SIMA Brings It All Together at ASR San Diego: Where, When And How The Surfboard Industry Will Get Their Foam

On January 20th 2006, SIMA hosted a board builders special interest meeting on the developments in foam blank production. While the information presented at this meeting wasn’t earth shattering, it was interesting to see the current status of how the surf industry is coping with the closure of Clark Foam. Speakers at the event included SIMA’s Dick Baker, Bill Bahne and Sean Smith as well as notable industry figures Gary Linden, Scott Saunders, Greg Loehr and Bob Mctavish.

Gary Linden started things off by stating Walker Foam’s current position in the polyurethane foam market and their goals for the future. Currently, Walker Foam has 17 molds in production and pumps out around {{{600}}} blanks per week. While Linden admitted that they have had some production problems with their equipment, he was confident that they would be able to double their production within the next two weeks. In regards to the future, Linden was charged up enough to say that he expected Walker Foam to take up 70% of the overall market.

Scott Saunders of Just Foam USA and George Mayou of {{{Safari}}} Foam in South Africa each stated their respective companies ability to pump out polyurethane foam as well.

Saunders was optimistic in that the foam market will be back to normal by June. He pointed out that the foam industry has now been forced to move three years of growth into three months. Some good and bad aspects are bound to present themselves.

Mayou stated that since Safari Foam’s inception in the 1960’s, their staff has grown to over {{{100}}} and they currently manufacture around 336 polyurethane blanks per day at their site in South Africa. He also pointed out that their production will increase to nearly 1000 blanks per day by mid-February 2006.

Polystyrene foam builders (Epoxy) were represented at this meeting to give their take on the state of foam blanks and the possibility to make a better board while were are at this stage of development. The point was made that to repeat all of the same problems that Clark Foam had would be sheer stupidity. Why not improve upon things while we have the opportunity?

Greg Loehr of Resin Research Epoxy Systems explained that the weight difference and strength of epoxy blanks are key issues when it comes to shapers converting to a new system. Famed shaper Nev Hyman also stated that after shaping boards for 33 years and being at the cutting edge of epoxy, he will never again shape another polyurethane board again.

But perhaps one of the most interesting speakers was a man who stepped to the microphone during the open-forum section. Mark Jolly of Arimo Foam proudly stepped to the podium and stated, “I’m a kook”. Originally from Utah, Jolly came to California three years ago and took up the local sport. Having dropped his first surfboard and watching it shatter, he saw the need to improve upon a product that he believed to be inferior. After realizing that the quest for the indestructible board wasn’t exactly what the industry was craving, he set realistic goals of improving the existing product. So he spent over a million bucks working with chemical company BSF to create a better, environmentally friendly foam. Currently he has over 12 molds in production from his Oceanside, CA factory. His final words before stepping down were, “Give a kook a chance”.

Could the “Old-Boys” network be crumbling? Maybe we might actually have something to learn from a kook.