will be much more satisfied if you discuss it with a reputable manufacturer and have them build a board suited to your needs whether it's a hyperlight swizzle-stick or a board that makes it past it's 1st birthday.

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gannet Monday, 31 Oct 2011 at 11:17pm

In 20 odd years of surfing, I've snapped four boards.

In each case, I'd say its been my fault rather than that of the manufacturer. Twice bailing when caught inside, once kicking my board into an oncoming closeout section, and once straightening out rather than pulling in. As stated above, no board is indestructable.

Now these were all standard PU/PE boards, all from reputable local shapers / small factories. Considering the number of boards I've owned over this time, and the number of beatings I and the various boards have taken, I don't reckon the odds have been too bad.

Hate to sound like your Dad telling you to look after your shit, but surely learning self-preservation and preservation of one's equipment is part of becoming a decent surfer.

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non-local Tuesday, 1 Nov 2011 at 12:20am

base was based on greed. It should fall over the way it was designed. There are heaps of local board manufacturers in Australia and heaps of good glassers to go with it. Anyone who can surf well, and there are a lot of them, will not be buying chinese crap and will already have a relationship with a certain manufacturer in regards to their boards, thus ensuing that the local industry stays alive.
Where base got caught is with the entry level surfer, the kook, and trying to corner that market. Kooks are better off with the popout variety of surfboards, it is a total waste of a shapers talents making boards for them as the magic that has been put into the board will never be used.
Board prices are high because of taxes on petrolium based products, if we had lower taxes on these products we would be getting a lower priced product. PU foams main ingredient is TDI which is a petrolium based product, polyester resin is a petrolium based product and they are taxed accordingly.
Snapping boards is 90% of the time the surfers fault, snap enough of them and you will learn where not to place the board on a wave. Light boards do snap more often but they are way better for a good to excellent surfer to ride as they feel 'alive' to ride, and if you ride them well they can last a long enough time before they start to feel dead to ride.
Support your local shaper and buy locally!

victor's picture
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victor Monday, 7 Nov 2011 at 9:05pm

simons says...simons reply re base closure,simons official website..

stunet's picture
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stunet Monday, 7 Nov 2011 at 9:11pm

Quote marks don't work Victor, they break the comments code. It's something that will be fixed soon. Till then place fullstops (...) before the first quote mark.

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stunet Monday, 7 Nov 2011 at 9:51pm

From Simon Anderson (what you were quoting, Victor?)

..."BASE, the parent company I have been involved in as a shareholder, co-owner and at the end licensor is no more.Essentially the Tax Office lost patience on back taxes owed forcing a Voluntary Administrator, who in turn was unable to find a way forward for BASE.

I still maintain ownership of my brand and trademark, this has been confirmed by the VA, so this means I am able to keep making boards. I have a temporary board making operation in place that is top notch, so if you need a Simon Board please contact us through our email :[email protected]

To all the shareholders, investors and supporters of BASE I apologise for our failure
and hope you have not lost as much as me in the demise of BASE, it is what it is
and the fallout is pretty bad for many.Thanks to all the staff from BASE, I enjoyed working with you on the floor. You did your best in for the most part trying circumstances, I am proud of the quality boards we were able to produce throughout the years together, all the best to you in future.

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mattspew Wednesday, 9 Nov 2011 at 1:39pm

I knew quite a few shapers when I was a grommet and working in the surf industry and ALL of them (yes ALL of them and these were guys who had been in the shaping bay for a long time and were some of the most respected shapers around i.e. Mitchell Rae, Allan Byrne, Mick Grace, Rooster and others) said to me at some time or other - "If you want to make money mate then dont be a shaper."

rail2rail's picture
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rail2rail Monday, 14 Nov 2011 at 8:16am

The shaping scene mentality has always been the same from the time that I was a grommet. It goes like this; Order a new custom shaped board, get told that it will be ready in 4 weeks, 8 weeks later - you have your board.

How many surfers out there in Swellnet land have ordered "custom" made boards for there planned Mentawais trip and the boards weren't ready? This still happens. I just got my new board and it took 13 weeks. Yep - it's a sick board, but 13 weeks...really?

And yet, sponsored surfers will have dozens of boards made, when they want them, at either a reduced cost...or for free. I would put sponsored surfers into that bracket of "overheads". Whilst shaping technology has changed, the attitudes of the majority of shapers have not.

brendo's picture
brendo's picture
brendo Monday, 14 Nov 2011 at 9:23pm

@rail2rail, you have options I assume for local shapers. not happy, switch? I get my boards in 4 weeks from my local shaper, I'm happy to wait a bit longer if it means I get exactly what I want and I pay under $800 which seems to be what off the rack boards cost these days. Very happy with my choice, never broken one and they rip !! I can get feedback from the shaper, he knows my boards and sizes and the guy at the local "boardworld" shop knows bugger all about what he's selling.

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cuttlefish Monday, 14 Nov 2011 at 10:15pm

To answer Victor's question about wages.
For workers in factories owned by foreigners/foreign corporations they have to adhere to a number of standards.
For example the factory that produces one of the big 3's wetsuits paid it's workers 150 thai baht ($5.17 ex rate 29 thb-Aud) a day 7 years ago when I left Thailand to move back here.
Having said that Cobra being a Thai owned factory do not have the same constraints (such as minimum wage in a foreign owned factory) as the foreign owned factories.
I recall there was a strike at the Cobra factory a while back...played havoc with the inventory no doubt.
Furthermore if you do set up a foreign owned factory I quote from a reliable source "any western business in thailand pays no tax for first 8 years then only 5% for next five years.." They go on to say
"boards are sold from gsi thailand to gsi australia for around $1 profit per board, australia runs at a basic loss but thailand company makes huge profit and no tax.."
The internet is available for anyone to check the facts with the Thai government about setting up foreign owned businesses in Thailand.

cuttlefish's picture
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cuttlefish Monday, 14 Nov 2011 at 10:57pm

Oops, wrong thread...The rigmarole of having to sign in and shuffle back around to the original thread and I've accidently posted my comment on the base collapse thread not the GSI on base collapse thread.

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barneygumble Saturday, 19 Nov 2011 at 11:40am

back in the early nintey's we being Australia and led by mr P.Keating at the time, signed up to an asia/pacific free trade agreement,this allowed import tarrifs on goods manufactured in developing countries be cut by 50% from 20% to 10%, since then lots of manufacturing in this country has disapeared or moved offshore, I am wondering at what point is china no longer going to be considered a developing country as it is now the worlds largest economy.

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat's picture
whaaaat Sunday, 20 Nov 2011 at 11:17am

1,336,718,015 is a lot of mouths to feed. And China's GDP per capita is 1/10th of Australia's.

chaos-surfboards's picture
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chaos-surfboards Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 2:49pm

Some simple facts from a local Shaper

I herd a English man say on a talk show recently that ,England has become a country that doesn't make anything with there hands any more, because they import every thing from India china etc..

Do we want Australia to become the same ?

Clients need to understand that 1 board a year at $700 is only $13.46 a week ,

Cheap Sport surfing when you look at snowboarding 1 weekend a year
witch could spend you in to the thousands for all your gear , accommodation , lift tickets and transport,drinking etc..
how many sports let you go as many time as you like a week for $13.46
that's a $1.92 a surf a day for a year.

When i was 16 they were $650 and now at 35 there $700 average price

The same guy who complains on the price of the board buys a pair of board shorts for $120 made in china for $5, how many board shorts would you swap for a single $700 surfboard?

Yes board prices haven't gone up It's made it harder for us board makers to survive, lucky we enjoy what we do.

If surfers don't pay for a board in reality, then they should be aware that local shapers will dissapere and and you all will be riding ugly china boards with square rails. & I haven't seen a nice one yet,

think about if I have 500 clients a year and they all come in and ask for a discount of $50 that's $25,000 a year and if $100 that's $50,000
That's our profit gone...

And if your boss come into your office and asked you for a discount on your wages, what would you say???

our rent every year goes up CPI, materials , insurance , petrol ,electricity, superannuation

If you beat down the price on your new stick, your forcing some manufactures to use cheaper products, which is no good either for you in the long run

this is with out us paying to go in the surfboard board reviews & yes we PAY for them , advertising board giveaways, sponsoring, money back into growing the
company , this is why we see the big guns coming unstuck as there wasn't enough room for the company luxuries

In this forum you guys forget about the environment we work in with resign glass dust fumes, this is never facted into our prices as a hazardous job, yes we love it you know we do :)

But when you walk in How many times do I here from the guy who wants to knock the price down ," how do you work in that dust and smell " ???

Most other companies when they factor in costs to there product, they mark up there part or material and they make money of it
that's a part of there normal business practises,

we don't have that , when a leg rope plug is $.66 it's facted in at $.66 , we don't ad, we can't.

At the end of the day we get our materials and labour together plus gst and that's our whole sale price for shops with a small margin , or maybe margin for era like we seen from Base

Small companies & Big need to keep up there customer service & point of difference, and not just religh on branding

We run a service of 1 week customs ready to surf and cured , we have kept our word on this for the point of difference for the customer

We also use the best materials at hand to keep them white and surf the best and keep them at there strongest

Some feed back I received today that you won't find in your local mass producer or china/Thailand importer

Some customer feedback: very stoked!
Hi Jon:

I visited your shop about 3 weeks ago with a friend, Brendon (who already gets his boards from you).
I am the South African who got duped at a surf shop – board too small, fins tiny etc. I made the decision to buy a board from you on the spot.
Best decision I made: the board is unbelievable and I agree with you re the fin size. It suits my surfing perfectly and I think I am surfing better now than I did when I surfed daily as a 20-something! Also, the waves have been tiny and it flies!
I wanted to thank you for your time you spent with me. I shall be back when next in the area.

Kind regards.,


Many thanks if some of you took the time to read and I hope it made some sense

And understand that you local shaper has the experience of many years to guide you to better places with your surfing and to help you challenge your self to your next level , and it's a growing relationship, we both learn, its not just marketing and logo's.

A good shaper is like a good Doctor , who would you let crack your back.

cheers Jon

wreckybuddy's picture
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wreckybuddy Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 7:31pm

Good on you Jonny!


spider87's picture
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spider87 Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011 at 11:28pm


I have been following the discussion about the collapse of BASE and arguments about off shore production of boards etc. with keen interest as a few years ago I decided I would have a crack at making my own board from scratch.

I stripped the glass off 2 old mals I found in hard rubbish and reshaped them then glassed them. The results were pretty bad but I loved the feeling of paddling out on a board I had made from scratch!

Any way the 3rd board I made I bought a fresh blank and set to work on it, I took my time and finally managed a shaping and glassing job I could be proud of. I took it out was stoked that I could actually surf it, it didnt matter that it surfed like crap because I loved every minute of the session! Getting changed in the car park my mate was looking over it and asked if I would make him one. I said no worries, ill do it at cost price for you... around $400.

He was shocked, thought I was taking the piss and trying to rip him off. he figured that there is no one that a board could cost so much to make and still be sold for around $700 for a professional job.

Now granted that professional shapers (I would imagine) by in bulk and so get discounts but my point is simply that a lot of people dont realise the material cost that goes into a board, let alone the time, love, skill and knowledge that goes into a board made by your local shaper!

Give them credit and if you really care about what you ride, rather than sitting on a forum and slagging off the 'pop outs' that are flooding the market go have a chat to your local shaper and get a board from them! I doubt you will be disappointed!

Any way that's my rant for the day.


chaos-surfboards's picture
chaos-surfboards's picture
chaos-surfboards Thursday, 24 Nov 2011 at 4:02am

Thanks Rex :)

fitzroy-21's picture
fitzroy-21's picture
fitzroy-21 Thursday, 24 Nov 2011 at 4:12am

I think it's safe to say that unless a local shaper does something financially silly, they will be relatively safe. I cant remember the last time I bought a board off the rack (20 years ago maybe).
I will always support my local shaper, unless there is something specific that I want to try that he can't provide or I want to try from someone else. Either way, I will always have some sort of dealing direct from a shaper. You guys always have my support no matter where I live.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Saturday, 26 Nov 2011 at 1:27am

It appears DHD is back up and into the groove.

A new Facebook page for 'DHD Darren Handley Designs' was launched a few hours ago, and the first post says "New Business page. Updates, Photos, videos and team rider news coming soon. Stay tuned. YEW"

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backbeach Thursday, 22 Dec 2011 at 7:26pm

when shapers go to retail or corporate, its finished , like everyone some people look for the golden cash out, meanwhile the 6 shapers i have used in 30 years still have a great business still work less than a 9-5 worker & have no secretary or sales reps with new model commodores.

The last board i bought was $450 through discussing with a shaper of over 30 years experience, why would i buy retail at $700+, plus i buy a new board every year, shapers happy i'm happy, create me a weird fish create me a gun only used only when its big or i go overseas

NO need for hangers on on the price of a board.

smp71's picture
smp71's picture
smp71 Tuesday, 27 Dec 2011 at 7:53pm

No suprise here,low margins,customer service is pathetic or as i found non existent,i've walked in there store a few times without a simple can i help you,go up the road to Kirra surf and its the total opposite.

yorkessurfer's picture
yorkessurfer's picture
yorkessurfer Tuesday, 27 Dec 2011 at 8:46pm

My experience was the total opposite smp. Ive bought 4 DHD's from the Cooly store in the last 6 months. The staff seemed to be keen surfers who knew what they were talking about and looked after me even though im a tourist from S.A. The boards go unreal. I went into Kirra Surf today. It was staffed by school kids and no one came up to me to ask if I needed help. I guess its a matter of personal preference whether you like the J.S's at Kirra Surf or the DHD's at Cooly. Or the Chinese pop-outs around the corner for that matter....

victor's picture
victor's picture
victor Tuesday, 21 Aug 2012 at 7:47pm

base closure, any recent news has been no mention of base at all in the media ,stu or brutus can you comment at all,sid the fish what do you know ?

sidthefish's picture
sidthefish's picture
sidthefish Wednesday, 22 Aug 2012 at 6:14am

haven't heard anything vic, goes to show how much of a big time insider I am ?... fucken useless.

probably could find out, tho' really can't be bothered, let the boys regroup.

hope Muz is having a spell, he's given more boards away than most peoples' net worth.

Brutus would be best to ask, but couldn't say if he'd wanna go there, I don't have direct association with brutus, just mutuals.


stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Wednesday, 22 Aug 2012 at 10:49am

Nothing's come across my to speak. It'd be worth following up but I've got my hands full at the moment.