The Economics of Surf, Skate & MTB

25 Oct 2017

One of the driving motivations of this magazine is to take an everyday regular dude approach to past times. However, it occured to me, right after I started this that I am not a regular dude. I am, simply by looking at me, privileged - am I as privileged as rich people in the United States? No not by a long shot, but I am above the national average in that department and I do have access to things like lines of credit, extensive networking (that part is just age) and generally - not always - cold hard cash in small amounts. And it matters because I wish it were not so. Even with my level of access I cannot afford things like long surf vacations, a lot of park fees and so on but I can afford motel 8, the basic gear and decent food. So this got me to thinking: what am I dropping and how can I help people starting out? Where I get lost in the woods is how a lot of kids or people in general for that matter, don't have access to the level of shit that I do. And that bums me out. Lets see what I drop and how maybe that can be mitigated somewhat.

Tally it Up

Take a good look at the lead in picture. That is a lot of money:

  • Two 600 dollar surfboards
  • 400 dollars worth of wetsuit gear
  • 200 dollars worth of skateboard stuff
  • Not in the picture, but my first legit mountain bike was 600 bucks
  • A Toyota RAV4 costing me 500 bucks a month with car payment + insurance
  • 400 miles of gas on the average round trip
  • 2 night stay average ringing in at 400 bucks after room and food

A car is a car. If you live close to a break or a mountain and can drive just save up and get the car. It is a necessity in life so for arguments sake I am not going to go down that rabbit hole. Just note my costs because someday those can be your costs.

Purchase Cheap at First

Why? You don't know if you will actually like it. Some people don't have the patience for skateboarding, or the time for surfing (arguably in my world the biggest time sucker) and/or want the hassle of a lot of moving parts like a mountain bike. You just don't know what is going to stick and what isn't so it really isn't worth your hard earned funds to buy the premium shit out of the gate. If you can, borrow someone else's first! Lets pick it apart by level access and ease of entry hardest first.


Initially surfgear is pretty much:

  • A board (obviously)
  • wetsuit (usually but not always)
  • leash
  • wax (you should get this for free)
  • Fins and fin key (key should be free)

Everyone will tell you, and I am repeating that, get a used board first. Usually fins, sometimes a leash, are included. But you do want a used board initially. Why? This is the learning board. It is going to get banged up, so are you. There is no point in buying a brand new board then smashing it into the rocks. Conventional wisdom used to be buy a longboard first but with the new school thinking on how important float is (regardless of the dims) I personally disagree. If you can find what we call a fun board, a board in between a short board and a longboard, with a lot of float then get that. It will save hassle in the long run. Here is a chart by the homies over at ...Lost industries, lets say you are like me a buck 80 but I am considered an intermediate surfer, here is a chart that shows what cubic liter displacement would be good over at ...Lost's volume calculator. Add ten pounds for the wetsuit, as a novice the recommended volume comes out to about 44 cL and to start I would say that is the minimum. Probably more around 46 to 48 for a fun sized board. A board along the lines of a 6' 8" Puddle Jumper Round Pin would be ideal for learning on small 1-2 foot waves. As far as the rest, wetsuit you can't buy used that just isn't a good idea but if you really shop around you can come across sales of last years wetsuits (that is how I always get mine) and save a lot of cash on it.

I also recommend, if you can drop 20-50 bucks, try taking intro surf lessons. Most places are really good and you can get a feel for whether or not you are really into it before bothering with any of the aforementioned jive.

Mountain Biking

There are several ways to approach mountain biking:

  • Buy a cheap new model / hybrid and try it out then hoc it if you like it
  • Some stores do ride days where you can rent a decent mountain bike and go in a group somewhere
  • Buy a used refurbished mountain bike
  • Bum one

Don't be the one who buys a helmet, pads, neon glow clothes, a brand new bike then ends up on the front page because you went down a mountainside as step 1. In fact get a regular helmet and at first you won't need any accessories, you are seeing if you are going to like it not training for the X games. The prices for used bikes varies wildly and I have no advice there other than make sure they have front shocks. Your genitalia will thank you later. The nice thing about mountain bikes is they are easier to hoc either online through skeeze sites or straight up shop consignment.

Safety Gear

Get the helmet. It isn't much and if you get a triple 8 it can double for skateboarding too. It is worth it because bikes get tangled up. Bailing on a bike isn't simple so it is better to be safe than sucking dinner through a straw.


Skateboarding has so many variants now it is hard to get into. There are longboard skateboards, old school, standard, hill bombing and who knows what else. For the sake of simplicity and so I don't kill the nerve endings in my fingers; I am only talking standard skateboards. To start, get the right size. The first deck it is a good idea to have medium to large. If your shoe size is adult male 9 around 8 to 8.5" width is good then match up the trucks. Skateboards are relatively cheap and believe it or not if you look around on places like craigslist there are people, like me, who sell skateboard because it didn't work out for one reason or another. Plus there are a variety of cheap alternatives. There are blank deck sites where you can get non branded plain decks, fully assembled with decent enough trucks, wheels and bearings for under 100 bucks. There are also decks like the Real Renewal which are recycled and don't have a ton of pop. But starting out you don't need a ton of pop. Remember, you aren't going out and doing a McTwist on day one. The wheel size should be relatively middle ground between 53 and 55mm. You want that so getting a little speed isn't too hard but you aren't getting too much to be able to handle it. Again the theme here is start cheapish and if you take to it upgrade later. The great thing about skateboards is you can upgrade slowly. For instance:

  1. First get better quality wheels and bearings....
  2. Flip burgers and don't waste money on dates or booze...
  3. Buy better trucks
  4. Repeat step 2
  5. Buy a stiffy deck
  6. Make sure your health insurance is up to date...
Safety Gear

In general, skate safety gear is a personal choice. For me it all depends on what I am doing. I have been pushing for a long, long time. So if I am at the park just going up and down small banks pretty slow I don't wear a helmet because bailing is as easy as stepping off of a stair. However, when I started, I wisely padded up with helmet. I took a lot of falls and the gear really helped me learn how to fall well. Yes it can be restrictive when trying to be technical but there is a payoff. Lets say you are working a single transition and tying to revert it and it is super tight. Passes one though 8 you are padded up and keep falling. On pass 9 you dial it in. And you keep dialing it in. Then you take off the pads, try it again and you really have it fucking dialed in. Conversely if you are practicing ollies on the living room carpet you do not need to be padded up.

And in Closing

The last word on all of this is although buying used and/or cheap is a good idea to start be mindful of quality. Do NOT walk into some big box store and buy pre-assembled shit. It is garbage, I don't care what it is it probably sucks. I did this with a hybrid mountain bike and regretted it, the thing was such a piece of shit I couldn't hoc it for 20 bucks I gave it away. Read up on the local shops, talk to people and get their opinions. Most of all have fun!