Love’m or hate em, 100,000 boards is amazing…
VIA – UTSD
Firm foam Wavestorms have changed the face of surfing from Costco to Hawaii’s pipeline
They are hard to miss, even amid the distractions of sushi samples, 64-ounce jars of peanut butter and 25-pound bags of sugar.
On any summer day in San Diego, on the way to fetch that roasted whole chicken for dinner and a 5-pound cake for dessert, you’ll see the big blue bomber surfboards. Eight feet tall, 2 feet wide, the Wavestorms stand there, beckoning to be bought.
For only $99, you can throw one of these babies into your oversized shopping cart and be cool. You can be a Beach Boy. You can dive into one the most romanticized corners of Southern California culture. And because the board’s surface is firm foam instead of fiberglass, you’re probably not going to knock yourself out when you fall the first 50 times you try to stand up.
Costco has changed the face of surfing, and if that is not readily apparent then go to a family beach and check it out. At least half the boards in the water will be some incarnation of a Wavestorm purchased at Costco — their paddlers ranging from paunchy middle-aged dudes to giddy grade-school girls.
Each year, the shape of the Wavestorm is the same, only the graphic in some form of blue and white changes.
No single surfboard has been sold like the Wavestorm, with more than 100,000 purchased in the eight years they’ve been available in Costco, according to the board’s manufacturer, AGIT Global of Taiwan.
They are ubiquitous — to the dismay of some artistic surfboard shapers who shake their heads at the mass production and hardcore surfers who covet their piece of the Pacific, not wanting to be bothered with neophytes.
Still others delight seeing even a raw beginner take on a pastime that offers a union with nature’s power and tranquillity like few others.
The fact that the boards that altered a sport come from a big-box retailer just adds to the fascination of it all.
“I’m Australian, so I think there are a lot of ironic things in America. And Costco is just one of those amazing phenomenon that can only happen in America,” former world champion surfer Ian Cairns said with a chuckle.
Cairns, AGIT’s director of U.S. marketing and promotion, said of the Wavestorm, “It’s sort of become a bit of a phenomenon. For 99 bucks, it’s an amazing good value, and it actually surfs pretty good.
“In the evolution of the board’s position in surfing, it’s gone from being purely and simply a kook board to a fun tool to ride in novel and unique ways.”
Surfing is not an easy sport to crack. Beyond its difficulty and finding the right beach, the cost of a new fiberglass board can range from $400 to $800. That’s a big dollar commitment for something you might try once. Then the Costco boards came along and it was almost a no-brainer for anyone who had even a small itch to try.
“Some manufacturers were upset with us because they were losing sales,” said Matt Zilinskas, AGIT’s vice president of North American sales. “But this is putting more people in the water. We’re getting people hooked on surfing using this board and maybe they’ll buy a different board. It’s actually grown the sport significantly.”
For Craig Baldwin, there is no other board beyond Wavestorm. The 33-year-old surfer from Pacific Beach rode only regular boards until 2007, when he suffered temporary paralysis during a bout with Guillain-Barre syndrome. While recovering, Baldwin tried the Wavestorm for its ease of use and never turned back. He’s now rips with one and is considered one of the top soft-topped board surfers in the region.
There are entire groups of professionals who enthusiastically surf Wavestorms now, including huge pipeline waves in Hawaii.
“I’m glad to be a part of the new wave of surfing,” Baldwin said. “I think foam boards will be forever a big part of surfing in the future. … I get a lot of good feedback about the way I ride the Wavestorm. It’s a source of pride for me.”
Not all of the reaction is welcoming. Surfers can be traditional and territorial, and from the beginning, paddling out on a Wavestorm immediately marked you as either a beginner or outsider. Baldwin said he’s been verbally harassed and cut off on waves frequently.
“I don’t want to say hatred, but there can be a dislike for the foam boards in the line, especially the Wavestorms,” said Ben Crawford, 33, who works at Mission Surf. “You see people getting razzed for being on one.
“I think that’s a bummer. For me, if you’re out there in the water having a good time, and you’re respectful of other people, then you’re a real surfer, a real waterman. A lot of surfers share that mentality.”
The Costco customers with the big blue boards can be thankful for that.
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