making surfboards in the 20th and 21st century
August 6, 2009 7:44 PM   Subscribe

Clark Foam closed its doors almost four years ago due to Grubby Clark's worry that regulations covering polyurethane foam molding would only get worse, but US surfboard making has survived. In fact, it provided some an opportunity to reconsider board making in a historical context.

Estimates vary from "well over half" to 90% of US made surfboards used Clark "blanks" which were molded polyurethane foam which was hand shaped then "glassed" with fiberglass mat and polyester resin. The alternative is extruded (like blue Styrofoam insulation board) or expanded (like foam cups) polystyrene foam covered with epoxy resin. "Epoxy" boards were originally a cheap alternative because the plug was molded in its final shape instead of hand shaped.

Now you can shape your own board and and "glass" it with bamboo cloth. Partial instructions at the Make blog and more complete ones in the magazine.
posted by morganw (7 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Foam needs to die. Epoxy boards are where it's at. My 8' Point Blanks is nine years old and looks brand new.

I was at the coast here in OR two days ago. The local shop in Pacific City had a couple dozen boards in stock and every one was shaped locally. I don't see the industry going anywhere but up, seeing as how there are now about two dozen people in the lineup on any day when ten years ago there were maybe five to ten on the busiest days.

Great post.
posted by docpops at 8:06 PM on August 6, 2009

Clark Foam was right down the street from my house... nice 70s theme to the sign and building.
posted by Huck500 at 8:38 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

" ... due to Grubby Clark's worry that regulations covering polyurethane foam molding would only get worse, ... "

Yeah, that's what Grubby was trying to blame it on, but everything I was hearing at the time (The Surfer's Journal had a nice little piece on it, as I recall) was that the EPA was getting ready to fall on Clark like a ton of bricks, so he pulled an "Oh woe is me! The big bad government won't let me survive! Alas, now I must quit!"

That guy had a rep from almost day one of playing fast and loose with lots of regs, e.g. just dumping left over resins down storm drains at night.

He didn't get the nickname "Grubby" for being anal retentive.
posted by Relay at 10:59 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

What are these regulations of which he's whining?

While I wasn't making a surfboard, just last week I did a urethane foam casting. I got the stuff with no trouble whatsoever. Like, it's more difficult to order lasagna.

Incidentally, though, foam casting + poly vinyl ester resin is now my absolute, all-time favorite fabrication technique. I've never before so easily made something so strong.
posted by Netzapper at 11:41 PM on August 6, 2009

In the New Yorker piece he claimed that US manufacturing couldn't compete with China, so he was getting out while he could.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 12:30 AM on August 7, 2009

This is a great post, put together nicely. Awesome.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:44 AM on August 7, 2009

he claimed that US manufacturing couldn't compete with China

My first thought when I saw the original article -- toxic, handmade, precision -- was sounds like a job for China.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:13 AM on August 7, 2009

« Older They're models, not toys!   |   Pete Townshend Guitar Contest Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments