Jan 14, 2017
Counting the cost of surfing in Japan
One of the worst things about being a surfer in Japan, or any nation for that matter, are those days when there's no surf. Even worse than this are those days when close study of swell, wind, and weather charts tells you that they'll be no surf of a Saturday morning so you wake up late. But then you flip on the webcam out of curiosity only to find that there is, in fact, surf! It sounds petty (and it is) but it's enough to make a surfer weep. So it is this Saturday morning that I find myself making matters worse by doing a bit of surf kit itinerary check and reflecting on how much it costs to go surfing in Japan.
The timing isn't completely arbitrary. Last month I picked up a new wetsuit to get me through Japan's winter surf. After a session last weekend during which I could no longer feel the tips of my fingers and a case of 'ice cream' head that made it a bit tricky to focus, I promptly went out and bought gloves and a hood/cap. I was hoping to give them a run out today.
Anyway, I'll add this to some of the other surfing bells and whistles that make up my surfing in Japan kit and wince at how much all of this has cost me.
Starting from the top ...
I picked this up from a Murasaki Sports in Shin-Ochanomizu. They seemed to be having a 20%-off sale on a lot of their surf clobber (maybe a January sales thing). This is a 'large' size cap/hood from TABIE REVO (no idea). It's 3mm and has an extended neck that can tuck into the wetsuit. I felt like a complete plonker trying it on but it slipped on like a favorite sock and certainly feels warm. It's a little tight on the jaw but hopfully that'll prevent the teeth from chattering.
Cost: 3,680 yen (with tax)
Same store, same brand. 'Large' size. Black with a rather loud purple lining. These are 3mm. I recon I've got pretty winter resistant hands. I never wear gloves in day-to-day-life so I'm confident that I won't need to step up to 5 mm.
Cost: 3,440 yen (with tax)
*Surfing in Japan hack: I got 2,000 yen off the above due to points aquired from the purchase of the wetsuit below.
I picked this up in December from a store called The Suns, again in Shin-Ochanomizu. The Suns has some sort of relationship with Murasaki Sports and they'll give you a point card that you can use in both.
I'm not one for shopping around, it bores me stupid. I went in, said I had a budget of around 50,000 yen and was looking for something that could keep me surfing in January, maybe February, and then back again in March, in the central/north Chiba breaks. The kind worker picked out this Super Freak by O'NEILL. It's 5 mm on the legs and body. 3 mm on the arms. I love it! It's really easy to paddle in, gives me at least an hour of super warmth before things start to get a little chilly, and is nice and easy to slip on. The same can't be said about getting it off at the end though. Also, at 3 mm, the arms aren't the warmest. Still, I'm really happy with it.
Cost: around 52,000 yen (with tax)
I don't know why we have to call them 'booties' instead of just 'boots'. Mixed feelings about these booties from Feel. I've had them for a few years now though. They start off warm but they don't half let a lot of water in. I can feel them weighing me down at the back end of a session. They're a nightmare to take off once you get back to the car. I have to 'peel' in stages which is the last thing you want to be doing when your freezing to death.
Cost: It was a long time ago, but I think around 5,000 yen
I got this from a large secondhand store near the beach in Chiba (not one of the 'OFF' chain). It's a 6,2; a great all-round board for this part of Japan. It cost 15,000 yen. I've not idea how old it is but it works like a dream. Along with my smartphone (depressing, but yes), laptop, and electric blanket, it's one of my most valued possessions. The picture was taken in Bali (but I wish Chiba looked like that).
Cost: 15,000 yen
The old one snapped last month. Just old age as, luckily, the waves that day were little tiddlers. I got this leash/leg rope from a local store here in Urayasu, Chiba. It's by CREATURES OF LEISURE. It's a 'standard' thickness and 2 m in length. I like the 'quick release' pully thing and the bright blue color.
Cost: 5,000 yen
A trip to Bali on an LCC airline forced me into buying a new, more streamline, board bag. I detailed that in a post here. The bag is from TRANSPORTER. It's light and slim and can only handle one board. I got it from The Suns.
Cost: 7,000 yen
This was a gift, and I love it. It's got a water proof and insulated lining. The showers at my regular surf spot are cold so I can fill up some bottles with hot water and in this thing they'll still be nice and warm when I'm out after a session.
Cost: It was a gift so rude to ask. Anyway, this is years old now but I found similar items online for around 5,000 yen
Key holder - can't remember and given the above costs, negligible
Hot gel - 2,000 yen
Board wax - 280 yen
I've started so I might as well carry on with this cost of surfing in Japan business.
I'm about a 45 min drive from my regular break. I use one toll road/highway which costs me 880 yen (with an ETC card) one way.
I'm not exactly sure but the buzzy little 'k car' Daihatsu that I drive requires about 4,000 yen to fill the tank with gas and I can squeeze four beach trips out of that. Parking is 500 yen (at the beach).
While a lot of my Japanese surfer counterparts are lighting up pre-surf cigarettes I'm trying to give this spindly frame of mine all the help in the water it can get. Every morning before setting out I buy two packs of energy gel (weider ENERGY IN), a 4-stick pack of Calorie Mate, and packet of biscuits, all from the local Family Mart. This comes in at around 600 yen. On the way back I make a stop at a highway service station to ditch the rubbish and down a can of vending machine coffee (130 yen - it's a highway service stop after all).
The cost of surfing in Japan: Budget summary
|Wetsuit cap/hood||3,680 yen|
|The stick||15,000 yen|
|Board bag||7,000 yen|
|Kit bag||5,000 yen|
|Trinkets||3,000 yen (est)|
|Point card discount||- 2,000 yen|
Total: 97,120 yen
|Highway tolls||1,760 yen|
|Snacks and coffee||730 yen|
Total: 3,990 yen
Over the course of year, maybe I average four surfs a month and two bars of wax (summer / winter)
Total: 191,520 yen
Absent from this list are ...
a very old, and thinner, wetsuit: 30,000 yen
board shorts (they're redundant right now and are packed away somewhere): 7,000 yen
the first board I bought in Japan (which I no longer use): 30,000 yen
a car (not necessarily an essential for surfing in Japan, but this is more than likely going to be the case): not saying - this will make my eyes water
I had though that doing this cost of surfing itinerary check was going to make me puke but the totals are actually not as high as I feared. Don't get me wrong, I could be buying a couple of flight tickets home to see the family with this, and around 4,000 yen for a surf session seems high. However, one could easily drink 4,000 yen away weekly in weekend drinks (which I rarely do). No, for me, surfing in Japan is emphatically worth it. In fact, I'm not sure I could put a real price on it. Well, no, I probably have a limit but I'm not sure where that is and given that work prevents me from surfing on weekdays, I'm unlikely to find it right now.
Anyway, I hope this has helped any prospective surfers in Japan get an idea of how much it costs and what kind of surf gear you can get over here with what kind of money.
More of my surfing in Japan stuff ...
Oh God I had no idea that surfing would be such an expensive thing to do. You did a very good job calculating all the costs associated that any beginner can get a clear picture .
@Babina Thanks for the kind words. Yes, it can be expensive, especially here in Japan.