In December of 2007 another long chapter in the surfboard industry silently ended. Harold Walker and his son Joe closed the doors on the Wilmington based Walker Foam company. The closing of Walker Foam, a company that had been around for decades, is blamed on poor execution according to former Walker Foam associate Gary Linden.
“My guess is that it simply was no longer cost effective for Harold to stay in business,” speculated Linden. “Harold didn’t get the type of industry support he had hoped for.”
Ironically, Walker Foam was in prime position to take over a massive chunk of the surfboard foam market when Clark Foam abruptly closed its doors in December of 2005. A couple of days after Clark’s closure, Walker Foam, announced the acquisition of a 32,000 square-foot facility in China. There were plans to manufacture up to 1,000 boards a day within two months.
Unfortunately for Walker, entrepreneurs everywhere jumped at the chance to replace Clark as the foam kingpin. After the initial shock of Clark Foam’s closure wore off, foam started showing up again—and lots of it. Shapers and manufacturers, wary of another Clark monopoly, seemed to spread their dollars around. Walkers overzealous expansion plans are what some speculate got the better of the company.
“Harold and Joe [Harold’s son and associate] got caught up in expansion, they ran up some debt,” said Linden. “Walker’s old, loyal customers from before Clark’s closure were the only ones who returned. Pretty soon lack of support caught up to them.”
Others, including San Diego-based shaper Chris Christenson have another spin on the Walker situation. “They had issues,” explained Christenson. “I got bad foam on a number of occasions, and you know, everyone gets bad foam occasionally, but they had poor customer service. No phone calls back, that sort of thing. Basic stuff and they couldn’t seem to handle it. I think that’s why guys were over it. It’s not like there isn’t other foam out there.”
Whatever the situation, Harold Walker was an industry icon. For decades the only man who knew more about surfboard foam was Grubby Clark. When Clark Foam closed it was shocking. With Walker Foam, it’s just plain sad.