Getting your hands on a new surfboard can be a budget buster – we're talking half a month's rent or more. Luckily, if you've been riding waves for a while, you've likely accumulated some liquid assets (i.e. a board or two that has retained some value) that can help you acquire a new stick without skipping out on a car/mortgage/electric bill payment.

Though many surf shops no longer buy boards from customers, most still accept trade-ins toward the purchase of a new or used board.

Northeast Florida's Scott Holmes has been managing the boardroom at Aqua East Surf Shop in Neptune Beach for more than two decades. Holmes says trading in a new board shouldn't feel like dealing with a used car salesman.

"Beach communities tend to be small places, so I'm likely going to meet a person I do a trade with at some point in the future—whether in the water or on land," Holmes says. "I want people who trade in a board to leave happy and eventually come back and buy another one from me."

Aqua East maintains a rapidly changing inventory of more than 300 new and used surfboards. With Holmes' help, we offer the following tips for how to get the most bucks out of your banged-up shred stick.


You never want to give the impression that you just rolled out of bed that morning and decided to come trade your board. Taking off wax is easy. Wax remover (if needed at all) is relatively cheap. And the process might take you twenty minutes.

A clean, wax-free board shows you care, and that you're ready to make a deal. According to Holmes, stripping the wax also shows that you've got nothing to hide.

"If somebody comes with a ton of wax on the board, I get suspicious," he says. "I've had people bring buckled boards that they just covered with wax. That's not OK."


Although ding repair kits for both epoxy and polyurethane boards are relatively inexpensive, Holmes does not advise DIY ding repair – at least not for the novice.

"Any ding bigger than a dime, unless you're really skilled at ding repair, I wouldn't try to do it half-a**," he says. "Shoddy ding repair jobs make the board look even worse. It makes it look like you didn't take care of the board, and I'm going to wonder what else might be wrong with it. It's better just to show me what's wrong with it and I can price it out accordingly."


Let's be honest: removing a tail pad is the pits. But nobody is going to want your raggedy, crooked pad, with it's worn-out arch bar and missing kick tail.

"A torn tail pad makes the board harder to resell," Holmes says. "I know that either I'm going to spend two hours struggling to get that thing off, or the customer will. Customers think twice about boards with ripped pads. And I have to factor that into the trade."

Photo: Ellis


GoPro nose mounts, unless you're fresh from capturing some POV tube footage from Desert Point, look pretty kooky. Ditto for Trace mounts. And according to Holmes, they certainly won't increase the board's resale value.

"I had a guy with a beautiful longboard – a 9'6 retro noserider with a really nice fin – who had put a GoPro mount right where your toes would go on the nose," Holmes says, laughing. "I knew then he didn't know what he was doing. I also knew that he wasn't going to ask for top dollar for the board."


It's important to be realistic about what you have and to be flexible.

"Don't expect the world for your board," Holmes says. "Some people come in with this arrogance about what they've got, like, 'I surfed this board at Pipeline and I know what it's worth.' I can tell that they are going to be hard to work with. I've developed a clientele over the years, and it's a mutual respect thing. We don't try to bulls** one another. I know they want a board, they know the shop has to make money in order to survive, so we all know what we're getting into."


When venturing into a surf shop to make a trade, it behooves you to have a good idea of what your trade-in is worth. Holmes says longboards, mid-lengths, and "big-guy" (voluminous) shortboards tend to retain a higher value.

"Big boards are much easier to resell because they appeal to a more diverse clientele," he says. "A beginner or a bigger person, or somebody who hasn't been surfing in a while, will generally look for a bigger board, whereas experienced surfers tend to be more specific with what they're looking for. If it's a longboard made overseas, you can ride that board for two years and you could get half your money back. If you ride a little shortboard for two years, you'll be lucky to get a third or a quarter of your money back because those boards just tend to just get beat up more."

Furthermore, Holmes says if the shop carries the board you are trading in, you'll likely get more money on the trade.

"If you bring in a Hayden Shapes Hypto Krypto, we carry that board, so I know if somebody can't afford a brand new Hayden, I can show him or her the one you just traded in. It works out for everyone."

On the other side of the coin, it's important to know which new board you intend to trade for. Price the board out online or in other surf shops. If you've found a better price somewhere else, many shops offer price matching.


In order for surf shops to stay in business (and continue to accept trade-ins), a trade has to benefit the shop's bottom line – that's Capitalism 101, folks. Holmes says it is important for people to understand that surf shops, while they aren't quite used car dealerships, are indeed businesses that survive on profits.

"Trade-ins are always going to work out in our favor. They have to," he says. "Be comfortable with the fact that even though you are trading us something, you are going to have to come out of pocket, as well. It's the only way surf shops are going to survive."