View Full Version : Major bummer as surfboard supplier closes - U.S. Business - MSNBC.com
12-26-2005, 08:33 PM
Speaking of surfing
Major bummer as surfboard supplier closes - U.S. Business - MSNBC.com
Prices surge as industry grapples with sudden shutdown of foam maker
Chris Carlson / AP
Shaper Geoff Madsen does custom work on a Clark Foam board at Stewart Surfboards in San Clemente, Calif. Clark Foam, which enjoyed a virtual monopoly on the blocks used for customized boards, abruptly closed its doors for good last week.
Updated: 7:59 p.m. ET Dec. 11, 2005
SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. - For more than 40 years, everyone from casual weekend waveriders to top competitive surfers has shared one thing: Customized boards that began as nondescript foam blocks mass-produced by one Southern California company.
Clark Foam, an icon in California surf culture, enjoyed a virtual monopoly on the blocks that have been shaped and hand-painted by everyone from backyard do-it-yourselfers to design shops that churn out thousands of handcrafted boards each year.
Thatís why the companyís sudden closure last week has the laid-back and thriving cottage industry fearing a wipeout.
Boards that cost between $300 and $800 have soared by as much as $200 at some smaller shops. Manufacturers are scrambling to secure the last supplies of the polyurethane foam blanks, customers are hoarding custom-made boards, and thousands of specialty board shapers, air brushers and workers who coat boards with fiberglass face unemployment almost overnight.
(Story continues below ↓)
Perhaps a return to wooden ones?
12-26-2005, 09:00 PM
Well, in Japan at least, a board costing less than $1000(US)is a rarity anyway. I have a feeling that somebody will fill the "void" pretty soon, especially if they're entering the market with prices up and people crying for "stock" to fashion custom boards from.
The surf shop down the street from me pays a guy from LA, plus his expenses, to come over here every spring and make custom boards for the locals. Another shop down the road does the same thing for a guy from Hawaii and one over in the next city has an Aussie coming over.
I would think the locals in So.CA would be interested in investing in a "block" shop.
12-26-2005, 09:08 PM
Maine Surfers Produce Wooden Surfboards
By CLARKE CANFIELD
Updated: 3:41 a.m. ET Dec. 19, 2005
YORK, Maine - When the surf's up, you can find Mike LaVecchia and Rich Blundell carving the waves at York Beach, even in winter. Their surfboards, however, are nothing like the fiberglass-over-foam boards common at beaches around the country. They made wood boards for themselves that look like hand-crafted furniture with their smooth lines, wood grain and glossy finish.
LaVecchia and Blundell now operate a small business, Grain Surfboards, to make wooden surfboards for others.
Many surfers are turning to wood as part of the trend toward retro surfboards and the two men are applying the skills used in Maine's long tradition of wooden boat-building to help meet the demand.
"Look at that grain!" Blundell said, pointing to the whirls and swirls on the red cedar planks of one their boards. "It blows my mind. That's what it's all about."
Despite the recent comeback, wooden surfboards have been around for thousands of years.
Polynesians first harnessed the power of an ocean swell on solid wood boards several thousand years ago, and the art of surfing was perfected on wood in Hawaii, where tribal chiefs rode hardwood plank boards as long as 24 feet.
In the book "Roughing It," Mark Twain wrote about his experience on a wooden surfboard in Hawaii in 1866.
But in modern times, classic wooden boards fell by the wayside as less-expensive fiberglass, foam and composite materials came into vogue.
LaVecchia and Blundell, both 39 years old, set up a shop in their rented home across the street from a bluff overlooking the north end of York Beach. They say their work building surfboards brings together their knowledge of boats, wood and surfing.
LaVecchia once ran a charter sailboat company on Lake Champlain and later oversaw the construction of a full-scale replica of a 19th-century lake freighter when he worked at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vermont. Blundell has worked on commercial fishing boats, windjammers and sailboats in New England, Florida and the Caribbean.
So far, the men have built 10 surfboards between 6 feet and 10 feet long, which sell for $1,200-$1,500 each. The men said they are confident the business will grow.
The two-week construction process involves building a frame _ one that looks like a ribbed frame of an airplane wing _ and attaching outer planks made of red or white cedar. They glue additional wooden strips to the side rails, shape it, sand it and apply six to eight coats of epoxy that protects the board and gives it its shine.
"It's alive," Blundell said of the final product, which is highly durable but light enough to pick up under one's arm. "It's like a green twig versus a Styrofoam box."
Wooden boards make up a minuscule portion of the surfboard sales worldwide. Most surfers shy away from them because of their higher price tags, said Ron Lees, owner of Northeast Surfing, an online Web company in Hull, Mass.
A 9-foot wooden board, for instance, might sell for $1,500, while a comparable fiberglass board would cost $300 to $500 less.
Still, there are pockets of demand for wooden boards among collectors and surfers who buy them for their look and feel, said Chris Mauro, editor of Surfer magazine.
"There's always little niches where wooden surfboard builders can fill a void," Mauro said. "People love the look of wood."
Tom Wegener, a former world-class surfer who now makes surfboards in Australia, said wooden boards make up less than 1 percent of surfboard sales.
But interest is growing, so much so that he has given up making foam boards and has a year's backlog of orders for wood ones, he said.
"Five years ago there were very few and they were mostly wall hangers," he said. "Now I am one of many making wood surfboards to be ridden."
Some surfboard manufacturers have begun making foam boards with a thin layer of wood veneer, said Dave Cropper, owner of Cinnamon Rainbows Surf Co., a surfboard shop in Hampton Beach, N.H.
But LaVecchia and Blundell think discerning surfers will pay a premium once they ride double-overhead waves on an authentic wooden board.
"That board there is like a pillow," Blundell said, pointing to LaVecchia's personal surfboard.
On the Net:
Grain Surfboards: http://www.grainsurfboards.com
Wegener Surfboards: http://www.tomwegenersurfboards.com
Surfer magazine: http://www.surfermag.com
[ 12-26-2005, 10:10 PM: Message edited by: brian.cunningham ]
12-27-2005, 08:53 AM
OOOOH BUMMER!....... :( LESS FOAM ENDING UP IN THE SEA :(
12-27-2005, 10:57 AM
http://www.surftech.com/features/feat_images/1115752406_Yater9-4squash.jpg http://www.surftech.com/features/feat_images/1053641184_takayama_9-3-pink-wood.jpg http://www.surftech.com/features/feat_images/1116361502_10-0_velzy_collector.jpg http://www.surftech.com/features/feat_images/1054331455_munoz_11-ultra-wood.jpg
These are modern"Surftech" epoxy boards with a veneeer of wood over a machine tooled blank. The templates are from some of the world's best shapers; these shapes are from,Rennie Yater,Donald Takayama,Mickey Munoz and the late great Dale Velzy.
These are darn near indestructable but are as good or better performance wise then a typical poly/glassed board . Slightly more of an investment but they will last a LOT longer.
This is the wave of the future.
12-27-2005, 11:07 AM
Not to worry, I'm sure a Chinese suppiler will step up and fill the void.
[ 12-27-2005, 12:08 PM: Message edited by: Bob Adams ]
I read about this in another forum.
Here's what was said:
"Almost all, hi performance wave skis are made with open cell Styrofoam/epoxy that is still available every where...it is not the polyurethane type foam Cark was blowing.
The Clark foam is/was too heavy for the really light 12-15 lb skis. This should have no effect on the vast majority of ski builders.
As far as Randy French and SurfTech...he was involved in building sail boards back in the 80's and 90's under the Sea Trend name. He had some bad problems with delaminating for a while...but seems to have incorporated some techniques from the more forward thinking custom shapers and moved past the problem. The technique he is using is well proven in the custom windsurfing arena.
It made a huge impact when Keith Notary ("Clam Sandwich" Brand) started to develop epoxy sandwich construction. Tem Berkstressor was also making some super light strong sandwich boards under the "Berky board" label. As well as Hypertech out in the Columbia River gorge. These three guys were way out in front...at least here in the U.S.
Randy always appeared to have a larger vision. While the three innovators were content to build custom race boards for the top pro windsurfers, French went for a bigger market. You have to give him credit...he is now poised to take a huge leap towards market domination with the demise of Clark foam.
The Surf Tech method along with all like Epoxy sandwich construction has been a better method for about 20 years, but the entrenched Polyester/Clark foam oriented industry never allowed it a strong foot hold. Now ...overnight everything is going to change."
[ 12-28-2005, 07:05 PM: Message edited by: JEM ]
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