- Title: U.S. surfboard makers not so stoked about China tariffs
- Date: 16th August 2019
- Summary: MALIBU, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF KIDS LINED UP ON ZUMA BEACH IN MALIBU FOR SURFING LESSONS SIGN READING "SURFBOARDS ONLY" SURF INSTRUCTOR TEACHING SURFING CLASS AT SURF CLUB VARIOUS OF SURFING INSTRUCTOR TOM CORLISS SPEAKING TO SURFER NEAR BEACH (SOUNDBITE) (English) SURFING INSTRUCTOR TOM CORLISS, 52-YEAR-OLD MALIBU NATIVE, SAYING: "Well we use predominately soft surfboards here at camp, you know, for safety. So, they used to all be made down in Oceanside, north San Diego. I used to actually go down and help make some of the boards sometimes. And then, probably in the 90s, mid-to-late-90s it all started moving away and the manufacturers started going over to China, Taiwan, Thailand. But they used to be made here in the U.S. so no longer, that's obviously changed but..." LIFEGUARD CARRYING 'DOYLE" SURFBOARD ON BEACH VARIOUS OF PEOPLE SURFING (SOUNDBITE) (English) SURFING INSTRUCTOR TOM CORLISS, 52-YEAR-OLD MALIBU NATIVE, SAYING: "I mean it used to be made a little bit better and have more, you know, quality and components made in it, stringers, wood and all that kind of stuff. Where now a lot of the soft-boards, you know, the quality is not similar as it used to be. Because it used to be made over there (Oceanside) by hand, you know, it was handcrafted here and now I'm sure it's done more by massive computing ... you know, it's done differently in factories and stuff." SIGN READING "MALIBU MAKOS SURF CLUB" SURFERS ON BOARDWALK SURFBOARDS ON SAND CLOSE-UP OF "DOYLE" SURFBOARD LOGO VARIOUS OF PEOPLE SURFING AND BODYBOARDING ON MALIBU'S ZUMA BEACH
- Embargoed: 30th August 2019 19:10
- Keywords: Surfboards California China tariffs trade war
- Location: MALIBU, CARLSBAD AND LAKE FOREST, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- City: MALIBU, CARLSBAD AND LAKE FOREST, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Government/Politics,International Trade
- Reuters ID: LVA003ASGXO3R
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: President Donald Trump's decision to slap 10% tariffs on imported surfboards convinced surf executive Sue Bowers to move factory jobs out of China - but not back to the United States, which was one goal of Trump's tariffs.
Strict environmental rules and steep labor costs have sent scores of Southern California surfboard manufacturers to China. Now, the tariffs have Bowers and other executives searching for factories in places such as Thailand and Vietnam.
"This was Surf City," said Bowers, general manager of Southern California Sports Industries in Orange County.
"I would like to have our production back here," said Bowers, whose office/warehouse is decorated with surf legend Mike Doyle's artwork and filled with surfboards bearing his name.
Instead, Bowers - not a surfer herself but who learned the ins-and-outs of surfboard construction from Doyle - is joining the growing list of U.S. manufacturers and retailers reconfiguring supply chains in the wake of the Trump's bitter trade war with China.
She was among a half dozen U.S. surf company executives who told Reuters they support using trade policy to shelter their homegrown industry from a daunting wave of international competition.
They are skeptical, however, about the President's latest round of tariffs, which on Sept. 1 will levy the first U.S. import taxes on surfboards.
Trump delayed putting the 10% duty on cellphones, laptops and other consumer goods in hopes of blunting their impact on U.S. holiday sales. But surfboards and many other products did not win a reprieve.
Southern California was surfing's epicenter in the late 1950s and early 1960s, spawning a billion-dollar international business around surfing's relaxed, sun-soaked lifestyle.
The forces of globalization that have eroded the industry were well underway by the turn of the century and the continuing manufacturing exodus threatens to wipe out domestic production.
At the Malibu Makos surf club on Malibu's Zuma beach, surfing instructor Tom Corliss, who has been surfing in Southern California for more than 30 years, remembers the days when most surfboards were made in California.
"They used to all be made down in Oceanside, North San Diego. I used to actually go down and help make some of the boards sometimes. And then, probably in the 90s, mid-to-late-90s it all started moving away and the manufacturers started going off to China, Taiwan, Thailand. But they used to made here in the U.S.," he said
Corliss said he believes the quality of surfboards has suffered since production was moved overseas.
"I mean it used to be made a little bit better and have more quality and components made in it, stringers, wood and all that kind of stuff. Where now a lot of the soft-boards, you know, the quality is not similar as it used to be. Because it used to be made over there (Oceanside) by hand, you know, it was handcrafted here and now I'm sure it's done more by massive computing ... you know, it's done differently in factories and stuff," he said.
2018 surfboard imports hit 916,246, up from 102,850 in 2004, when the U.S. Census Bureau started collecting that trade data. Those imported surfboards now account for upwards of 90% of sales in the small and slow-growing domestic market, experts said.
China accounted for 67 percent of the surfboards that hit U.S. shores last year. Critics of Trump's tariffs say that focusing on just one country encourages manufacturers to move jobs to other Asian countries.
Countries like Thailand and Vietnam were already carving out niches on the high and low ends of the market with hourly factory wages that, according to Euromonitor International data, are roughly half that of China and as much as 19 times lower than in the United States.
Taiwan has also edged into the market, building a cult following for its own Wavestorm surfboards that sell at Costco Warehouse Inc. and other mass-market stores for as little as $99 - a price far below what U.S. producers can match.
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