Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Price of Fun

Whoever said the best things in life are free clearly was not a windsurfer.

If you've experienced windsurfing on a full plane. If you've screamed across the water with no sound but the board on the water, the sail fluttering, the wind whistling across your lobes and your own heart pounding. If you've been hypnotized by the chop and waves moving across your visual field in a random beautiful chaos that speaks to you on a deeper level... well then maybe you should put down the bong, because waves can't talk.

Jokes aside, windsurfing is a true addiction. And like any good American addiction, there is a price to pay in real, actual currency. When I started windsurfing in college, windsurfing taught me lessons of perseverance, hard-work, and how to obtain large quantities of credit card debt. When I got out of college and started living "real" life, with larger rent payments, power bills, and student loan payments... I nearly gave up windsurfing. I nearly decided that windsurfing was just too expensive despite the great rewards. Ok, I was also blowing cash by chasing girls too, but that's neither here nor there.

I'm a few more years out now and I've got a bit more financial stability. Still, I have a hard time separating myself from hundreds and thousands of dollars in order to windsurf.

I'm buying new gear when I get to my new home, and retail prices seem to be climbing really fast these days. Let's say for argument's sake, this is the kit I buy when I move to San Francisco:

2 Boards @ $1500 each
3 sails @ $600 each
1 Boom @ $200 each (but lets face it, I want carbon)
2 carbon RDM masts @ $450 each
Knick knacks and paddy wacks (extensions, mast feet) @ $200 total

In this simulation of "retail therapy" I've just spent $6100. Wow. Obviously a thousand arguments can be made about these figures and their validity, as well as about "is it even worth it to buy the latest and greatest", but for someone who's just getting into the sport and doesn't have their own knowledge base and maybe depends on the shop owner (who in his or her own right is likely just trying to scrape by) for all their advice... this scenario seems like a reality. Because this is my blog, I'm sticking to this number of $6100.

So let's see how else someone might spend $6100.

  • 1 really kick ass bachelor party in Vegas, with no cameras allowed. (Has anyone caught on that I'm not married?)
  • 1 Brand New Jetski from Kawasaki. You'll never have to buy a jibing lesson, you'll never blow a tack, and you probably are missing a bunch of teeth if you select this option.
  • 30 days backpacking in Europe. Plane ticket @ $1000, Rail Passes @ $1500, $70/day expenses, Lodging $70/night in hostiles. This, to me, seems like a viable form of entertainment. I think you could even make the money stretch much further if you were careful.
  • $66,091.71 is the future value of $6100 invested with a yearly interest rate of 10% for 25 years. Your old tired windsurfing knees and shoulders could probably use this year off, since you've been charging the gorge so hard with that old, used beater board and that teak boom.
  • 47"LG - Scarlet 1080p 120Hz Flat-Panel LCD HDTV, 1 Sony Playstation 3, 1 XBOX 360, and $2000 cash to buy games and movies. We, as windsurfers, always whine and complain that kids today are too lazy to windsurf. Hell, playing the most expensive video game on one of the very best televisions available costs half as much! And you don't have to worry about the weather forecast!
  • 24 months rent in Jericoacoara. I met a few people who said you can live there for about $250/month rent. The problem at this point is that you don't have a windsurfing board or any sails to ride, although Matt Case told me he only used a 4.7m sail the whole time he was there.
I was a marketing major in college where I primarily studied the diverse alcoholic beverage market. I posted the poll about the price of windsurfing gear because I was a little curious about what people thought. Even though the consumer's perception of the industry isn't representative necessarily of the reality of the situation, it could kind of indicate how people feel about the prices they are paying for gear. 23 drunk people stumbled across my blog and voted (!!!). Take a look at the results. Most people who surf my blog agree that the gear isn't overpriced, and even if the prices were much cheaper, there would still be a very small market. This, I think, is a pretty fair assessment. That said, I have had a lot of 20-something friends who have come to me saying "WOW WINDSURFING IS COOL, CAN I DO THAT!?!" Invariably in the first conversation, the price issue comes up, and suddenly they are less interested. Get into the sport for $2000? You know I could go on a week cruise for that, right?

Also interesting, my buddy Josh at Windsurfingmag posted a similar poll with a higher response rate. The results were interesting. 42% of the people who surfed to that website say that they think that cheaper gear would create more windsurfers, and I'm assuming they think that economies of scale would make the market still viable. Or maybe they just want cheaper gear.

So that was fun, but let's be serious, you're (I'm) gonna buy gear. It just hurts. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the windsurfing industry, their tactics, their people, or their marketing strategies. Heck, we're all in this together on either side of the cash register. I want there to be more windsurfers and cheaper gear so I can sail more. They want the same thing, right?


Mac said...

Very funny! Here's my take...1) you only live once so spend the $$, 2) do it while you're young (well, you'll still probaby be doing it when you're old too but it hurts less now), 3) spend the $$ while you're still not married and don't have kids (that you know of), and 4) it's only money! When you're married, do what I do...tell her its better than having a girlfriend or being on drugs.

I spent a lot of money in April at the OBX shops and replaced some equipment I had for a very long time. It hurt coming out of my wallet but just gives me more incentive to do well at work, plus use the gear as much as possible.

Good luck on your move to San Fran. I've sailed out there a couple of times at Rio Vista and Coyote Point. As you already know, there is a huge windsurfing community out there along with many varying spots and launches....you'll love it. I look forward to your posts from out west!

Mark said...

I so agree with mac; Do it before you are married and defintly before the little kids arrive if any.
My own experence was when I was in high school every dime I made went to buy either windsurfing gear or Skiing/snowboard gear. Same for collage except add Beer to the mix. Got married right after collage and since then $ for above addiction's where limited but still spent it just not as much or as often. We orginally didn't want kids and spent some time traveling of cource to place she could lay in the sun and I could sail. We then decided to have a child 12 years later. And since then my sailing time has vanished until this year, my son is 4 and I felt it was time to get back out thier, But for me to spend money on gear is harder then ever so I'm riding my Retro gear (old gear retro just makes me feel better)for the next couple years. But last weekend a long one in Canada; I was look foreward to a good couple hours sailing but things just coming up. And before I know it is Monday nigth and I say to my wife. "How do other people do it! enjoy a sport and deal with family and life" Not sure what the answer is part of it for my Skiing and snowboarding addiction was teaching my son at 2-1/2 to ski so that helps but windsurfing not sure of the answer. Anyways just wanted to add my couple cents, and maybe somebody else has the answer. (Not saying I don't love being married and having a kid)

Take care, safe relocate and keep up the great blog.


Catapulting Aaron said...

Totally agree with both of you. Funny, I thought this topic would be a little more popular than it has been. It really seems like something that people in and out of the industry are uncomfortable talking about or expressing opinions about. On rec.windsurfing, Josh posted something about his, and he got ripped to shreds by those stodgy coots! Why do e-windsurfers take themselves so seriously?

Windsurfing is an "elite" sport in my opinion, and it's way more location-specific than other elite sports like golf or skiing. Maybe we'll have a tiger woods of the bay area who gives free camps and gear out to troubled youths. Now that would be something!

PeconicPuffin said...

If you buy everything new I think you're underbudgeting. Buy late model used boards...in my mind that's the safest and best bet for used gear...and maybe a used sail or two...fill in the rest of your quiver (4 sails not 3) with new. Buy new masts and a carbon boom and budget for good wetsuits (water is cold out there.)

Get what you need now and take care of it. I don't think of windsurfing as elite...I think of it as low cost boating and surfing rolled into one.

We just had our local spring swap meet today...good gear was bought and sold (parted with an old board...I HATE doing that!)

ned said...

Aaron, Ned here. Thanks for sharing the BABA house for a couple of night. Great getting to know you in ABK clinic and afterwards with Canandians and you. Last week in Hatteras was awesome with lots of sailing...Back to Cornwall on Hudson, NY and sailed Hudson River twice. Off to Florida for Tinho clinic Monday.


PeconicPuffin said...

What's going on...let's have an update! All your gear sold? On the road? Already shredding in the Bay Area?

Good luck with it all!

Andy said...

Earth to Aaron... the massive worldwide population of internet procrastinators misses you...

re: the price of fun- Sailworld ships gear nationwide!

Luke said...


Catapulting Aaron said...

Dearest inquiring minds:

I'm here in the bay area, alive and well. I'm super busy getting adjusted still and haven't gotten the pictures from the road trip together. I promise, I won't slip off the face of the blogosphere. Just give me a little time....


Sergey Menshikov said...

Nobody said you have to buy new :) Well, perhaps except bread and butter mast and boom and unis, just for safety sake.

Make sure to check http://www.helmsports.com/summer_swaps

Sometimes (rarely) good stuff comes through craigslist.org

iwindsurf buy/sell is a good place too (hint - search for gear in state "CA", this gives almost local results)

closeouts, for example at www.sailworks.com - lots of last year sails at good prices (now).

I have a modern working kit of 4 boards, 8 sails 4 masts 2 booms and the only things I bought new at retail is 1 board, unis/extensions and 2 masts.

I hope this helps :)