I’m not referring to that nasty little surfing injury that often results into a trip to the doctors and a few stitches, I’m talking about the slice of the pie fin manufacturers have carved out for themselves.
In our last edition I put forth the case forward as to why surfboards are worth every cent and made it known the very small margin many surfboard shapers try to survive off. In this edition however I want to turn your attention towards fin manufacturers.
Why is it the general punter will squabble over the price of a board, some completely crafted by hand, and yet seemingly not object to forking out up to a couple of hundred dollars for a set of fins that are made in China or some third world country. By this you can gather I am not referring to the artisanal hand foiled fins by but the big boys, the big manufacturers.
Sure, there are no doubt huge investments to be made in tooling and setting up the mould for various fin templates, as well as setting up an operation overseas, and presumably fin royalties to the original designer, we hope, but one would imagine these are quickly offset by the margins they presumably operate on.
Now you may note I have used words like “presumably” and “seemingly”. I am making assumptions based on the fact that whilst many surfboard shapers struggle to put food on the table it would appear many involved in the fin industry have endless amounts of cash to burn. In fairness though, I don’t know the margins they operate off. Despite attempts to engage in conversation through the years, we have never been fortunate enough to be granted an audience with any of them, it would appear they have always been way to cool for school to talk to us. So, consider this an open invitation to any of the high-ranking execs who would like to respond. Indeed, the only bit of feedback I can ever recall from a fin company is when one of their state reps commented on the launch of our mag some 13 years and 53 editions ago. I believe he gave us 2-3 editions tops before we would fold. Well buddy, we are still hanging around like a bad smell to remind you. I guess he possibly never understood or took into account the might of the grassroots surf community. Several surf titles have folded since that statement but fortunately not us, and it’s in large part thanks to the unwavering loyalty of many surfboard shapers. Hence, you know where our loyalties lie.
Back to the topic of discussion however, fins are most certainly an important part of the package but if they’re true value is between $100-$200, then surfboards possibly need to be way more than what they are presently priced. Fins are integral to drive, speed and direction but they don’t get you out to the wave or on to the wave, nor can you stand on them. You can even argue that you can surf without fins (finless) but you can’t surf without a board.
Then we come full circle back to the current consumer sentiment of supporting local. If this push is fair dinkum, you can be assured of where your board is made when you visit a local shaper but unless he’s installed a set of hand foiled fins, your fins are presumably made offshore and made for a fraction of the cost they retail for. So whilst some may squabble over seeing a surfboard shaper make a $100 for a hard week or two’s work, we are happy to pay the same to huge global companies to pop a fin out and produce how much carbon to ship it to the other side of the world?