Maybe you’ll get lucky and score a two for one deal.

For those just getting into surfing, buying a new surfboard can be a very daunting task. If you’re on a budget, you may be interested in looking into purchasing something used, which would be much more affordable than buying a brand new board off the rack, or ordering a custom shape. Most surf shops offer an excellent array of secondhand or consignment boards for sale, and these boards are generally in great condition, after passing inspections from knowledgeable shop employees. However, if you find yourself pursuing the Craigslist / garage sale route, there are just a few things to which you should pay extra attention, in order to prevent getting bamboozled.

1. Dings

While this applies to purchasing any used item, ensuring the surfboard you are buying has little to no dings goes beyond cosmetics. Many cracks and dings in boards take on water, which soaks into the foam, eventually rotting and ruining the board. If the seller had been riding the board for months or years with a big ol’ ding in it, this could shorten its lifespan. Small, watertight dings aren’t something to be too concerned about, but it’s a good idea to keep on an eye on them.

2. Yellowing, Delamination, Buckling

In addition to looking out for dings, check the board for yellowing and delamination. Yellowing happens to most older boards, especially if they are stored outside, but when they start to get super brown, this means the foam is rotting, which weakens the board. Boards delaminate when the glassing on the board has separated from the foam, creating an air bubble between the layers. Again, this can happen when a board is kept outside or in the sun, or if the board has been left in a hot car for a long period of time. Buckling is when a board has been flexed to the point where its cracked the glassing and potentially the stringer. When you look for buckles in a board, check to see how deep the cracks go. If there are cracks across the board that are only on the surface and haven’t affected the stringer, they are just minor stress cracks, which are harmless. If the board is totally yellowed, delaminated, or buckled, it could potentially snap in bigger conditions.

3. Stolen Board?

I have heard so many stories of people buying boards off Craigslist that turned out to have been stolen. They’ll be surfing or in the parking lot when someone will come up to them and accuse them of stealing their board. In order to avoid this awkward interaction (which generally results in returning the board you’ve just bought to its rightful owner), just check around all the missing / stolen board ads before purchasing a surfboard from a private seller.

4. The Price is Right

In general, surfboards aren’t cheap, but there are a lot of shady characters out there who are listing boards for unfair prices, ready to take advantage of an unsuspecting buyer who isn’t experienced with boards. For a relatively well-used shortboard, prices are generally between $150 and $350, and for a used longboard, you’d be looking at $300 to $600. That said, if the boards are in perfect condition, or made by big name shapers, tack an extra hundred or two onto that. So, if you’re looking at some early 2000s 6’6 no-name thruster, and the seller is asking $500… you’re getting fleeced.

5. Bigger can be Better

Because professional shortboarding is the most commonly seen type of surfing, many beginning surfers think they should start out riding a tiny little shortboard. In reality, these boards are pretty difficult to ride, and you’re better off learning on a foamie or a longboard and graduating to smaller boards. Going out on a shortboard with absolutely no experience is only going to cause frustration. When you’re looking for your first board, stick to boards that are floaty and wide, between 7 and 9 feet.

This guide is simply meant to be helpful if you do decide to buy a board from Craigslist or a garage sale, but my best advice would be to head to a surf shop first - you may be pleasantly surprised with the prices and selection!