Take a man with 40+ years of foam experience mix with cutting edge 21st century processing and production techniques and you might get something very close to Ice-Nine Foam Works. We caught up with Ice-Nine Foam Works President Jon Stillman for a quick “5 Questions” chat.
SURFER: It’s been roughly three years since Clark closed its doors. The industry has shaken out, how does the landscape look now?
JON STILLMAN: The past three years have been nothing short of a remake of the classic B movie "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" with a cast of thousands. Each group of potential foam entrepreneurs racing towards the goal of being the next Clark and at this point the road is littered with wreckage. When Clark shut down in December of 05 there were dozens wanting to enter this market but as we sit here today, three years later, there are only a handful of competitors left and I think we may see some more "shaking out" before it's all said and done.
SURFER: You’ve recently brought Harold Walker of Walker Foam into the fold, what is does it mean for Ice-Nine to have Harold Walkers expertise?
JON STILLMAN: Harold has been working with polyurethane surfblanks for decades and although we may take a very different approach to processing at Ice-Nine, we still benefit greatly from his wisdom which can only be gained through experience. His formulations also gave us the opportunity to see what could be accomplished when the old world of PU blanks met the new world, classic formulas combined with 21st century processing.
SURFER: Does it fast forward any processes on the day-today operations?
JON STILLMAN: The addition of Harold gives us access to 50 years of experience and a heck of a lot of trial and error. Having been down this road before us he can help point out the potholes before we hit them. This helps us climb the learning curve at a faster speed and avoid a lot of the trial (and tribulations) and errors.
SURFER: Clark effectively eliminated Walker foam and any other competitor, it must be exciting for shapers to get there first look at Walkers stuff, sort of a time machine vibe, or no?
JON STILLMAN: We really dig that part. Having seen Gordon's formula, Walker's and a few of the others we can say that there is a real elegance and simplicity in Walker's formula as compared to the other tried and true formulations. In our estimation it has tremendous potential for lighter densities, a higher percentage closed cells and high strength to weight ratios. It's fun for us to revitalize one of the oldest polyurethane surf formulas (remember, Walker's formula predated Gordon's) and see the properties we have achieved with the addition of modern processing.
SURFER: What has the response to Walkers formula been so far?
JON STILLMAN: So far so good. The shaper's have reported it is easy to shape as Walker's old formula was known to be. It holds an edge well. The glasser's have remarked that the glass jobs require less resin and the finished boards have been coming out quite light. In the water rider's have reported positively on the ride and note it's resistance to denting on the deck.