Is epoxy the solution to the Clark Foam nightmare, or will some shapers stubbornly wait out the void in poly blanks? Geoff Rashe, owner of M10 Surfboards in Santa Cruz, is ramping up production of epoxy blanks. Nor Cal correspondent Wayne Kelly caught up with Geoff to discuss the epoxy option.
SURFERMAG.COM: How long have you been shaping, Geoff?
GEOFF RASHE: Hmmmm (long pause, serious thought), about 17 years..
SURFERMAG.COM: How many boards did you shape this last year, in 2005?
GEOFF RASHE: Somewhere around twelve to fifteen hundred; between here (California) and Japan.
SURFERMAG.COM: How has the closure of Clark Foam affected you?
GEOFF RASHE: It's been crazy. I've been so busy. I am getting orders from everyone; dealers, custom orders, everyone. People who were thinking about getting a board are now buying a board. Everyone's figuring the sooner they order, the higher up they will be on the pile of new orders.
SURFERMAG.COM: What type of construction do you use for your boards? Do you really build your own blanks?
GEOFF RASHE: Almost all of my boards are epoxy construction here in the US. I only made 250 polyester boards last year, and 220 of those went to Japan. I build my own blanks. I construct my own blanks out of high quality EPS foam, and I have my own blank building process. The boards have a PVC stringer, in which I can control the flex of the board. A surfer like Tyler (Smith) surfs with a lot of power, and likes his boards a little stiffer for more projection. Some of the smaller guys like a little more flex. It really comes down to the preference of the surfer. Right now you can pick the flex pattern you want with these blanks. I may even set-up different color stringers to coincide with different flex patterns.
SURFERMAG.COM: So you foresee a big shift toward epoxy then?
GEOFF RASHE: Definitely. For a lot of these shapers, it comes down to this: try this new shit or do nothing. This whole incident is going to force a lot of people to use epoxy. The EPS blanks will be available quick, and polyester blanks are going to take a while. It's a better way anyway, but most people haven't been willing to make the change. Now they have to.
SURFERMAG.COM: I have noticed a hesitation as well. So, what's the quality like?
GEOFF RASHE: Epoxy is a better board, no question about it. My customers tell me they last longer, and they are definitely more durable. If you use the wrong foam… epoxy boards will self-destruct. There is good foam from Australia, crappy foam from China, and everything in between. You don't want a board made from the same foam that a disposable beer cooler from Z’s Liquors is made of. It was a lot of trial and error. Hopefully I will make it easier for all of the shapers that relied on Clark Foam, and they won’t have to go through what I did to perfect this process. There is a lot of interest in EPS foam right now (within the surf industry).
SURFERMAG.COM: So the word is out.
GEOFF RASHE: Oh yeah. A lot of people are interested. Even some folks from China called me, wanting me to go show them how to make these EPS blanks. I couldn't do it, and be loyal to the American workforce. Most of the shapers here in the United States relied on Clark Foam for their blanks, and they are out of work right now.
SURFERMAG.COM: So you will have blanks available to them soon?
GEOFF RASHE: I am already producing blanks. I am just upping that production. We have just acquired a new factory space, and I have hired some new workers. I just bought a new CNC (computer numerical control) machine. This CNC machine cuts the foam similar to the shaping machine, but on two dimensions instead of three. We can then cut 6-8 blanks at a time.
We will have EPS blanks available to everyone next week.
SURFERMAG.COM: How is working with an EPS blank different?
GEOFF RASHE: The resin used to laminate the board is different. The process is different, but the materials are safer. Epoxy is arguably safer and cleaner than polyester resin, but that depends on who you talk to. The EPA says that epoxy is safer. I think it is.
SURFERMAG.COM: So how could someone get one of these blanks?
GEOFF RASHE: Rev-Chem, which is the biggest supplier of chemicals to the surf industry, will be distributing them. I have the final patents going through right now, although the blanks are basically available now. You can call David Collignon at Rev Chem @ 831.212.5808 Shapers have an option now. Shape with epoxy and you can start tomorrow.