Surfboard Makers Still Seeking Foam Blanks

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Surfboard blank suppliers are still scrambling to fill the void created when Clark Foam unexpectedly shut down operations six weeks ago. At last week's Surf Expo in Orlando old and new vendors offered blanks made in USA, Argentina and South Africa. However, at this moment there is still an estimated shortage of thousands of blanks per month and the need continues.

Industry buzz at Orlando's Surf Expo Jan. 13-15 surrounded the closure of Clark Blanks and possible alternative sources to alleviate a presently gaping hole in blank production for the upcoming summer '06 season.

Board builders were focused on how the huge gap left in blank production could be filled in time for this summer. Gary Linden and Walker Foam were in attendance to reinforce their commitment towards addressing this issue (http://walkerfoam.com). More alternatives to polyurethane/polyester (PU/PE) blanks were on hand this year than in the past and even balsawood suppliers were well-represented as shapers shopped around for blank vendors to fill their existing spring orders. Blank manufacturers from Argentina and South Africa were writing orders non-stop. But some questioned whether deliveries would occur on time and voiced concerns about quality control with suppliers half a world away.

Buffalo Boards Inc. (http://buffalosurf.com), a US-based start-up headed by industry veteran Dave Rubin has developed a blank production technique that uses less toxic MDI (methyl diisocynate) foam instead of the traditional but environmentally toxic TDI (toluene diisocynate) foam that was offered by now-defunct Clark. Rubin says that his MDI foam blanks have been very well received by both longboard and shortboard manufacturers. Buffalo will begin deliveries in February.

On the whole, fewer shapers were present as exhibitors during this year's show. Several notably absent regulars were Scott Anderson, Renny Yater and Lance Carson. Ricky Carroll shaped a MDI foam blank out in his portable shaping trailer behind the Volcom ramp on Saturday. Some larger board builders have an existing stock of blanks to draw from for a little while until the real shortage begins mid-spring. What appears to be the trend is that within about 6 months, there will be enough blanks in circulation to make up for about 3/4 of the current post-Clark production loss.

MoreBeach.com (http://morebeach.com) a beach information portal will offer regular updates on the current blank crisis during the months ahead.

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Mike Marks