Surfboard shapers' wave of anger
THE future of the surfboard manufacturing industry in Byron Bay is in danger of being wiped out by cheap Chinese surfboards, industry stalwart Doug Unger fears.
And with it will go a little piece of Byron's soul.
"I have completely lost my wholesale markets," the Town and Country Surfboards proprietor said.
"I used to have 30 shops buying my boards, now I have two left.
"Surf shops are buying these cheap boards instead because they can make massive mark ups."
With surfboards imported from China available for as little as $200 it is estimated they account for 40-50% of boards sold in Australia.
Gold Coast surfboard shaper Stuart Darcy will close his factory this month due to pressure from these cheap imports, or "pop outs".
Mr Unger and others in the industry were calling for higher tariffs and government subsidies for the industry.
They also want boards stamped with their country of origin so customers can be assured of quality.
Another industry veteran, John Morgan from Maddog Surfboards, agreed the influx of cheap boards was having an impact on the industry, but drew a distinction between the boards made in Thailand and those made in China.
"The Thai surfboard factories are owned by Australians and Americans and the big manufacturing facility they use is a high-end composite factory," he said.
"They produce a high-end board that is definitely not an entry-level board.
"However the Chinese factories are a different thing - those boards are produced by people in factories that have never surfed."
Ed Sinnott from ESP Surfboards has shaped boards for Gordon and Smith, Lightning Bolt, Skipp Surfboards and Hawaiian Island Creations.
He said most Australian surfers wanted to get a board from a recognised shaper and would go to a factory to smell the resin and hear the stories from the old days.
"The quality of Australian boards is assured," he said.
"People can get after-sales service. We talk to them, they are our customers and we go surfing with them.
"Buying a surfboard is actually a tradition and not just a hollow shopping experience."