We have had a run of good swell and very few people visiting our slice of Europe, things are good, everyone is happy, the sun is out and there are almost too many waves. So, as we know, contentment leads to boredom and having little to discuss. In an effort to find something I asked my friend what tormented him most about the world of surfing, and without listening to their answer, my own response hit me like a thunderbolt from the back of my mind. The surf dulled miasma dissipated, and one of my oldest, and yet untouched, topics of Surf Shops that are not Surf Shops shimmied its way to the 'rational argument' part of my brain.
* Disclaimer - As this is one of my least favourite things, and is right up there with people who kick dogs for fun, I may get a little heated during this article, and may, on occasion, use a swear word or two. If you don't want to be offended then fuck off now.
So we know how the world works, the water is wet, the sky is blue and surf shops exist. I have nothing against surf shops, I do however, have a large grievance with shops that use the name of our sacred and pure pastime to sell us crap. I have to be careful now because some of my friends work in and own some of these disdainful dens of iniquity. The great thing is that as they do not have any interest in actual surfing so they will not be reading this article, but instead be keeping up to date with the FTSE , DOW JONES or finding out what happened on the TV show, 'How to be a bigger c**t'.
Okay, so what has flown up my arse? I will now embark on a short narrative that attempts to explain and validate my use of venomous naughty words.
These are some quick facts for you. There is little margin for shops to make on surfboards, bodyboards, wetsuits, leashes and general surf hardware, this is why you very rarely find a shop that just deals in these. Unless they are selling a huge number of all of the above, I am sure the shop would not even afford the rent or to pay the staff, let alone make any profit with which you might carve a living. Enter surf clothing, now this is different, the 'mark up' on surf brand clothing is good, it makes it worth having a surf shop, also the number of sales you might make from these smaller ticket items is far more. It makes it viable to own and operate a surf shop. The clothing margins balance out the hardware margins and the whole thing ticks along nicely. Happy Days.
It is human nature to work out how to cut corners and arrive at a better place with less effort. Enter the bellends, what I like to call 'Fake Surf Shops'. What they have done is take a huge steaming dump on the doorstep of 'Proper Surf Shops'. What have they done that is so bad? They have decided that because they either know nothing about surfing or they are just greedy and see a bigger margin, then they will cash in on the image of our pastime. No. I don't like them one little bit. It would be like having a cycling shop which had no bicycles in it but just t-shirts with pictures of bicycles on them. Its not a cycling shop. It's a t-shirt shop.
The way I see it is that a surf community needs a surf shop, a proper shop where you can go for advice, wisdom and actual things you might need to purchase for your hobby of surfing. What the 'Fake Surf Shops' are doing is taking away business from the guys who need to have their hardware margins offset with the clothes. Are you with me? A real surf shop is a place of knowledge and advice, of stories and folklore, a hub of the surf community and a place that will be closed when the surf is good.
There is also an industry aspect on which you might make a judgement regarding what you are buying, perhaps 'brands' that have jumped on the 'surf' bandwagon without actually making any surf hardware. I could name many, but I will not point fingers and leave it up to you, dear reader, to work out if your local currency is being drained by what I might call 'surf image opportunists'. Can you think of any of these companies that might have the gall to ask you for 70 euro per t-shirt under the guise of being a 'surf brand', when they make nothing that is remotely useful to actual surfers. I know, I know it's the world we live in, right? Well maybe next time you make a purchase, keep it this in mind.
While I have got you here and I am in a ranty frame of mind I would like to just skirt another related issue - the misuse of power of having a surf shop.
Some actual, real surf shops, especially in 'surf holiday' type destinations, misuse their power. It's normally the bigger ones with a huge range of surfboards, perhaps right on the beach. They have been known to employ seasonal workers who are trained 'salesmen', and they are given the very basic training about surfboard. As in, this is the front and this is the back and then let loose on the unsuspecting beginner surfer. The sales pro then proceeds to sell them the most expensive board that they will not need, and give them what ever advice sounds good, thus abusing the power bequeathed them. A couple of months later the board will be on eBay or in the secondhand board section of another shop. The salesman has his commission and is laughing all the way to the bank, and beginner surfer is left scratching his or her head. Bastards.
So, where to go for advice that you know will be sound, or at least be honest? A shaper or a recommended surf shop? If you are looking for a surfboard or a wetsuit, make sure you do some homework and ask some questions that might be challenging to the 'Fake Salesman'. Ask some real surfers in the water of the best place to go and who to speak to.
I can't say enough that if your local shaper is a friendly type, then this would be a great place to start.There are also many online sources that are not driven my the sales jargon of the various brands but instead aim to educate you on what actually makes a difference and perhaps hints at what is wort spending your hard earned money on.
If you would like to know more, perhaps about questions to ask your salesman when considering purchasing a surfboard or wettie, we will happily sling some together in another article. Remember, it's a big world out there, and speaking as one who has been sold the wrong board in my life before, don't let it happen to you. Ask questions, test your would-be salesman. You never know, he/she could be a c**t.