The 10 Best-Selling Surfboards Of 2017
Good biz is a fine art!
There’s never been a better time to be a lover of foam and fiberglass. Driven by mindedness when it comes to design concepts, the variety of shapes and construction materials being played around with in the marketplace makes today a really innovative epoch in the evolution of the surfboard. From futuristic looking fishes made from high-density ESP blanks, to more traditional high-performance poly shortboards, to step-ups and asyms, these days it’s all fair game
However, it’s not all sunshine, rainbows and bright white freshies. There are a number of challenges facing the surfboard business. One being the continued advancement of overseas board production. The quality of the boards being produced in Asian factories continues to improve, which is great for consumers but is taking a toll on domestic surfboard operations in America and Australia. Local glassers, sanders and ghost shapers have been hit the hardest. An interesting offshoot of this conundrum is that a lot of the overseas boards are made with epoxy and surf shops are reporting that people are riding their boards for longer, making the idea of “disposable” shortboards a bit antiquated and subsequently affecting sales numbers.
Swell is another driver of surfboard sales. In 2016 the Pacific was bombarded by El Nino and dudes needed new sleds. Conversely, the back half of 2017 was especially slow for waves, especially in California, and most surfboard retailers noted an obvious slow down during this period.
We also noticed that when surfboard brands have to expansive of a catalog it makes it challenging for them to focus all of their marketing and sales efforts on a few marquee models. While it’s key to offer plenty of options, too many models seems to dilute the seasonal focus. And on that note, the demand for traditional high-performance shortboards appears to be waning as more alt crafts enter the lineup. “There just aren’t as many people that want to pull on a jersey every weekend and surf that way,” noted one source.
It’s also interesting to note that today’s surfboard sales aren’t necessarily predicated on WSL contest results. It certainly helps sales to have an A-lister on the podium (i.e. John John and Pyzel), but it’s not imperative. In fact, given how many free boards are required to keep an A-lister happy (about 80 a year), for smaller operations it can be a massive drain on resources. As someone with over 25 years in surfboard sales explained, today people identify surfing as something they do but it’s not necessarily who they are. In today’s Instagram world where there’s just as much a premium placed on jockeying a Trager grill, spearing a fish or hiking the backcountry, the idea of identifying one’s self solely as a “surfer” isn’t as cool as it once was.
Determining the Best Selling Surfboard of 2017 was no easy feat. We’ve made it a point to confer with some of the most established surf shops, board reps, board builders and industry insiders who have helped us scrutinize sales information and market buzz. The results are based on total sales, available supply, market demand, performance feedback and a handful of other variables. We’ve taken an unbiased approach in our research and compiled all our findings independent of any advertising or marketing campaigns. The following is the best of the best from 2017:
10. Chilli Surfboards: Rare Bird
The most popular board in Chilli’s offering, the Rare Bird was derived from years of research and development and is sort of the love child of Chilli’s Toucan and the Bird’s Eye models. Continuing with the trend in 2016, the wide point on this bad boy is a little bit forward of center. It featuring the classic single concave up front to a double-barrel concave and slight vee through the fins. Build for small to overhead surf, it’s another one of those very versatile boards that are currently on the market. Largely inspired by the surfing of Mitch Coleborn, it’s recommended you ride the Rare Bird four to five inches shorter than your standard shortboard.
9. DHD: XRS
A former Stab In The Dark winner and the man behind Mick Fanning and Steph Gilmore’s title winning boards, last year Darren Handley released the XRS small-wave model. According to Darren, it’s his model with the most foam in it. With its full, flat rocker and slightly rounded squash tail, it both paddles and catches waves with relative ease, but also performs in the pocket when the surf bumps up a hair. A favorite of team guys like Mick and Jack Freestone when the conditions aren’t ideal, the whole goal with the XRS is to make each and every session fun while still being able to uncork an air or crank on a turn or two.
8. SuperBrand: PigDog
With their PigDog, SuperBrand has a legit all-around board that really works. Similar to Pyzel’s Ghost, the PigDog is one of those boards that seems like it would go really well at a spot like Ocean Beach in San Francisco or La Graviere in Hossegor. It has the wide point up front and tappers into a rounded pin, and with plenty of volume under the chest it’s made to paddle like a beast, take-off deep and do big man turns out on the open face. The board’s reputation is rock solid and shops report it’s a consistent seller. Brett Barley shined some light on it this year when he logged all-time sessions on the Outer Banks and further afield in Namibia.
7. HaydenShapes: Hypto Krypto
The Hypto Krypto is the model that just won’t die. It’s still proving to be a huge seller for Hayden. With their manufacturing dialed in overseas, HaydenShapes is able to ensure consistency and quality in their boards, and with its reputation and seemingly infinite street cred, the Hypto is still a dependable, go-to board for surfers that want to do some turns but still want a little flow in their ride. Last October, HaydenShapes released their Holy Grail model, which appears to be gaining some traction in its first couple months of sales, but it remains to be seen if it can garner the attention and traction of the Hypto.
6. Pyzel: Ghost
It’s to be expected that Jon Pyzel’s stock would be on the uptick after his golden pony ran the table in 2016. The story of the Ghost’s rise in popularity goes back to John John’s winning performance at Margaret River earlier in the year. His unique lines and sweeping turns, it was enough to inspire people to walk into shops and ask for the board by name. It’s an interesting statement in regards to what appeals about John’s surfing. Pyzel’s Bastard model is listed as Boy Wonder’s go-to shortboard, while the Ghost is a little bit more of a fuller bodied step-up built for juicier conditions. With the wide point and thickness pushed forward before tapering off to a well-refined concave and rounded pin, folks obviously appreciate both Johns rail work in more substantial swells.
5. Firewire: Go Fish
It’s no secret Rob Machado loves a good fish, but who knew he’d design and shape a runaway success this year. Rob’s Go Fish, produced by Firewire, was one of those boards that shops just couldn’t keep in stock. Some of the allure probably has to do with how well Rob’s surfs the thing—the steeze remains the same. But the feedback from work-a-day people that had the opportunity to get on the board was overwhelmingly positive. Put simply, the Go Fish is a hell of a lot of fun to ride. In this day and age of open-mindedness, a board that’s infectiously fun to ride, has a bit of buzz behind it and a charismatic character legitimizing it is typically fairs very well on this list.
4. JS Industries: Monsta 6
The Monsta 6 is proof positive that there are still a lot of surfers interested in riding a high-performance shortboard. As the market continues to evolve and morph in unexpected ways, the tried and true formula of putting some of the best surfers in the world on one model still works. For Julian Wilson, Joel Parkinson, Owen and Mikey Wright, Ace Buchan, Jeremy Flores and a boat load of others, the Monsta 6 is their go-to, everyday board. According to JS, the “secret of the M6 is in the rocker,” which strikes the perfect balance between drive and release. A little more forgiving rails allow the rider to tear the bag out of it and still recover to make the next section.
3. Channel Islands: Fever
A collaboration with newly resurrected Pat Gudauskas and shaper Mike Andrews, the Fever was Channel Islands best-selling model in 2017 and remarkably well received by their all-star team. A hybrid of other successful C.I. models, including the Proton, Rookie and MBM, it was Pat’s go-to board throughout the year. Preferring it in anything from playful waist-high T Street to proper six-foot surf, the board’s as versatile as it is fun to ride. It’s interesting to note that of Channel Islands’ offerings last year, two out of their top selling boards were engineered with a Gudauskas in the room (the Fever and the Rocket 9). Also, when it comes to this list, keep an eye on the Original Flyer. It was released later in the year and was an instant hit. Quarterly sales of the Flyer matched what the Fever did in six months.
2. Lost: Quiver Killer
There’s no shortage of options to choose from when it comes to Lost’s catalog, but the one that kept coming up in every conversation we had was the infinitely fun Quiver Killer, the closest thing to a one-board Swiss Army Knife. From Sub-Drivers, Baby Buggies, Voodoo Childs and Round-Nose Fishes, Mayhem’s amazing at making something fun for everyone, but when it comes to a cure-all for pretty much any and all conditions, the aptly named Quiver Killer is right in shaper Matt Biolos’s wheelhouse. A relatively flat, stubby board, it strikes that perfect balance between user-friendly and high performance. Derived from the ShortRound model, the Quiver Killer’s stretched out a couple extra inches for an added rail line and a fluid, continuous curve. Capable of ripping two- to four-foot Lowers or getting properly slotted at Desert Point, the outline and rocker are forgiving enough that it can grovel with the best of them, but dependable enough that it goes like a bat out of hell when it’s pumping.
In March of 2016, Stu Kennedy took out John Florence, Gabs Medina and Kelly Slater enroute to a semifinal finish at the Quiksilver Pro. Riding Slater Designs’ yet-to-be-released Sci Fi model, his performance made headlines. Largely refined at Lennox Head, the board was a collaborative effort between Stu and shaper Daniel “Tomo” Thomson, with Kelly’s insight and expertise factored in for good measure. Watching Stu rip Snapper, collectively we asked ourselves, “If that board can turn a QS grinder into a Slater beater, what could it do for me?”
The answer was quick to come. Once the Sci Fi hit shops it was practically impossible to keep in stock, and not just because Stu won a few heats on it. Everyone that got on one reveled in “how much fun it is.” From demos on beaches around the world to Kelly’s circle of friends, the response was impressively positive. Ross Williams was an early convert. Video of Shane and Jackson Dorian riding father-son models at the Surf Ranch went viral immediately.
“Anytime someone rides your boards there is a sense of pride that you worked on the design and someone else loves how it performs,” Kelly told Stab before hopping a flight to Kona for the holidays. “When Shane Dorian first looked at a Sci Fi he said it was so different looking he wouldn’t look twice at that board before I made him try it. Now he doesn’t want to ride anything else in small waves. That board seems to have been an eye-opener for people who are generally just into traditional shapes.”
Perhaps the secret to the Sci Fi’s success is that it borrows from a variety of proven design concepts while rethinking the functionality of bottom contours and tail configuration. “It’s more of a straight-rail, high-performance fish outline,” cops Tomo, which would explain the “fun” aspect. The backend of the board features a modern variation of the bat tail that shapers like Cole Simler have experimented with in the past, while the concaves are straight out of Tomo’s forward-thinking imagination. The Sci Fi is made with a high-density EPS blank anchored by a one-inch, ultra high-density foam stringer, which is intended to provide more spring and flex than traditional wood stringers.
“The idea was to work with different shapers on futuristic designs,” said Kelly. “I wanted to make clean and fun looking boards that were functional in a variety of waves.”
After hitting the market in 2016, the Sci Fi’s popularity continued to increase throughout 2017 as more people were able to get on the board. It was the perfect storm of Kelly’s credibility, a break-out contest result legitimizing the design, positive word of mouth and a strategic albeit gentle marketing nudge. After 11-world titles and the advent of the world’s dreamiest freshwater wave, today Kelly is not only influencing how and where we surf, but what we surf.
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