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Santa Cruz Surfboard Makers Say China Tariffs Won’t Make A Big Splash


President Trump is escalating his trade war against China, raising tariffs already in place and adding a 15 percent tariff on an additional $300 billion worth of goods imported from China. The latest China tariff list includes surfboards. 

Inside his paint-splattered shop in Aptos, Tyler Hopkins uses a power planer to shape a surfboard. He owns Locus Surfboards and builds eco-boards. They’re made of recyclable foam and bio-based epoxies. 

“This particular board, it's got some teals and blues with some blasts of orange here and there,” says Hopkins while pointing to a board that’s nearly done. 

Hopkins says his boards have to compete with cheaper foreign imports, mainly from China. So when he found out surfboards were on the latest China tariff list, he was intrigued. 

“You know, my first impulse was to say, ‘okay, yeah, I'm kind of behind that, I think that's a cool thing.’ But really, it is in the long run I don't think going to have the impact that is expected,” Hopkins says. 

According to reporting by Reuters, China exports 67 percent of the surfboards that land in the United States. But according to the report, Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan have also entered the market. 

Hopkins doesn’t expect manufacturers to bring their production to the U.S. Instead, they could shift to other countries where labor and production are less expensive. 

In the shop next door, Martijn Stiphout works on his latest project. He’s the Master Artisan at Ventana Surfboards and Supplies. He also builds sustainable surfboards, all out of locally-reclaimed wood.  

“It (my shop) looks much more like a cabinet shop or something along those lines,” he says.

Although Stiphout doesn’t think the new tariffs will have an impact, he says this trade war should start a conversation. 

“Absolutely, figure out where your board’s from, figure out the negative impact. Don't be wasteful with what you do,” Stiphout says.

Imported foam boards have grown in popularity over the years, like ones from Costco, which cost under $200. Stiphout says while they allow more people to get into the sport, they carry a big carbon footprint and aren’t sustainably made. 

“The waste and the toxicity is mostly in production. But these boards do tend to break quite often. And when they break, they release all the small Styrofoam particles, which have been proven to be ingested by fish and wildlife,” he says. 

He says locally-made surfboards, even if they are more expensive, have a much lower impact on the environment. He says buying used boards or renting one is also a good option.

The first, new round of tariffs begins September 1.

Erika Mahoney served as news director and reporter at KAZU, leaving the station in March, 2022.