Capitalism I, A lesson in Reality

The amount of business knowledge by some of you here wouldn’t fill a leash plug. After reading some of the stuff below, I just had to respond. Do you know who is the greediest profit monger in all of the “Surfing Industry”, its the $200 dollar an hour shaper or laminator who has no costs, no overhead, no insurance, no permits, and pays no taxes…It’s all pure profit. Rusty, Merrick, Stewart, Clark, etc. are professionals. They have employees, they pay taxes, they follow air quality quidelines, and they pay the highest freaking taxes in the Western World in the form of State of California mandated insurance premiums. That’s why their product has a mark up above and beyond the “underground”. They provide jobs to countless people in the industry and are probably just keeping float. Their complaint is only to play on an equal footing…If they have to pay all the costs, why doesn’t the “underground”. The “underground” is lucky Rusty only pays them lip service. He could easily make a few phone calls to the County Air Quality Board… Finally, I am not knocking the “underground”. It’s where inovation starts and is the closest thing to an apprenticeship there is. My complaint is with those of you that rail on Rusty or Merrick like they are Enron or something and feel that profit is a dirty word…

Yes, your right, that was well said.

Lee, Though I can agree with most of what you say and could care less if Rusty et. al. make millions each year - more power to them - I disagree when you say ,“Their complaint is only to play on an equal footing.” My take on Rusty’s attitude to keep any advancements in materials and technology out of the hands of the general public (per his qoute in Surfer) is tantamount to creating a monopoly which would only serve to stifle innovation and creativity. On a “level playing field” everyone should be given equal access to all the technology available, not just a select few players. Most of the advances in surfboards in the last 75 years have not come from the major manufacturers but from the “underground” - under carports - under palm trees - under piers. It is where the future legitimate builders are going to come from (I doubt any major existing builder has an apprentice program for shapers). Bottom line: I don’t hold anyone’s success against them. Hell, I own a couple of Rusty’s boards and they’re darn nice. But, equal footing = equal access.

If that is what he really meant, then I’d agree. But I read it as the technology/materials are outside the garage builder’s expertise or that there are manufacturing requirements that cannot be done economically on a one-off basis. The suppliers of this stuff don’t give a rat’s ass who they sell it to. But if you have to buy 6 tons of material to get the stuff, Joe Schmo’s Underground Fish is not going to be able to afford to use it. Don’t fret though…check out Resin Research Epoxy…you can use polyurethane foam and any kind of glass you want. Use Herb’s diaper filler, talk to Stan Pleskunas or Dale Solomonson. The materials are out there…no one is stopping anybody from using them…You just have to be creative to find the next Big Step. Then you can get professional, work your ass off, make some money and the “underground” can take pot shots at you…

To take the thing about Rusty and ETc a step further the entire surf industry acts like a bunch of 15 year olds about business anyway. You try and open a shop and the big boy on the block who probably funded his original venture with dope money or something will call all of the companies and scream about stopping orders and such if they sell to the new guy. Then when the new guy gets to the top if he is lucky he does the very same thing. Quik, Rusty, oneill,Volcom,and all the rest spend thousands to tell everyone to buy their products knowing full well there is absolutly nothing behind any of them but catchy slogans and logos and a bunch of brain dead spoiled kids who must take on some companies identity because they do not have their own. Same goes for some surfboard designers who tried to keep everyone on skinny little worthless thrusters that only elite or tiny surfers could ride. Much of the industry is driven by hype and when someone decides to buck the system they get attacked. Look at the ASP no one cares who won the title last year or what type of board he had. They all ride the same thing anyway and it’s boring. Hype. Also there are plenty of underground shapers who pay taxes and shape every bit as good as Rusty and Merrick but are happy with their own local following. The problem with the surfboard industy is its tie to the surf clothing industry. Without the board builders none of them would have anything to sell.

I do beleve that the underground is where it all started from. A few boards or there comepared to the hundereds of boards. the factors have more wast.

Lee V, I have to agree with most all of what you said…however… The surfboard industry is not corporate America. It’s basically a bunch of guys that love to build boards and lack pretty much any and all business skills. Any one with an eye for numbers will quickly find that the surfboard industry is pretty much at the bottom end of “profitable businesses”. Rusty, Merrick, etc. have done a great job of trying to be above board in their operations. Unfortunately, this represents a very small portion of the industry. I think most of us take pride in the fact that we are mavericks in the real world. We’ve found a niche. A lot of us have found that money creates it’s own problems. We are happy to go about our board building as art. Some of us have found other businesses to supplement our income, some haven’t. It doesn’t matter. When we close our eyes for the final time, I don’t think money has a lot to do with the way we felt about our passions. all aloha, Tom Whitaker


Tom: Nicely put. You’ve pretty much summed up the uniqueness of the board building industry today. You can be a professional if you want to go that way, or you can take payment in the “lifestyle” (see how that pays out when you are 65). Of course money isn’t everything, just don’t knock those that do see surfboards as both a business and lifestyle. It reeks of jealousy. The winds of change are blowing, though. I truly hope the craftsmen out there in the niches can make it. The overseas stuff is not going to go away so the sooner folks start thinking about their craft as a business, the longer they will be around. (I guess I just don’t get the irrational fear and anger that surrounds the words “business” and “profit”)

There’s an old saying that goes like this: " If, one day, all the money disappeared, and everyone was given $1,ooo.oo to start again, in one year the same people who were rich would be rich again, and the people who were poor would be poor again." The point is that some people have a knack for business and enjoy doing it, and some people don’t. It’s in the attitude, temperment, and education. My point is: If the so-called BIG surfboard makers have the desire to work their butts off to create and run a successful business, good for them. I’ll cheer them on. We benefit by having surf shops to buy stuff we want. If the rest of us aren’t successful entrepreneurs…SO WHAT??? Backyard shapers should enjoy their unique position: freedom to do what they enjoy. I like what Albert Einstein said: “Go out and get a real job, then do what you love to do as a hobby.”

Lee V. I like what you have to say and it is interesting that some of your comments lean towards Marx, who said that capitalist products would become so mass-produced and devoid of quality that people would revert to individual artisanship. This may be a little off subject but I am currently fufilling a RTC teaching contract in Baltimore City. It’s really horrible what is happening with these kids just being passed through a bloated beauracracy. The state is actually CLOSING down all vocational schools, the main push being a focus on academics. The truth is, alot of kids aren’t cutting it in classrooms and could use vocational programs. Couple this with the service industry (mostly devoid of artisans) growing exponetially and a quick drive through middle-America filling your optic nerve with an overwhelming amount of chain stores and restaurants you may find that visions of a country going back to quality craftmanship far, far away. waiting to return to the ocean… D. Pieri if you people want to read, ck out the links above. if you are sick of corporatism also, there is hope. be careful what and how you read. aloha

But what about the mats? Why haven’t we turned this discussion into riding mats yet? Come on guys. Ride a mat. Or, for a really fun time (and this is real by the way). Go ride a McDonalds tray. They actually work well. If you think I am kidding, go to Sandy Beach on Oahu. Of course, you should probably finish the fries first.