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#790790 - 02/06/06 08:59 AM Re: Why Everyone Hates Surftech, and Pop-outs in General [Re: NB Surf Guy]
SLOsurfer Offline
Legend (inyourownmind)

Registered: 01/16/02
Posts: 224
Loc: San Luis Obispo, CA, USA
Hey man, don't lump me in your category. I've got nothing against surftechs, but I would far rather have a custom epoxy or something. Now that custom boards are getting built with good materials, I would join those who say there's not much point in buying a surftech. Why but an EPS/epoxy popout when I can get an EPS/epoxy popout that is custom made for ME?

These guys aren't "old geezers". They just love craftsmanship. I'm more of a moderate, I guess.

Whether you're a popout fan or a custom fan, there's no point in trying to change someone's mind on it. People ride what they like best. Surfing is about personal enjoyment, not being like the masses. It's plain STUPID to get mad at someone for riding what they ride, unless it's putting you in harm's way or something (i.e. the kook with the 10' log that can't control it).

Just enjoy what you ride, and stop worrying about what other people think. This board is about light-hearted surf design discussion, not trying to sway people into riding what you ride.

#790791 - 02/06/06 09:06 AM Re: Why Everyone Hates Surftech, and Pop-outs in General [Re: vespagetti]
GWS Offline
Duke status

Registered: 01/11/02
Posts: 42607
Loc: done

Have you tried doing a full deck patch instead of just individual spots? Would it do the same trick?

Once. Back in the day I had someone give me this ultra lightweight board that I loved. The deck was single six, with the hot coat squeegeed off for a non skid surface. I suspect the blank had been overshaped as well. I was just crushing the ***** out of the thing after two days. My shaper saw it, grabbed the board and took it back to his glasser. They put on a full deck patch. It did ad some significant weight. The board was fine for a long time though.

When I do it, I target my front and rear foot positions. For me, thats where all the damage occurs. Ill let it dent down and then reinforce it at that exact spots its needed. The weight gains seem to be pretty minimal using that approach. When I start getting cracks over the stringer as the glass gets stretched down on either side, I know I really have to either reinforce it, or put it on the consignment rack.

If dents in surfboard decks scared me, Id need a new board every three days.

#790792 - 02/06/06 09:14 AM Re: Why Everyone Hates Surftech, and Pop-outs in General [Re: SLOsurfer]
dk Offline
Rabbitt Bartholomew status

Registered: 09/14/03
Posts: 9548
Loc: Leucadia

Hey man, don't lump me in your category. I've got nothing against surftechs, but I would far rather have a custom epoxy or something. Now that custom boards are getting built with good materials, I would join those who say there's not much point in buying a surftech. Why but an EPS/epoxy popout when I can get an EPS/epoxy popout that is custom made for ME?

These guys aren't "old geezers". They just love craftsmanship. I'm more of a moderate, I guess.

Whether you're a popout fan or a custom fan, there's no point in trying to change someone's mind on it. People ride what they like best. Surfing is about personal enjoyment, not being like the masses. It's plain STUPID to get mad at someone for riding what they ride, unless it's putting you in harm's way or something (i.e. the kook with the 10' log that can't control it).

Just enjoy what you ride, and stop worrying about what other people think. This board is about light-hearted surf design discussion, not trying to sway people into riding what you ride.

good post.

That is simply all I was stating. There is no reason to support overseas manufactured popout boards when you could buy a superior custom epoxy board here in America and feed your local shaper for a week . If you want something bullet proof get on Berts list. As said there are numerous guys doing vacuum bagged eps/epoxy boards, veneer...carbon lay ups..different desity foams, different types of stringers. Plenty of options to make a pretty strong fukkin board that ways VERY LITTLE.

and speaking about being stuck in the past. We have went over this time and time again. Tfad has mentioned over and over they were doing epoxys in the 80's and are over it How does that make you nostalgic if you have tried alternative close to 20 years ago? Obviously the epoxy has changed alot..but it's still not the cureall problem saver everyone speaks of. Plenty of fualts.

I was not targeting you in anyway. Sorry if you felt that way. Simply saying MY opinion. which as leed once told worth nothing

I do not think popouts will be the force that puts shapers out of business. To many people who enjoy custom boards

#790793 - 02/06/06 09:25 AM Re: Why Everyone Hates Surftech, and Pop-outs in General
drakkars Offline
Legend (inyourownmind)

Registered: 09/21/05
Posts: 221
Loc: Gone from biarritz To NIORT




popouts = clone

These aren't boards that are shaped for "you", these are
the tools of the unwashed masses. "One size/shape fits all"
marketing and mentality.

So are stock boards.

Exactally! Funny that they are cheaper that "Stock" poly boards now. If you're gonna buy off the rack the smarter choice is Tuflite, no question.

Even "stock" boards at least have some human
interaction/input in their construction process.
Maybe its just a cool color scheme/resin tint to
set it apart, but even that's better than some
molded "lemming" board.

You know ????
The only part machine-produced in a surftech is the foam core of the board.
The rest is entirely hand-made .... by some workers ....
this is me ....... But still surfing after all this time (Since '75)

#790794 - 02/06/06 09:34 AM Re: Why Everyone Hates Surftech, and Pop-outs in General [Re: dk]
SLOsurfer Offline
Legend (inyourownmind)

Registered: 01/16/02
Posts: 224
Loc: San Luis Obispo, CA, USA
Nah, didn't feel targeted. I understand what you're saying, and agree. Who in the world would want a durable popout for $650, when he could get a CUSTOM, durable board for $650?

Not me. I'm glad I discovered my Santa Cruz two years back, because I've enjoyed it and it's stood up to a lot of abuse VERY well. But now that I know of the alternatives, I'm on to better things: namely, a durable custom.

#790795 - 02/06/06 12:32 PM Re: Why Everyone Hates Surftech, and Pop-outs in General [Re: SLOsurfer]
20W-50 and blood Online   mad
Duke status

Registered: 02/04/04
Posts: 21657
why do i hate popouts? Because they put aholes in the water like the one today...just about ot drop on the best right of the sesh thus far, and he iodiot paddling out right in front of me...where does he paddle? OF COURSE!! THE SHOUDLER! WHY PADDLE INTO THE WHITEWATER? Painted on on stringer tuflite.

#790796 - 02/06/06 12:36 PM Re: Why Everyone Hates Surftech, and Pop-outs in General [Re: 20W-50 and blood]
NB Surf Guy Offline
Legend (inyourownmind)

Registered: 02/05/02
Posts: 456
Loc: Zooport

why do i hate popouts? Because they put aholes in the water like the one today...just about ot drop on the best right of the sesh thus far, and he iodiot paddling out right in front of me...where does he paddle? OF COURSE!! THE SHOUDLER! WHY PADDLE INTO THE WHITEWATER? Painted on on stringer tuflite.

Don't blame the driver, blame the vehicle????

I guess I could argue the same about all the barneys driving around in Toyota Prius's. Always going 60mph in the fast lane on the 405.

#790797 - 02/06/06 12:43 PM Re: Why Everyone Hates Surftech, and Pop-outs in General [Re: 20W-50 and blood]
SLOsurfer Offline
Legend (inyourownmind)

Registered: 01/16/02
Posts: 224
Loc: San Luis Obispo, CA, USA

why do i hate popouts? Because they put aholes in the water like the one today...just about ot drop on the best right of the sesh thus far, and he iodiot paddling out right in front of me...where does he paddle? OF COURSE!! THE SHOUDLER! WHY PADDLE INTO THE WHITEWATER? Painted on on stringer tuflite.

Hey, take it as a compliment. He probably wanted a good view of whatever thrashin' rad manuever this rippin' surfer was about to throw down.

Either that, or it was one of those self-loathing things, like, "Spray me, I'm worthless."

#790798 - 02/06/06 01:53 PM Re: Why Everyone Hates Surftech, and Pop-outs in General [Re: SLOsurfer]
rice Offline
Duke status

Registered: 07/02/02
Posts: 22238
Loc: CA
The Perils of Pop-Out Pundits
A rebuttal & manifesto on molded styrofoam epoxy surfboards (e.g., SurfTech),
machine-shaped manufacturing processes, and the small, independent
surfer/shaper working in a backyard garage
by Dave Parmenter
p. 1
Intro Email #1
From: ****
To: ***
Subject: Plastic Trash
Date: Tuesday, 22 January 2002
Good Stuff. I dont agree with much of it, but the man has some passion,
and in this world, thats a good thing.
The SurfTech phenomenon has been an interesting thing to watch
metamorphosize (sic) over the past several years. I originally interviewed
Randy French for Bystroms Aussie mag about five years ago I think, and
at that time, he COULD NOT sign up any of the big name guys to save his
skin. Not for lack of trying, but I think Grubby (Gordon Clark) was
blackmailing all of them cuz he was seeing the writing on the wall.
Well, times change, and attitudes alter. I see now that Randy French has got
just about damn near EVERYBODY that he was originally turned down
from, so greed wins out in the end. What shaper can resist getting paid for
not working, the temptation of the licensing fee is too great.
In the end, Grubby saw it coming. The surfboard industry as a whole
brought it on with decades of inferior products, and finally, the consumer is
ratfucking em back. At least en toto, obviously there are always shining
exceptions. Some points to consider:
Third World dominance in manufacturing: Hey, why should
surfboards be any different? The TW has kicked Americas ass
with their manufacturing superiority in almost every other market,
anyone but a blind man should have been able to see that it was just a
matter of time with regard to surfboards.
Uneducated consumer: Lets face it, theres about 10% clued in
consumers, and the rest are just sheep. Obviously, sheep can be
herded, and Randy (French) is a very good shepherd (sic).
p. 2
Flex: He might be right on this, but less than 1% of surfers even
know about this characteristic or are able to even identify it in their
personal surfing, much less care about this *****. Dude, have you
looked around the lineup lately? Cmon
Buoyancy: Yeah, like theres an intelligent argument: trying to
convince surfers that too much buoyancy and too many waves (plus
a superiority in a crowded surfing environment) is a bad thing?
In the end, trying to MAKE surfers do what some guy thinks is the right
thing is just totally preposterous. Over time, they will behave like all
consumers: they will flow to the perceived value. If some $800 Stewart that
has a tradition of breaking in less than a year can be replaced by a $550,
more durable surfboard, and if the marketing can convince them that its
not a kookboard, and there will be no peer pressure to bypass em on the
sales stand, then trust me, the rush will be on. Which it already is, as
evidenced by Randys huge advancements in the past five years.
Will he take over the market? His portion, certainly, it looks like he
already has. Lord knows how successful hes been in Europe or Australia.
In the big picture, I seem to be noticing a lot more technological change
happening lately, from the hollow blanks to this new resin that Einstein kid
invented. Hey, its long overdue, and this new generation seems less caught
up with the ethical arguments that perhaps held back some of their fathers.
We all know surfboards have been woefully archaic when compared with
every other kind of plastics production (boats, planes, furniture, other
consumer items), and its just taken the coming of an new generation of
more open minded guys (or less caring) to allow Randy to begin to get his
In the end, there will always be room for the good, one off, custom shapers
to survive. We all know that, and many of us will stick with those guys.
The rest of the guys in the traditional industry? Start looking for another
career my friends. You probably wont make 55 and retirement in this one
as it stands now. This current industry has been a long string of unhealthy,
cancer ridden problems, and over the long haul, its long since past time for
a well-deserved phase out. It may take another ten or 20 years, but it seems
p. 3
to be coming. Trust me, the surfers of the future wont care about the
supposed nostalgia of the old surfboard industry. Its always been about
the waves anyway, and it always will be.
p. 4
Intro Email #2
From: ****
To: Sam
Date: January 23, 2002
Subject: Re. Plastic Trash (in the following letter **** adds notes to a letter
he received, via e-mail, from Sam. I have put ****s writing in capital
letters. D. Parmenter)
God, you gotta love surfers and their fervor. And their superstitions,
especially when it comes to surfboards, our most sacred icon.
THAT LETTER (Note: this refers to an emotional, somewhat scattered bit
of anti SurfTech writing circulating around the Internet) WAS A RETARD,
However, as a longtime Styrofoam/epoxy proponent, I thought I (sic) add
my two-cents to your arguments, at least, that other fellow obviously being
a (sic) hysterical.
Surfers of all stamps have to learn to accept that, due to Clarks (Clark
Foams) modern, close-tolerance blanks, we all ride molded boards. Except
for hand-milled balsa (of which I am a proud owner) no commerciallymade
board is rough-hewn from scratch. These molded, close-tolerance
blanks are produced in a factory in Mission Viejo by non-surfing, non-
English-speaking (Third World, you might say) workers. Overseen by
surfers, sure. But factory molded nonetheless.
These blanks are then sent to manufacturers, an ever-growing number of
whom (sic) use computer-shaping machines to mill them. This includes
every one of the major manufacturers. Artisan-shapers still exist, but
working with the small labels only.
Regardless, all boards are made out of plastic.
p. 5
Now, as a SurfTech rider, I can chuckle at being considered less-soulful
(or an obvious kook, as that one guy contends). Butt ****, you of all people,
know how theyre made.
A renowned, master shaper carves out an original shape (as does Rusty or
Al or Timmy Patterson). This plug is scanned by a computer, so that the
computerized shaping machine can reproduce the original (like Channel
Islands. Rusty, Patagonia, HIC, etc) The blank is produced, then put in a
vacumn (sic) mold where a layer of high-density foam is bonded to the
blank. Its then glassed like any other Styrofoam/epoxy board.
They are no more popped out than any other board made from a Clark
Blank, or milled by a computer. In fact, more thought, more care has gone
into the production of these boards, which arent made this way simply to
produce them more cheaply.
They are simply new. Which scares most surfers.
I went through this same thing when I rode John Bradburys boards, and
no more soulful surfboard shaper ever existed. John experimented with new
materials because he loved surfboards and was tired of seeing them fall
apart due to the limitations of Clark technology. Who are any of use to
impune (sic) him? Or any of the other master shapers, the men who literally
built our sport with our bare hands, who are responsible for everything we
experience, who after decades of dedication now have the opportunity to
reproduce their best work and receive a royalty.
You gonna tell Yater to get the hell back to work and lock himself in the
shaping bay for another 50 years? You know what he got for shaping the
Clark plug that virtually all modern longboards over 92 are shaped from?
Five free blanks on account.
p. 6
What about Mickey Munoz? Are we to tell him that his lifetime of
commitment (sic) means nothing, and that hes only good for production
piecework, a shaping drone, endlessly cutting rocker into foam? I dont
support efforts like SurfTechs unequivocably (sic), but as a step in the
right direction: the search for better materials and better manufacturing for
those surfers who cherish the form. And to honor the master shapers
their vision, their dedication, their commitment (sic). You dont think they
deserve it? Call it greed, on their part?
Hell, if Wal-Mart treated guys like Takayama, Yater, Munoz, Harbour,
Velzy, Arakawa, Merrick, Stewart, Hobie, Haut, August and McTavish with
the same respect, dignity, and support, Id ride for them, too.
As it is, you know what I tell people who ask me why I ride a SurfTech?
Because its what Tom Blake would ride.
Thanks for including me in your forum. It so (sic) much more interesting
than anything else that comes across my desk.
p. 7
Talk to you soon,
p. 8
The Perils of Pop-Out Pundits
To: ****
From: Dave Parmenter
Re. Rebuttal to above letters forwarded to me, January 2002
18 March 2002
Dear ****,
Recently you have forwarded to me a number of documents via the Internet
that contend with a subject that I am deeply involved in: the design and
construction of surfboards. As a rule after my disastrous attempt at
SwelldotCom to write technical essays on surfboards I have chosen not to
become involved in arguments with laymen that concern this arcane craft
with its often indefinable science.
However, in this instance I feel that troops have marched into Poland and
that I must not be silent; I must respond so that certain facts can be set out
once and for all.
This will be a long and somewhat complex letter, so you may want to
print it out and sink into a nice, comfortable chair. Relax, have a cold beer
and be assured that I harbor no rancor in this matter to you personally. I
hold you as a dear friend whose surfing life and experiences I have always
respected. I have learned much from you and have almost always
considered your advice as well-given and carrying weight. This time
however I should like to ask you to submit to my knowledge of this field as
I counter some of the claims made in the above-mentioned letters. If you
allow yourself an open mind, I promise you will learn a few things that will
certainly deepen your understanding of surfboards.
For the past fourteen years, ****, I have been building for you custom
surfboards that have allowed you the wider and wider surfing experience
you sought. Many of these boards were truly unique creations, available
nowhere else in the world, and you were able to collaborate in every aspect
of their design, down to the exact placement of leash plugs. These boards
ranged from 50 bellyboards to Tavarua guns to your Force 10 From
p. 9
Leffingwell model, and culminated in the 126 3-stringer mega-board you
now enjoy so much. Furthermore, I cannot recall any of those boards
breaking or falling apart, and I think you will agree that you, based on the
hardcore nature of surfing on the Central Coast (and your use of boats as
the favored mode of transportation), place a greater demand on your boards
than the average South Of The Horn surfer. So I take it as a personal
affront that you can so flippantly support a manufacturing ideology that is
the polar opposite of the process that created those fourteen years worth
of extraordinary surfboards.
If many of the contentions put forward about the SurfTech molded
boards vs. the traditional hand-shaped/hand-lay-up surfboards were merely
a matter of opinion, I would not be writing this. I have better things to do
with 14,000 words. True, some of the allegedly ethical or aesthetic
points can be argued solely as matters of opinion, but for the most part
there is a wholesale ignorance or evasion of cold hard facts as far as the
more tangible principles are concerned.
I will deal with these facts at various places in the following text. These
pertain to design or engineering falsehoods set out in much of the letters
you have forwarded to me. The ethical and aesthetic questions I will deal
with as they arise.
Let us begin by looking at claims made by Mr. George, and seconded by
you, that these molded SurfTech boards are simply new and this scares
most surfers (since when do new things scare surfers?), or represent
new technology. This is in fact not true. This latest manifestation of
molded or composite (every foam sandwich surfboard in history
beginning with the Simmons epoxy/polystyrene board in 1948 has been a
composite) surfboard is not at all new, but merely a refinement and
improvement upon other boards of this type that have cycled in and out of
the design forefront since the 60s. It seems that every decade or so the
same construction ideas are recycled (albeit with various improved
technologies), though the same problems are recycled as well.
All of these surfcraft have failed, or had some fatal flaw that eventually
sank them (literally, in the case of the W.A.V.E. Hollow line which, by the
p. 10
way, was the source of the largest bankruptcy ever in the surfboard
industry, and the biggest advertisement debt write-off in SURFER history,
in spite of the fact that the publishers allegedly further pushed these
boards so that they might recover some of the money owed them).
You will notice, if you pardon the digression, that even the most rabid of
todays collectors singularly avoid any and all pop-out or molded boards.
Why? No doubt because they hold little appeal, either as functional surfcraft
or the foci of nostalgia. I find this fact very telling.
All of these surfboard technologies, whether honeycomb & hollow,
injected foam core & plastic skin, foam core & veneer, etc. whatever
their individual merits also have failed to acknowledge the overarching
principle of surfboard design (well get to the engineering later): it is not
static; it changes constantly. And this is most important to remember
these design changes traditionally have always emanated from the
underground or backyard shaper, usually one that is known as a
surfer/shaper. No valid, widely accepted and permanent design revolutions
have ever come from a large-scale manufacturer. More on this principle
later, as it links up with what I believe to be the most insidious danger to
surfboard design in history.
No large-scale manufacturer, in this case SurfTech (or its poor relation,
BIC), could ever keep up with the rapid design changes produced by a
gifted or imaginative shaper working independently with polyurethane and
polyester. A large-scale overseas manufacturer such as SurfTech would
be even less able to keep up with design evolution in full stride.
In fact, it would be in the interests of any molded board manufacturer to
restrain or control the flow of new ideas to a rate that suits their supply
lines and their construction methods (not to mention their bloated
advertising campaigns).
For an analogy I feel safe in asking you to consider the automobile
industry. Every year, in January, new models are released with fanfare and
hype. Any longer than a calendar year and the interest might droop; any
p. 11
shorter and the manufacturing process couldnt keep up and the market
would be confused and distracted.
In any event, the automobile manufacturers as huge, lumbering,
monolithic corporations must artificially create and control the flow of
innovation to suit their interests. Certainly their manufacturing process
cannot react very fast to anything but cosmetic changes, at least not in the
way that the backyard surfboard builder can react to new ideas and
innovation literally overnight (design history is full of these overnight,
reactive boards some very important surfboards were hastily built to use
on the next day of the same swell).
If you or Mr. George really believes that these SurfTech boards are
new, then you had better read carefully the following story. As I stated
above, this technology is not new. It stems from sailboard technology. It
has already bubbled up to the fore in the surfing world a couple of times in
the past 15 years without showing up on the publics radar. The following
is a brief description of what happened to the sailboard market fifteen or
twenty years ago: With the advent of radically shorter wave sailing boards,
the hot sailors and local custom designers that built their boards found
themselves in the drivers seat. They built their rapidly changing prototypes
with pretty much the same materials and methods that the traditional
surfboard uses. But the huge sailboard manufacturers, reeling from the
blow of having their over-sized sailboard models suddenly deemed obsolete,
scrambled to buy the rights to the new designs, as well as the endorsements
of their shapers.
These designs were then factory-built in much the same way as the
SurfTech boards are being built now, but with widely varying degrees of
quality. The buzzword of epoxy was flung around and touted to be
superior to the substandard (once again) polyurethane/polyester
sailboards. Then, the sailboard magazines were wowed and quickly climbed
in bed with these manufacturers, as they had now become their biggest
advertisers. Gullible stooges at the magazines were soon hand-fed the party
line: that shape and design were not as important as durability and
weight. Isnt this all starting to sound very familiar? Arent you curious to
see how it all turned out?
p. 12
Well, we already know that many of the hot shapers on Maui or the North
Shore (or wherever) had been bought off by these huge sailboard
manufacturers. The local custom sailboard market almost died out. (Lesson
here for the shapers who have sold out to such concerns: they are usually
the ones who first get hurt.) A techno-philiac war ensued; advertisements
screamed about the wonders of epoxy resins. Now that the big guys had
bought back the market share they had lost in the wave-sailing revolution,
they soon figured out that they didnt need these hot names any longer
they had the baseline models and figured that they could copy any new
refinements for free.
No one really paid much attention to the bubbling, delamination or
shrinking on these super high-tech sailboards after all, the magazine and
the ads said they were better. What did the really hot sailboarders do, the
guys that progress too fast to wait around for a container-shipped factory
board to catch up? Yes, you guessed it: in areas of high winds and large
surf, pockets of these elite sailors continued to design and build their own
sailboards with traditional materials. And guess what? They found out
after the circular trip that in the end the higher-density polyurethane
boards glassed with polyester resins actually held up better in highperformance
conditions than the so-called high technology molded
sailboards. Why? All of this will be explained in the following letter, but, in
short, it was because the traditional boards had a stronger, denser core, and
a better bond between this core and the skin, among other reasons. It just
took time to see it all balance out.
All of this begs the question: do we, as progressive surfers deeply
interested in the excitement of riding better, faster, more maneuverable
surfboards, want to follow this same route? (Not interested in any of the
preceding sentence? Then skip to the last two paragraphs for your score.)
Do we want the flow of design innovation to be presided over by a
corporation where a decidedly non-elite (not-so-hot surfers) group of
manufacturers or a salesman chooses a shaper and/or design to put into
mass production and thus comprise the hot new board?
Of course not.
p. 13
This is why the current popularity of molded surfboards will, I believe,
be mostly restricted to static, traditional, non-contested designs like the
longboard models SurfTech and others are producing. These particular
designs are - in my appraisal - generic, neutral, safe-at-any-speed
longboards that have seen little change in the past fifteen years and are
unlikely to incur any further change during our lifetimes.
Contrarily, contemporary shortboard design changes far too quickly to be
profitable in this process. A shortboard design can be rendered obsolete
overnight, whereas longboard designs long ago achieved a certain stasis.
Hype and ads will claim otherwise, of course, but the fact remains that all it
would take is an incremental but hugely important to a good surfer
change to a modern shortboard and a manufacturer such as SurfTech
would be left sitting with shipments of pop-out surfboards that were
outdated before they reached the docks in the United States.
If some people want to call these molded boards kook boards, well, that
is a matter of opinion. I will remark that since it appears that surfing is
currently bearing the brunt of the biggest influx of entry-level surfers since
the Gidget phenomenon, and the bulk of these beginners (or ex-surfers
re-entering the sport as recycled beginners) seem to be the main market for
the SurfTech boards, then one can understand how these somewhat bland
longboard designs have earned this reputation. (As far as the short board
models go, it can safely be claimed that no hot surfer would ride one unless
he was paid to or was given one free of charge. I have also heard rumors to
the effect that some of the SurfTech shortboard teamriders rarely ride the
pop-out models they endorse, and actually have regular
polyurethane/polyester boards, made by their usual shapers, that are painted
in such a way as to cosmetically resemble the SurfTech boards they are
supposed to be endorsing. To really good surfers, board design and a
relationship with a notable shaper always override materials where
performance is concerned.)
Before we proceed any further I feel I should show my hand as to my
personal bias in these concerns. First and foremost I should state that I
personally feel no threat whatsoever from these or any other similar phylum
of mass-produced, molded boards or computer shapes. In fact, for smallp.
scale, efficient shapers like myself they create more business. The current
trends that are shaking the limbs of the great tree of the traditional custom
surfboard industry are dropping more and more apples into our laps. I am a
very small backyard shaper with a stable, loyal clientele that I enjoy working
with. None of these individuals are being serviced by the current trends
towards impersonality in the surfboard industry.
Production shaping holds no appeal for me, and you know that you have
never met an individual less concerned about wringing money from this
quaint little cottage industry than I. I have no desire at all to be the next
Rusty or Al Merrick; nor do I want to branch into some megalomaniac
surfwear company.
That being said, I still care deeply about the historic traditions of the
custom surfboard industry, and always will. The thing that fascinates me
most in life is the anticipation and wonder I feel when imagining what new
hybrid design I will be riding five years from now. As a shaper firmly in
control of that destiny I can say with some assurance that any future
innovations I enjoy will stem almost entirely from actual design refinements
that I concoct or borrow from another shaper, and not from materials
changes or surf media hype.
I am deeply worried that the current trends will profoundly affect the
evolution of future surfboard design, and feel a certain responsibility as
one of the few remaining present-day surfer/shaper/designers to face and
counter these threats.
I feel little animosity towards the shapers who have sold out by shaping
a mold plug for a SurfTech model for the simple reason that I am absolutely
certain they will end up being hoist by their own petard, as it were. If you
look closely at the history of the surf industry you will see that every
business that sold out its hardcore roots eventually got its head lopped off
in a hardcore intifada. I also feel some pity for all the poor saps that buy
these boards - only to take their place in the line-up next to ten other guys
with a surfboard that is identical to theirs. Surfers have always been very
concerned with perceived individuality. How are people going to identify
their own board on the beach? What if two or more identical boards wash
p. 15
up on the beach? Will board thieves prey upon this loophole? Will our
surfboards now have to have V.I.N.s on them?
Regarding the SurfTech line of surfboards currently being hyped and
marketed, I believe that if I were a novice-to-moderately-skilled surfer that
wanted an over-sized water toy, say a paddleboard, sailboard or big generic
tanker, I would definitely state that their type of composite construction
(polystyrene bead foam core, vacuum-bag & epoxy resin) would certainly
produce a reliable board (for much the same reasons as a weekend paddler
would choose a Scupper kayak over a custom, carbon fiber Tsunami
Ranger kayak). If I were a gullible consumer, I wouldnt understand the
difference between impact strength and shear strength.
However, if one is an expert or highly skilled surfer he would mostly
ignore this type of surfboard theyd be far more interested in pressing
ahead towards designing or participating in the design of their own custommade
That stated, it is time to move on to confronting various statements made
in the letters that I was forwarded.
****, you mentioned that Randy French (is he a shaper or a salesman?
Why am I told that his last partnership in such a concern fizzled,
concerning similar boards made in Slovakia?) had a difficult time signing
up some of the big-name shapers for his plug building endeavor, and that
Gordon Clark was blackmailing all of them cuz he could see the writing
on the wall. This is not at all true. Gordon hasnt blackmailed anyone, not
now, not ever. In fact, the inverse is true. Ever since the backyard
revolution in the late 60s and early 70s Clark Foam has, during various
uprisings, been under intense pressure from any number of big-time
surfboard manufacturers to restrict or cut-off entirely his sales of blanks to
the backyard or small-time builder. Gordon has always refused to cave in to
this pressure, of which it can honestly be said at times bordered on
blackmail (boycotts) from many of the major manufacturers. They
screamed like stuck pigs that the backyard guys were going to ruin the
industry and flood it with inferior, cheap boards that undermined their (selfprofessed)
standards of quality and integrity.
p. 16
Garage workmanship aside, quite the opposite was proven. All legitimate,
internationally accepted design revolutions have come from the backyard
tinkerer and/or the surfer/shaper. Moreover, it can be seen as somewhat
symbolic that many of the prototypical design innovations that put us in the
tube, up on the lip, or carving high-G turns came from shapes that were
hewn out of stripped down longboards built by the large-scale
This will never, ever change, as long as hot surfers lead design, rather
than big manufacturers.
My experiences with Clark Foam are typical of those shapers in the
industry who approach their relationship with that company as that of a
partnership, without bringing along a chip-on-the -shoulder, antagonistic,
paranoid, conspiracy-sniffing, malcontent attitude that is exhibited by so
many others in the industry.
I am far from being their best or biggest customer (I purchase a mere
300-400 blanks a year) and yet I have never been treated - by each and
every employee of Clark Foam - as anything less than a trusted and valued
partner. Questions are answered cheerfully, orders processed with speed
and accuracy, and the blanks have always been of unbelievable quality. I
have been led to believe, for no ulterior purpose that I can detect, that the
company stands firmly behind the small efficient builder that gives the
customer good value and a progressive surfboard. Over the past fourteen
years of shaping surfboards for a living I have only had to return two
blanks, and both of them had minor flaws that would have been irrelevant
had I not been planning to shape admittedly off-label designs from the
respective blanks.
Gordon Clark has also been blackmailed by various government
agencies and pressure groups that have tried time and time again to shut
down the plant in Laguna Niguel for no other reason than the NIMBY
syndrome we see so often in California. Because of these environmental
witch hunts the Clark Foam plant has continually implemented cutting-edge
measures that far exceed even the most stringent EPA and OSHA safety
regulations, and has become nothing less than a model of state-of-the-art
p. 17
industrial safety and hygiene. I seriously doubt that can be said for most of
the others in the so-called green and barefoot-groovy surf industry. Is
there any realistic chance that well see the health program entitlements and
cancer rates for all the Chinese women breathing neoprene glue all day to
make your wetsuit, or the schematics of the forced-air ventilation hoods
and lymphoma rates for the 9-year old kids gluing up your high-end athletic
shoes (what do surfers need shoes for anyway?) in a stifling Malaysian
workhouse? No, go ahead and slap the Surfrider Foundation decal on the
bumper of your Yukon, and drive down to Trestles with a reap-therainforest
double cheeseburger in one hand, and bitch about the Evil Foam
Baron Overload Grubby Clark and his Toxic Den of Iniquity. (For more on
the various environmental/pollution issues, please see the addenda at
the end of this letter)
In reviewing the letters written by yourself and Mr. George, it strikes me
that so much of what is perceived as being wrong with the traditional
polyurethane/polyester surfboard industry is blamed on Clark Foam. So on
we go
You write, Grubby saw it coming. The surfboard industry as a whole
brought it (SurfTech) on with decades of inferior products And in
another paragraph you go on to say, If some $800 Stewart that has a
tradition of breaking in less than a year can be replaced by a $550, more
durable surfboard (again, SurfTech). Then trust me the rush will be on.
Define durable, please.
Talking about a Stewart longboard breaking in half in the field, and
comparing it to a SurfTech board being theoretically stronger, or
surviving a couple of blows from a two-by-four at a trade show are two
completely different aspects of what comprise durability.
Now we can clamber atop firm ground. The engineering precepts that
make a sound foam sandwich construction surfboard are very complicated.
It would take tens of thousands of words to explain them in all the detail
that it deserves. I will say that most of the people that I have spoken with in
the surfboard industry and its customer base have no idea what makes a
p. 18
surfboard strong. or even that there are many types of strength. I will
venture even further and say that you yourself have only a vague idea, and
Mr. George, based on his past advocacy of stringerless polystyrene beadfoam
(Styrofoam) surfboards, has even less of an idea.
In short, the primary, baseline factors that provide for a strong (the many
definitions of strength such as shear, tensile and compound (impact)
strengths further complicates these principles) foam sandwich construction
surfboard are founded on, first, its thickness (in relation to its length), the
thickness and quality of the skin (fiberglass), the quality of the bond of this
skin to the core, and, of course, the integrity and flexibility of the core
itself. There are many other complementary factors, of course, but these
are the main ones that more than any other define a boards structural
integrity (and breaking point). If you want to read more about this in greater
detail, you may want to access the many essays I have written for the
Shapers Bay section on Swelldot.Com.
The point is this: say what you will about various manufacturers and their
inferior or shoddy surfboards, but the overriding reason that boards snap
in half so often is that over the past 15 years they have simply gotten
too thin. I will be the first to agree that there are many board builders out
there who put out a weak, poorly built product. They may use over-skilled
(yes, over-skilled) speed artist contract glassers that permit a dry lay-up
to buy their shop a reputation for ultra-light boards. They may cut corners
and use the least expensive glass and resin they can find. They may choose
the wrong density foam or the wrong blank and make it weaker still by
using the wrong stringer. Over-shaping of blanks is a huge and largely
undiagnosed factor in weak boards; shaping machines are notorious overshapers.
Some are guilty of one or all of the above out of sheer ignorance;
others because they are lazy or are bent on shaving more profit out of the
endeavor. Some and these are the worst of the lot only see a surfboard
as a foam billboard to put their hot logo on and rake in some more dough.
What it all boils down to is this: If you understand all of the complex
and often contradictory principles of surfboard engineering then, and only
then, are you qualified to make statements as to which is the best way to
build the modern surfboard.
p. 19
The magazines are the furthest off the track, by the way. Mr. George has
no right to helm a major surfing publication and be a Surftech rider: the
combination of both his ignorance and association with that company is
obviously producing propagandist editorializing on his part.
There is absolutely in my opinion no better way to build the boards
that I as a veteran performance-minded surfer want to ride than by using
the polyurethane blanks I am currently working with, and having them
fiberglassed by a competent and conscientious craftsman under my personal
control. I also firmly believe the heresy (in corporate America) that the best
equilibrium for the surfboard industry is reached when it remains a network
of small, efficient cottage industries that produce boards for regional surfers
on a regional level. I am allowed to make this statement because I use these
materials every single day. In fact, Ill go even further and declare that once
a surfboard builder becomes a major manufacturer he has effectively
destroyed any chance of ever being proactive in design rather than
Every day I go out into the shaping room, turn on the sidelights, put a
blank on the racks, and draw out a planshape. I listen to and talk with
surfers about design and construction every single day. I hear about every
soft spot, every buckled board, and every sticky turn. At the end of each
evening, I blow the dust off, turn off the lights, and leave behind in the
darkened shaping bay another new surfboard. This is something that both
you and Mr. George do not do, have ever done or will ever do. ****, you
bemoan the piecework nightmare, and Mr. George rails against the
drudgery of production work but what in Gods name do either of you
know about it, having never worked in the surfboard industry?
Akin to that thought, I would like to scold those who do not handle foam,
put a planer to a blank or squeegee a bucket of resin across the bottom of a
shaped blank, to put aside their amateur skullduggery and leave the
discussion of the finer points of surfboard design and construction theory
to the experts. This remark is especially pointed at those in the media.
If an $800 Stewart longboard or a 61 Merrick for that matter
breaks in half it is not necessarily due to any insidious shortcomings of the
p. 20
polyurethane/polyester surfboard. It breaks not because Gordon Clark is
trying to keep everyone mired in the Stone Age because he desires to
maintain some sinister hegemony over the worlds blank market.
Perhaps surfboards break because too many in the industry are not using
the right combinations of blanks, cloths and resins. They break because the
consumer (surfer) has gotten too stupid to differentiate between them. They
break because their dimensions have far exceeded the limitations of the
foam sandwich, I-beam-spined surfboard. A non-surfing engineer would
say, They have simply gotten too thin to support and displace the
loads placed on them.
Dont forget the manner in which these modern boards are being ridden.
Add to this the use of ultra-light foam (so that the board feels light and sexy
in the showroom) and overly-thin stringers (saves about two bucks.
Whoopee!), as well as a contract glass shop fiberglass job that typically
uses only the cheapest and easiest-to-use materials, and you will have a
board that is destined for failure. Modern pro model longboards, at
2.375- 2.65 thick, are the worst offenders. It amazes me that they hold
together at all. If they were aircraft, I would never climb on board.
A 747 aircraft may seem safe and stable in normal flight, a tremendous
feat of ingenuity and engineering, and it is - but there are performance
envelopes written into the guidebooks that belie this stolidity. If a pilot
abandons those engineering parameters by diving too steeply, and then
pulling up too hard, the wings will pull off as if they were brittle twigs.
The same idea applies to surfboards. Many of the designs that surfers
want to ride unfortunately have exceeded the engineering parameters that
make this type of construction ideal for surfboards. This includes the
SurfTech boards; they are still a foam sandwich construction and if they
are just as thin all you have is an expensive, brittle surfboard. That is why
the pop-out market has not, historically, pursued the modern, thin highperformance
surfboard as diligently as they have the oversize models. I
have read where SurfTech claims to be coming out with a shortboard
model that is 2 thick. In spite of the durability hype I have to say that a 2
p. 21
thick board is fundamentally structurally unsound no matter what it is made
There is a reason for this. In a large, oversized board (like a sailboard)
there is a much higher core-to-skin ratio than there would be with a shorter,
thinner board. With a big thick board you can afford to use a superlight,
weak core (such as polystyrene bead foam) because the weight you add in
strengthening the board with more layers of glass will be offset by the sheer
size of the thing. In addition, the thickness of such a board spreads the
distance between the top and bottom skins apart, which, if you will
remember, is the primary source of (tensile & shear) strength in the foam
sandwich construction. In short, the oversized board can afford the lighter
and weaker core due to its size and thickness. Scaled down, though, a
much shorter and thinner board (whether a Slater model - 2.15 thick - or
one of my hybrids) will have a greatly reduced core-to-skin ratio; the
surface area of the skin is not reduced nearly as much as the volume of
foam and youve lost the main component of strength, once again, its
thickness (the spacing apart of the two skins).
What this means is that in these shorter, thinner high performance boards
the foam core must have enough integrity to help support the various loads
placed on the board. There just simply is not enough foam in these types of
surfboards to justify using a core as inherently weak as polystyrene beadfoam.
You can reinforce it with more glass or exotic resins or even a sheath
of high-density foam but, due to its limited thickness, all you will have is the
above-mentioned expensive and brittle surfboard.
All surfboards must flex. From an engineering standpoint, this is how the
board sheds some of the load placed on it. Again, look at the wing of a
plane in flight it flexes. However, as with a surfboard, if the wing flexes
too much it will fail structurally, and if it is too stiff if will snap when
subjected to a heavy load.
With surfboards it is even trickier.
There is always trouble when bonding a stiff skin to a more flexible core.
If you could watch, in frame-by-frame slow motion, a surfboard being bent
p. 22
or twisted to the breaking point you would see the bond fail between the
core and skin just before it snaps in two. On the compression side of the
board the skin will buckle off the foam, the I-beam strength of the skins
being cemented over the stringer is lost, and the board is dead whether or
not it manages to remain in one piece.
That is foam sandwich engineering law # 2: Thickness of the core may
be everything, but the bond of the skin to that core gives the
sandwich much of its integrity.
And here is the bad news for the Polystyrene Protestants who want to
nail their protests onto the cathedral doors of the Holy Roman Emperor
Gordon Clark: Polystyrene (especially the standard bead-foam variety)
is a terrible core for most surfboards.
It is fundamentally weak. Yet some shapers are so seduced by its lighter
weight that they will go to their graves ignoring this fact.
Polystyrene foams have terrible bonding properties, especially the beadfoam
varieties. Finish it off too smooth and it will offer little skin adhesion
when glassed. Finish it off too rough and it will soak up too much resin.
Its not easy to find a good middle ground. Vacuum bagging lamination
helps, but there will still be problems lurking beneath the surface that will
eventually come back to haunt you.
Polystyrenes are no fun to shape. Believe me, I know. Ive used most of
the various types of these foams. I dont care what anyone says, there is no
way that you can hand shape as detailed, exacting and fine-lined a surfboard
with polystyrene as you can with a polyurethane blank. No one cares about
this fact because most of the major manufacturers we are discussing either
use molds or shaping machines to produce their cores. Yet, any
manufacturer that needs to shape a prototype plug for these molds or
shaping machines almost always make it out of standard polyurethane
blanks, because they tool better and allow a more detailed, exacting shape.
p. 23
Polystyrene/Styrofoam soaks up water. Like a sponge. When you get a
ding you have to leave the water immediately and hang the board up like a
hooked billfish so that the water with drain out. This is something the
SurfTech literature fails to address. Some of the Polystyrene Protestants
will claim that they are using denser, altered polystyrenes that soak up less
water. These extruded foams are indeed far more watertight. What they
fail to mention is that in order for these foams to achieve this they have had
to mimic properties of a regular polyurethane Clark Foam blank. So why
not just use a polyurethane blank in the first place?
Every reasonable and sane board builder since Bob Simmons that has
experimented with polystyrene foams has eventually rejected them. Myself
included. I shaped quite a few of them, sampling most of the varieties
available, and finally rejected them for all uses (except for paddleboards).
No matter what you do, or how you tweak the manufacturing process,
these foams have inherent, crippling problems when used as a core for
most common surfboards. And those problems will always be waiting for
you in the end.
One deathwatch beetle of any surfboard with a molded, polystyrene
bead-foam core is a little-understood stress we can call thermal fatigue.
This seems to most affect those boards with a bead-foam core - I dont
care if its skinned with the most state-of-the-art vacuum bagged/epoxy
technology. These boards have a long history of unpredictable expansion
and resultant delamination.
Thermal fatigue involves the eventual delamination of the skin to the core
due to repeated heating and then cooling of the board. These types of
surfboards are so vacuum-sealed that they do not tolerate thermal ranges
well. The oil canning, or expansion and contraction, of this airtight core of
foam and air will often promote weakening, bubbling and then eventual
delamination of the skin from the core. (Remember that bead-foam boards
have always had bond problems to begin with.) Often, a small bubble will
appear, and after that delamination spreads like a run in a stocking. Most
polystyrene-core and/or molded boards in the past have experienced these
structural problems. This is just an opinion an educated guess but Id
say that many of these SurfTech boards will fall prey to this syndrome. It
p. 24
may take longer than past models, but it will most likely happen sooner or
later it just depends on how many fatigue cycles of hot-cold-hot-cold
each individual board has to endure and, of course, how well each surfer
takes care of his or her board.
This is why I believe that the best material for hand shaping and designing
most surfboards in the design catalog is the polyurethane blanks such as
those I purchase from Clark Foam.
The problem is not that traditional materials are inferior; they are most
definitely not so. Rather, it is that these materials are not used to their best
advantage. Clark Foam cannot control the quality of their product once it
leaves the factory (they offer volumes of literature on the technical aspects
of surfboard construction, but it is largely ignored). Too many board
builders take the low road, usually because the bigger you are the more
incentive there is to cut corners. Garden-variety ignorance or indifference is
also to blame.
Once again, I remind you that I have always felt that the highest quality
boards are made by the small-to-medium sized manufacturers that take a lot
of custom orders. There are many of these builders out there they are just
not hyped by the surf media.
Most strength/quality problems faced by the manufacturer of
polyurethane/polyester boards could mostly be countered by choosing a
different blank density and stringer, and combining them with higher quality
(and more expensive) cloths and resins. Clark Foam offers eight foam
densities, each with their own strength-to-weight ratios, yet most in the
industry ignore their various applications. The salient feature is ultralight,
and in the spiraling lightweight arms race manufacturers keep dropping
foam density and glass as well as promoting faster dry lay-ups that
make for lighter laminations but far weaker boards. In addition, there are
some common polyester resins that offer superb strength, yet these are also
ignored because they arent crystal-clear, or are more difficult to work
p. 25
Many people get confused when talking about cloths and resins. If you
arent sure what they are, how they combine, and what each is designed
for, then I suggest it is time to do some serious research.
One cannot just go around screaming Epoxy! Epoxy! as if they are
some type of miracle potion. (Remember, all our surfboard materials,
neoprene, wax, (etc.) come out of the same oil well.) These plastics are
just another type of thermosetting resin not a magical type of fiberglass or
core, or even a brand name. For many, epoxy remains merely a
buzzword, like composite or rack and pinion steering or digital. Two
cores being identical, the one glassed with epoxy resin but with a standard
low-end grade cloth will be weaker than one glassed with the cheapest
polyester casting resin used with a superior cloth like a 4.5 oz. flat-weave
Epoxy has its optimum applications, as does any other resin, but unless
you really know what you are doing and how to handle it you are asking for
serious, and I mean serious, trouble. (Mr. Georges claim that Tom Blake
would ride a SurfTech board, aside from being self-serving jingoistic tripe,
is not borne out by fact; Blake discarded the use of epoxies early on due to
health concerns. I cannot imagine this wonderful and humane individual
allowing people in a developing country bear the brunt for him.).
Furthermore, once again, as a final over-riding caveat I must remind you
that once a surfboard dips under a certain thickness, say 2.65 for a
standard modern longboard and 2.5 for a typical shortboard, then all bets
are off. At that point the board will last only as long as the rider manages to
avoid doing stupid things (and boy, are there a lot of stupid things going on
out there!). And this goes for any type of material: I dont care if you can
somehow bond 1/8 sheets of military-grade titanium to the strongest foam
core in the world, all you will have is an expensive, brittle board that will
inevitably fail under load, lose the bond between skin and core, and then
buckle and snap.
As a sidebar to the above, I remember being told by one
Polystyrene/epoxy Protestant that because of his work in trying to
determine what the best materials for making surfboards were, he knew
p. 26
more about what breaks a board than anyone in the world. He arrived at this
unsupportable conclusion because he had an assistant put dozens of twofoot
by four-inch by two-inch beams of foam laid up with fiberglass under
an industrial press. After examining the strain under which each beam
broke, he proceeded to apply the data to support claims that such and such
foam and glass were the strongest, even advertising the percentages that
certain materials were supposed to be stronger than conventional boards.
Of course, this is ridiculous. Tests of that sort might be useful in pointing
one in a vague direction, but they have no similarity to the real-world
factors than come together in the impact zone to break a board all you
have done is show how those 2 X 4 X 2 beams break in relation to one
another. (In the field, you have to consider wildly irregular torsions and
twisting, as well as those stresses put on the board from the leash, which
anchors it to a submerged drogue, i.e., you the surfer) The dynamics are
far too complex in the field to compare real surfboards at the end of a
leash to an industrial press. Thats like examining cultured in vitro cancer
cells in a petri dish as compared to a real in situ tumor. (Oh, and by the
way, Clark Foam offered all their resources to this well-intentioned but
misguided individual, even though any future success on his part would
have created a direct competition between them.)
You state, ****, that this generation seems less caught up with the ethical
arguments that perhaps held up some of their fathers. I am not quite sure
what you are getting at here. I know of no such ethical barriers that have
held back surfers from jumping the fence and riding any surfboard
perceived as being superior. The only ethics that I can realistically name
would not necessarily be flattering. Ethics? Such as that surfers are
invariably skinflints when it comes to buying their equipment? (For thirty
years I have been listening to the same shopworn whinging about how
surfboards are too expensive, man this from surfers who have no idea
what goes into a surfboard) And they want to look cool? Theres the
whole drive of the entire surf industry right there. All surfers care about
being, or being perceived to be, cool. From single fins to twins to tri fins,
nothing has been cooler than getting a custom surfboard. Every surfer
wants to brag that he can get into the shaping bay of an in-demand shaper.
p. 27
No surfer, then or now, wants to look like a kook when he walks down the
beach. Nothing says kook more than a Kransco surfboard.
You then proceed with the following: We all know surfboard have been
woefully archaic when compared with every other kind of plastics
production (boats, planes, furniture, other consumer items), and its just
taken the coming of a new generation of more open minded guys (or less
caring) to allow Randy (SurfTech) to begin to get his percentage. ****,
nothing could be further from the truth. To begin with, all of our design
advances have come from amazingly shoestring, trial-and-error tinkering by
some very gifted surfer/shapers. There has never been anything like a real
financial base for any sort of high-tech surfboard skunkworks, and yet
we have always progressed as fast as surfers can imagine new ways to ride
As far as materials are concerned, think again, my friend. Aircraft and
surfboards are both greatly concerned with strength-to-weight ratios and
flexural/fatigue properties, but no aircraft could ever get off the runway that
has to bear the forces and stresses endured by the modern surfboard. (Look
on the wing of a plane next time you are flying and you will see the No
Step stencils on the wings where they meet the control surfaces.) Yet, I
could fill a steamer trunk with old order sheets where the customer
demanded their board be Light, but Strong. Loose, but Fast, etc. Yes, not
only do we stomp all over our surfboards but they have to be light enough
to perform well - and strong enough to be continually pitched into the
churning force of breaking waves. If any aircraft had to meet the
conflicting engineering and market demands that the surfboard must meet
they would either never get off the ground, or would fall apart regularly.
I feel that even the worst-made surfboard fares amazingly well when you
consider what are asked of them. Even a 737 can be undone by stress and
fatigue on its materials. Ask those poor souls on the recent American
Airlines flight how they liked that space age composite/epoxy tail
empennage that failed and sent them all to their doom. All materials, whether
polyesters or the most advanced aluminum alloys, have to deal with stress
and fatigue and simply cannot be pushed far beyond their tolerances or
there will be failure.
p. 28
Why do so many boards break today? As you have read, they have gotten
too thin to have the structural integrity that a good foam sandwich
construction should have but dont forget that they have also become
lighter, too, commonly using materials that fifteen or so years ago were
almost exclusively used on team or pro models. There is also the widely
overlooked factor of how modern performance surfing affects breakage.
The last decade has seen a new type of surfing emerge, where riders
consistently land on their boards after attempting such modern maneuvers
as floaters, aerials, chop-hops, etc. This is the first time that surfboards
have had to perpetually endure such stresses, and this factor intersects with
the aforementioned trends of lighter, thinner and weaker surfboards. This is
also the first time in history that the hottest surfers put more day-to-day
strain on their equipment than the average kook. Think about it. (This
applies to the SurfTech boards, as well. Though their ads go the brink of
claiming they are indestructible, I cant help but want to mention that a
well-respected lifeguard I know told me that he saw three SurfTech boards
break in one day last summer at Yokohamas.)
Your allusion to boats and furniture, on the other hand, I have to dismiss
categorically; they cannot realistically be compared to surfboards and
aircraft. For boats there are entirely different design issues and strength-toweight
considerations and, as far as I know, no Barca-Lounger has ever
had to survive a trip over the falls at Pipeline.
Now, looking at some of the statements made by Mr. George in his letter
to you, I must admit to some misgivings about continuing further.
Obviously, Mr. George knows very little about surfboards. Where does one
begin to unravel this mess? As editor of SURFER Magazine, one would
think that he would have absorbed at least a working knowledge about the
design and construction of surfboards. However, it appears that a
knowledge of surfing trivia is no substitute for a solid technical background.
I am compelled to go on record as saying that, as far as surfboard
information is concerned, both Mr. George and his fellow SURFER editor,
Chris Mauro, are the two most prominent Ministers Of Misinformation ever
enthroned at a surfing publication. Both are all the more dangerous because
they truly believe they know what they are talking about.
p. 29
The uninformed are uninforming the uninformed.
Mr. George looks before he leaps when he states that Clark Foams
molded, close-tolerance blanks are essentially molded boards. This is clearly
a case of the old adage, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Yes, all
the polyurethane blanks made by Clark Foam are indeed factory molded.
Every polyurethane blank ever produced has been molded. Youve got to
pour the resin into something. What is the point? Are we to take this
warping of semantics as a way to rationalize the undermining of the
traditional custom surfboard industry with pop-outs produced offshore in
the Third World?
If Mr. George had even the slightest practical knowledge of surfboard
manufacturing he would know that the close-tolerance series of Clark Foam
blanks were developed in order to make stronger and lighter surfboards.
These close-to-shape blanks allow the conscientious shaper a chance to
take less of the denser, stronger foam from a blank, thus improving the
quality of surfboards even if the glassing is substandard. Furthermore,
there is less wasted time and material (and allows for a less expensive
blank). This series of plugs offers the best strength-to-weight ratio of any
foam core in history probably including balsa, as well. Once again, the
product and the technology are there, but the average builder pretty much
ignores it. If a shaper/glasser was paying attention, it was now possible to
use a lighter, lower density blank AND glass it with lighter or less cloth.
Yet, the result would still be a lighter, stronger surfboard. Once again,
Clark Foam has provided the solution and shored up the industry standards
for all the shoddy glassers and chronic over-shapers. So much for inferior
Clark technology.
What Mr. George fails to note is that for each of the close-tolerance
blanks (there are dozens of various plugs in the catalog) there may be
twenty or thirty different rockers available, not to mention the fifty or so
secret customer rockers that are kept on file. Thus, each blank is bent and
glued into an endless assortment of customized bottom curves, with a wide
variety of stringer woods and thicknesses.
p. 30
For example, the 67R blank - a workhorse of the industry - has nearly
60 stock rockers available, and over 150 proprietary customer rockers. In
addition to these, any customer can send in his own original rocker
template. To properly utilize these blanks, the shaper has to design much of
the board at the ordering stage, well before he ever takes a saw to the blank.
This means that the modern shaper working with this system has to be
more aware of design components and tolerances than ever before. Used
properly, it can ensure that surfboards can be faithfully replicated from
board to board, without the need for elaborate rocker templates or shaping

#790799 - 02/06/06 02:04 PM Re: Why Everyone Hates Surftech, and Pop-outs in General [Re: rice]
rice Offline
Duke status

Registered: 07/02/02
Posts: 22238
Loc: CA
So they rely mostly on the thicker, more
oversized blanks. This is why these machines have a reputation for overshaping
and putting out weaker boards (as the blanks have softer foam
towards the center). Attempts have been made by one major computer
shaping service to deal with this problem, and has instituted a more exacting
system of deck rocker profiling that lets them use some of the moderately
close-tolerance blanks but they can never better the efforts of the
conscientious hand shaper that skims just the crust off the deck by hand
p. 31
(The less foam planed off the deck the more resistant the finished, glassed
board will be to compression dents and dings).
Then there is the following preposterous statement: Mr. George says that
these factory molded blanks are produced in a factory in Mission Viejo
(sic: actually, Laguna Niguel) by non surfing, non English speaking (Third
World, you might say) workers. Am I to understand that people of Mexican
heritage are only to be allowed to make tortillas or cut your lawn, Mr.
Let me tell you about this Third World workforce at Clark Foam. All of
them are legal residents. Many of them are making a commitment to
become naturalized American citizens. Many are bi-lingual. They are hard
working, family-oriented and reliable employees. That is what America is all
about, lest you forget. Immigrants in this country have always formed the
backbone of what we like to call American values or the American
Dream. Did your ancestors speak English when they came from Italy,
Germany, Sweden or Africa? Those guys working in the Clark Foam
factory are more American and have more American values than some
Lilies of the Field BoBo (Bourgeois Bohemian) with pasty-white hands
never once splotched with a blister from an honest days work.
Almost every hands-on position at the Clark Foam factory requires a
highly trained worker, whether its in the wood shop milling rockers or on
the floor batching and pouring resin into the molds. Some of these people
who have never surfed have come up with technical advances that have
improved the strength, quality and accurate repeatability of the surfboards
we are all riding.
And let me add that those non surfing, non English speaking workers
put their hands onto and produce the majority of Americas surfboard foam,
therefore making them, in my estimation, far more valuable to the surfing
community than a glorified ad copywriter that hacks up narcissistic hairballs
for some surfing comic book.
The following is a statement so utterly absurd it is difficult to even
unravel it for discussion: I went through this same thing when I rode John
p. 32
Bradburys boards, writes Mr. George, and no more soulful shaper ever
existed, John experimented with new materials because he loved surfboards
and was tired of seeing them fall apart due to the limitations of Clark
technology. Who are any of us to impune (sic) him?
Well, I certainly wouldnt want to impugn the late Mr. Bradbury, who
was indeed a soulful and lovely individual. Yet, I am certain that he would
not make the same claims as would a magazine copywriter prone to
hyperbole. Mr. Bradbury was a pretty good shaper, but his
experimentation with new materials was most definitely nothing
revolutionary or even new, as we have discussed earlier.
Anyone that thinks that stringerless, lightweight bead-foam Styrofoam (as
used by Mr. Bradbury) is a good core for a modern, thin surfboard is
digging in the wrong place. Having ridden a few of those same boards as
well as many of the very same boards that Mr. George owned I can say
with out a doubt that they were structurally unsound. As anecdotal
evidence, I need only remind Mr. George to recall how many of those
Bradbury boards he broke on various surf trips. For example, there were a
few surfaris to Isla Natividad and ****reys Bay where he broke his entire
Bradbury quiver in a very short time, while I rode my inferior Clark
technology boards (Superblue or Ultralight density, 3-step 4oz. deck, single
4 oz. bottom, sanded hotcoat, often glassed overnight by Greg Mungall) to
my supreme satisfaction. I might add that many of those boards are still in
good shape, ten or fifteen years later, and stored away under my house.
Where are Mr. Georges cutting edge boards from those trips? He could
only reply that they are moldering alongside the lobster shells and fish heads
on Natividad, or buried deep in some antipodean rubbish tip near
Humansdorp, South Africa.
Earlier I mentioned that one must possess a good understanding of epoxy
resins or you risk serious trouble. Mr. Georges lack of understanding in
this area cost him only a number of broken boards. Although it is mere
speculation, I had always wondered whether John Bradburys failure to
acknowledge these concerns might have contributed to the illness that
brought about his untimely passing. Epoxy resins are not to be trifled with
many of them are very, very toxic - and based on personal appraisal of Mr.
p. 33
Bradburys workplace hygiene I can say without reservation that he was
working without a net. (Again, see the addenda at the end of this letter)
Mr. George might also want to explain why, if Mr. Bradbury was so
disgusted with inferior Clark Foam technology, he was a steady customer
of Clark Foam (as is Clyde Beatty, presently) in his final years. Perhaps he
was one of those blackmailed into using such regressive materials?.
In answering the following statement it is again necessary to tread on
some toes. Mr. George raises the issue of certain master shapers and their
inalienable right to profit from their years of dedication to the craft of
surfboard construction. Who are we, he asks, to tell them they cant
reproduce their best work and receive steady royalty checks. He mentions
such shaping legends as Rennie Yater and Mickey Munoz, and asks are we
to tell them that their lifetime of commitment means nothing, and that they
are only good for production piecework, as shaping drones, endlessly
cutting rocker into foam? He then goes on to write, I dont support
efforts like SurfTechs unequivocably (sic), but as a step in the right
direction: the search for better materials and better manufacturing for those
surfers who cherish the form. And to honor the master shapers their
vision, their dedication, their commitment. You dont think they deserve
These gentlemen named and others who shape plugs for the SurfTech
molds may well be master shapers and worthy of our respect. By all
means, lets have banquets for them, erect bronze busts of them in their
hometowns, read lengthy biographies about them in the surf magazines
but I am not so sure I want them designing my surfboards.
Why not?
For the simple reason that many of these guys may well be superb
craftsmen and venerable foamsmiths, but are not exactly what forwardlooking
surfers would call contemporary surfboard designers. Past
contributions made by these gentlemen to the surfboard family tree have
certainly been noteworthy and valuable. Yet, I feel compelled to mention
p. 34
that past contributions normally do little to advance surfboard design in
the future, which is where most of us will be doing a lot of our surfing.
Many of these shapers have added little or nothing to the design kingdom
in decades. I guess what I am prodding at here is a truth that must be faced:
while the garden-variety longboard is certainly a popular type of surfboard
and is here to stay whether we like it or not, it hardly represents the cutting
edge of the progressive design spearhead.
I am sorry. Racecars are built around the accelerator pedal, not the
brakes. I like to go fast, and fast surfboards have flat bottoms and hard
edges. In my opinion, the modern longboard had a chance to lead surfing
back into a progressive mode, but we stumbled at the fork in the road and
headed down the regressive path into Nostalgia World. Thus, these modern
replicas of stodgy old tubs have lost the right to be included in the Great
Leap Forward of modern surfboard/hybrid design.
Mr. George writes: You gonna tell Yater to get the hell back to work
and lock himself in the shaping room for another 50 years? You know what
he got for shaping the Clark plug that virtually all modern longboards over
92 are shaped from? Five free blanks on account. This rhetorical query
shows Mr. George to have little actual knowledge of how things work in
the surfboard industry. The main error here is the idea that Yater, or any
other shaper who builds a new plug for Clark Foam, does it for free and
then gets short shrift. First, being invited to build a plug is tantamount to
being included in a shapers Hall of Fame it is liked being granted
admission into an exclusive society like aviations Quiet Birdmen. Do you
have any idea how difficult and exacting the plug-building process is, and
how many plugs are rejected by Clark Foam? Would you like to know how
many so-called master shapers are unable to produce a usable plug?
Then there is the not inconsiderable convenience of having an infinite
supply of blanks available to that selfsame plug designer that are built
precisely along the lines of his shaping process and specifications. This is
an enormous advantage and benefit to the commercial or production shaper.
Being a plug shaper also gives one peer recognition and free exposure in the
most widely read catalog in the surf industry. It is not about the five free
p. 35
blanks on account. Again, this is a subject best not meddled in by people
who dont get their hands dirty.
Furthermore, speaking of getting hands dirty, I feel that it is possible for
one craftsman to tell a another that, yes, he should get the hell back to
work. My view on this is severe, I admit, but I say that if a craftsman gets
tired of getting up everyday and building something with his hands be it
lapstrake dories or surfboards then he should do some soul searching as
to whether or not he might want to look for another line of work. Dont let
your ennui scotch it for the rest of us.
To say that one sees no real soul in the manufacturing (as written by
you, ****) shows that you are missing the point entirely. You of all people
should know better! Can you honestly say that those neat little Hawkins
10.5 boats you laid up in Rick Kluvers barn had no more soul than a
Boston Whaler bought at a boatyard in Bakersfield?
Working with your hands in the quiet of a little workshop is the very
definition of soul the craftsmans/artisans soul at least - and I care little if
that soul cannot be flaked, formed and molded for vicarious import to the
masses. (And, by the way, inarguably the most prolific, profitable and, thus,
successful shaper working today is Phil Becker, - and hes shaped each
and every board by himself, by hand.)
When Mr. George speaks of these master shapers having vision,
commitment or dedication I assume he is referring to this alleged
search for better materials and better manufacturing. Thats all very good,
yet one must consider another vantage point. Again, lets not confuse
materials with design. As a surfboard designer and surfer interested in fast,
high-performance boards (especially guns for large-framework waves) I
must go on record as declaring that I care about a surfboards performance
far more than I am concerned with its materials. (Note: I havent broken a
surfboard since 1990) As I said earlier, traditional materials used
conscientiously are good enough, and good enough is fine by me, as my
surfboard program is more or less focused on the day-to-day refining of
performance components.
p. 36
Ultimately, this continual refinement of surfboard design is what it is all
about. As we discussed earlier, it is not necessarily in the interests of a large
manufacturing concern such as SurfTech to make small shape/design
refinements that improve performance. It is a matter of economics, really.
For example, it is in my best interests to improve a surfboard design so that
it rides better. In doing so I will draw more customers and make more
money. I can react and make these changes literally overnight. But for a
large-scale builder like SurfTech, making sudden design changes will
initially - cost them money; it is in their best interests to have less volatile,
generic board designs that are unlikely to overnight sprout new control
features like concaves, fluted wings or beveled rails.
So here, in short, is the problem: All large surfboard manufacturers, be
they mold-o-maniacal or shaping machine-aholics, will end up in a
parasitical relationship with the backyard surfer/shapers who dream up the
original designs or fresh hybrids we will be riding tomorrow. Remember the
unassailable truth that no large manufacturer has ever come up with a
Quantum Leap, i.e. the mini-gun, the down rail, the Thruster, etc.
It is my contention that none of these big-time manufacturers could ever
lead surfboard design. They can only follow. And follow rather slowly at
that. This is especially true where the modern high-performance shortboard
or hybrid is concerned. Every time SurfTech has to have a new plug shaped
and a new mold built, it will cost them time and money. Whereas for a
shaper like myself, the more often that I can produce valid, demonstrable
improvements in design, the larger my clientele and income will be almost
immediately. Furthermore, it costs me nothing better yet I can do it all in
my backyard with little more machinery than a piece of Masonite and a Skil
What will happen in the future if the traditional body of working shapers
is reduced? By wiping out jobs for production shapers we are robbing our
sport of future contributions that might have come from the next Rawson
or Rusty, both of whom honed their skills by shaping thousands of
production boards, and then perfected those same skills by working with
large stables of world class surfers. With those jobs gone, the best that we
can hope for is a generation of shapers that have spent the bulk of their
p. 37
careers whittling the router ruffles off of computer shapes, subbing for a
master shaper that has fallen out of love with shaping to such an extent
that he will stoop to sign someone elses work.
Since the classic surfer/shaper along the lines of a Brewer, a McTavish or
a Fitzgerald are, apparently, a dying race we will have to rely on a future
base of technically adept production shapers who have come up through the
ranks after building their ten or fifteen thousand custom and stock boards.
If those production jobs are not there for them, we risk the unthinkable: that
our surfboards will be designed by proxy; by a company like SurfTech and
a bunch of longboard-era master shapers who might be hell on wheels
with a Rockwell, but whose ideas on surfboards are twenty or thirty years
out of date.
For example, can you imagine if, back in the 70s, ***** Brewer had built
a shaping machine rather than share his knowledge with a stable of whitehot
protgs? How limp and wilted our surfing lives would be today without
the contributions made by Brewer-trained shapers such as Reno Abellira,
Sam Hawk, Mark Richards, Tom Parrish, Gerry Lopez, et al. And yet this is
exactly what is happening today, as shaping machines and offshore
manufacturers take apprentice or production jobs away from surfers who
might well have someday been the next Parrish or Richards.
So who will support the backyard builder, the surfer/shaper that
stimulates new design excitement, the small outfit that services the local
surfing community with high-quality custom boards? Ill tell you who: Clark
Foam. Yes, the Evil Monopoly of Foam Baron Gordon Clark; they offer
unfailing support to any builder with the above-mentioned qualities.
The backyard revolution was arguably the most important tectonic shift
ever to occur in modern surfing history. The very idea that an enthusiastic
surfer could build, in a backyard shed or garage, a better riding board than
any put out by the major manufacturers, is earth-shaking when you really
consider it. Think about how fast things progressed from 68 to 74 this
advancement sure as hell didnt come from the stick-in-the-mud majors.
p. 38
The backyard shaper will never be quashed in the past the bulk of all
design innovation came from a garage or underneath a pier, and presently it
is coming from places like Laird Hamiltons Maui compound. Look at the
difference in what you see coming out of Hamiltons workshop compared
to what you see in the racks at the Longboard Grotto or Huntington Surf
& Sport.
Anything other than this sort of cutting-edge, surfer-elite-led progression
is just mindless, lumbering overhead and a smokescreen of unsubstantiated
claims made by cigar chomping innovators who nurse the fads and
fancies from high-rent industrial condos, sweaty-assed with fear that a
backyard skunkworks will lead the buying public away from their
stockpiled inventory of aquatic Pintos and Pacers - and they wont be able
to make the payments on their bass boats, Range Rovers and golf course
As we near the conclusion of this lengthy discussion, it is time to look
more closely at the very foundation of the SurfTech program. As you
correctly deduced, ****, it is indeed a Third World/ Wal-Mart issue. But you
are wrong when you say, The Third World has kicked Americas ass with
their manufacturing superiority in almost every other marketHey, why
should surfboards be any different? Without delving into a long
explanation about what the noun economy really means, I think I should
point out that you might not understand the entirety of this Pandoras Box
issue posed by these Wal-Mart/Third World trends.
To briefly put it, the reason America has farmed out almost all of its
manufacturing to the Third World lies not in any overseas manufacturing
superiority but rather for the simple reason that it is cheaper. And why is
it cheaper? Because this country has developed such a high standard of
living that all of the intricate web of laws and protections put in place to
ensure that quality of life has, in the end, erected such an obstructionist
breastwork against business and manufacturing that many corporations feel
they have no choice but to move their factories out of the country. Again,
this is because it is so cheap to make things in places where the workers
have no unions and make perhaps $2.00 a day. It is cheap to make things
when you have no pollution regulations. It is cheap to make things when
p. 39
people in a Third World country would rather be a developing country
than worry about their environment or its stewardship. They are grasping to
own the things they see in the Western media, right? Why not lure them into
screwing up their ecosystems like we have its the American Dream
after all. Clear cutting the forests and indenturing workers into gluing up
sneakers in place of their traditional rural lives is all worth it if there is the
Promise they will someday drive the cars and eat the processed, packaged
foods and wear the clothes they see on TV. Thats progress, right?
The surfboards made by SurfTech are built overseas for exactly these
reasons. There is no manufacturing superiority. These SurfTech boards
are fabricated in Thailand, at the (approximately) 2000-employee Cobra
sailboard factory. (Most of the remaining molded/ epoxy surf, sail and wake
boards on the market are manufactured in Slovakia) The skilled workers
that get their hands dirty make approximately $3.50 a day, plus a free lunch.
The factory compound is situated on 16-18 acres, of which about 300,000
square feet are under a roof. The bulk of the money most likely came from
a World Bank loan through the Thai government. Can you honestly claim
that you believe that this Nike-style Thailand sailboard factory has some
technological skill that is superior to our capabilities in the U.S.? Of course
not, the reason these boards are manufactured there is for the plain and
simple reason that it is cheaper to do so there than it is here in America.
Sure, you could build these labor-intensive molded boards in the U.S., but
youd have to eliminate all the laws and regulations that prevail here. Youd
have to get rid of OSHA, the EPA, the labor unions, and all the various
controls on emissions. Youd have to axe Workmans Comp and health
insurance, and all of the regulations that have made labor so expensive that
it has become impractical for a competitive manufacturer to make anything
other than hamburgers in this country. (For some reason, our country has
settled on some sort of half-assed socialism where ones employer is
obligated to give its workers cradle-to-the-grave security, i.e. health
Some might scoff at this and say, what about all the glass shops in the
U.S. that dont control their emissions or obey the regulations? Yes, there
p. 40
are many examples of such fly-by-night operations but we are concerned
at the moment with the comparably large manufacturers here. The Cobra
plant in Thailand is a two-thousand-employee operation. In the U.S., it has
become virtually impossible for any surfboard factory of even a tenth that
size to fly beneath the radar; once the Fire Marshal knows about them they
have to toe the line and get up to code just as Clark Foam does. As far as
California has been concerned, we all know what a witch hunt this has
Cobra is an enormous company that makes many plastics products,
including many of the worlds lightweight sailboard brands. Once they
receive the shaped plugs for their molds, Cobra builds 100% of the
SurfTech board in Thailand. SurfTech itself actually manufactures
nothing; they merely coordinate designs, promotions, and take the sales.
Outside of the prototype plugs, nothing is manufactured in the United
States. Cobra is reported to have sales that tally in at just under
$100,000,000 a year. This would make them bigger than the entire
American surfboard industry!
And dont forget the Chinese-made surfboards popping up at Costco
theyre made in China with cheaper labor and materials for the same
reasons. Sure, we too could formulate resins and yarns that are 50%
cheaper if we paid our workers a Third World wage and ash-canned our
environmental laws. Maybe our nations sense of environmental
responsibility has been under whelming, but at least a sizeable chunk of the
population pretend to care. The worst environmental degradations in history
were committed by, first, the Soviet Union and, second, China in the past
century under communist governments. If I ever see a surfer that has one
of these Chinese Costco boards with a Surfrider Foundation decal on his
car Im gonna let the air out if his tires.
Now for the final salvo in this barrage.
Molded boards such as those being promoted by SurfTech have always
had a reputation as kook boards. There is no need to resort to this kind of
reactionary name-calling yet, there is an argument that can be made that
agrees with this idea, and it follows a ruthlessly logical path.
p. 41
Lets say that you have swallowed the ad campaigns and hype of the (socalled)
design columns in one of the magazines, and have purchased a
new Cobra-built SurfTech board. It matters not whether it is a longboard or
shortboard model. You ride it for a few months and enjoy the board. It
works well for you, and does pretty much everything you ask for. But,
after a while, your skill increases or you begin to see things in the board that
you could change for the better. If surfing occupies a central part of your
life and you are committed to progressing - as good, experienced surfers do
- then you will want to make design changes that will allow you to reach the
next level. For the longboard, one may realize that he wants to, for example,
thin out the tail and change the wide-point. The shortboard is more sensitive
to refinements: the surfer may want to flatten the rocker slightly and change
the apex of the vee panel to suit the fin setting he uses.
Now, not every good surfer can work with a shaper and contribute such
clarity and exactness in his desires. But all experienced surfers do so to
some extent. This I have found to be an irreducible truth. Some will
merely ask for a thicker board, or softer rails. Other surfers that are more in
tune may be able to request far subtler changes in tail rocker, hip placement
and a myriad other dimensions. What they have in common is that they are
all interested in progressing, are excited about their next custom board, and
recognize that being involved in the design and construction of their
surfboards is a vital part of their desire to progress. This is the heart and
soul of the custom surfboard industry and is one of the last truly neat
things about surfing.
If this design process scares or intimidates a surfer, or he doesnt develop
the surfing skills that are necessary to forge ahead, he may just decide to
wave at the passing parade from the sidewalk and say, I cant be bothered,
my board is good enough. I really only surf on weekends, anyway. Any
surfer that is not interested in or serious about progressing is a kook in
my estimation. It is that simple. Let the chips fall where they may, but its
the truth. Good surfers always want to trade up to a better riding board
the better a surfer is, the faster and more eagerly he attacks the refinement
p. 42
I say this to all those surfers who for whatever reason applaud the
ideology of the molded pop-out board ala SurfTech/ Cobra: If you have
somehow lost the thread of progressive surfboard design in your middle
years, fine, go ahead and ride one of those Hasbro surfcraft itll look nifty
in your garage next to your other emblems of faltering commitment
gathering dust there, such as your Tupperware kayak and Chinese-made
mountain bike. However, for Gods sake, do not in your pathetic malaise be
a Chicken Little screeching about the falling sky. Dont whisper sotto
voce falsehoods while screeching out cheers from the armchair for
progress when you do not know what you are talking about.
All you good and experienced surfers out there who are trapped on a
stamped-out, look-alike surfboard that is someone elses idea of what a
good board is, I offer you this: Once you have decided that you would surf
better with some design changes you will want to take your spiffy pop-out
board to a custom shaper and ask for, say, less rocker or a wider tail.
However, if the doors are chained up and the shaper is now cleaning
pools for a living or there is a Starbucks where the shop used to be well,
youll know who to blame. And you can go down to the docks and sit
there to wait for the container ship to bring you on the slow boat from
China - a business mans idea of the hot new model you will soon be
****, it is your duty as a surfing statesman to take this information and
endeavor to educate all those who look to you for guidance.
Sincerely, Your Friend,
Dave Parmenter
(see Addenda below)
Were not quite through yet. Although the PC-Green aspects of todays
surfboards werent discussed in depth in your forwarded letters, I felt that I
p. 43
should include some of the facts, since this area fosters some of the most
pervasive of all the myths surrounding the construction of surfboards.
All modern surfboards are petrochemical based. This includes
epoxy resins and bamboo surfboards. Epoxies are not some kind of
groovy, non-toxic and hemp-like alternative to other materials.
Nobody uses a veggie-based epoxy there is no such thing. All
surfboard materials come out of the same oil well. Bamboo
surfboards are no different; the bamboo veneers used on these
boards are just a skin they still comprise a foam sandwich
surfboard fiberglassed with petrochemical plastics. Sorry, Woody
Harrelson could not ride one with a clear conscience.
Some epoxy facts: when talking about epoxy resins we have to break
them down into two separate components, the hardener and the
epoxy molecules themselves. Some hardeners are extremely toxic,
while others are not. The main problem is that the epoxy molecule is
very toxic to the human body. People working with it can become
sensitized to these resins. Irritations and rashes can form both
inside and outside the body when a worker gets near the resin, and
they often grow worse with repeated exposure. Toluene
diisocyanates (TDIs) do much the same thing (see SurfTech spray
item below). At the SurfTech factory in Thailand, it is reported that
when workers become sensitized they are moved to another
department. As with polyesters, these problems can largely be
avoided with proper protection and rigorous industrial hygiene.
Historically, epoxies have caused more health problems than
polyesters except in cases where styrene levels were extraordinarily
high. In my personal experience and I stress that this is anecdotal
evidence only the only people that I have ever seen become ill from
working around surfboards were those that handled a lot of epoxy
The thin layer of rigid skin foam bonded to the bead-foam core in
the SurfTech epoxy boards is a PVC foam. Greenpeace wants PVC
to be totally outlawed.
p. 44
Styrene is used in polyesters and evaporates as a fume. Styrene
is regulated by OSHA, and is permissible if levels stay under the legal
limit. Clark Foam has been tested repeatedly and has been okayed
repeatedly. The rest of the surfboard industry probably operates
outside these OSHA-set limits. Most of the really professional
workers use respirators that are probably not OSHA-legal, but offer
enough protection to be safe.
Another chemical widely used in surfboard manufacture is acetone.
There has been a lot of finger pointing regarding this toxic solvent
over the past couple of decades, especially directed at glassers that
dont keep their acetone bins covered. Yet, OSHA has recently taken
acetone off its toxic list, and has become a fire hazard issue only.
Sanding of fiberglass poses a severe health risk if done without
the proper respirator and ventilation. Some reports indicate that the
Asian factories do not have these controls. It can only go in it
cant come out. Your lungs talking about micro-fibers here.
Lets examine some of the blowing agents used in expanded
foams. Some use fluorocarbons or freons. Others claiming to use
ozone-friendly use alternatives to CFC agents, yet these are just as
nasty and are now coming under suspicion of being bad actors in
ozone depletion. In China, Thailand and Slovakia there are no
controls. Clark Foam uses relatively harmless carbon dioxide as a
blowing agent.
The Cobra factory in Thailand probably recycles their bead-foam
scrap. Other polystyrene board builders most likely send their
cuttings to the landfill, as do polyurethane builders. Green-slanted
ad campaigns touting certain polystyrene manufacturers that recycle
their scrap foam fail to mention that the oil consumption and pollution
engendered by the pick-up and transportation of said waste would be
far worse than just throwing the cuttings away. The supply/pick-up
lines are too long and few builders generate enough scrap by
themselves to allow their Green claims to hold water. Many of the
boards I shape from Clark Foams close-tolerance line of blanks
p. 45
would generate barely enough waste to fill a two-gallon bucket, after
the side cuttings are broken up. I also use 75% of my rail cuttings as
a primary packing material when shipping finished surfboards.
Over the years, I have read many breathless articles written by
surf mag editors trying to mimic The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair.
Clark Foam is always depicted as being a toxic Mordor. However,
has anyone examined their record? I have. It is a matter of public
record. They are highly regulated. They produce no hazardous waste.
The factory releases approximately 50 pounds of TDIs (toluene
diisocyanates) into the air per year. (The upper-middle class
townhouse owners that have moved into the area over the past 30
years comprise a formidable lobby in local politics. They would have
had the plant shut down a long time ago if it were at all possible.
Think about it.) Isocyanate fumes quickly convert into an inert urea.
Much of the foam-bucket waste (after pouring the resin into the
molds) is given to florists who then use the foam in floral
arrangements. The mold release paper that is not re-used as
packaging is recycled. Clark Foam uses no toxic solvents, and instead
uses water-based cleaners to clean their brushes, which are of the
same type as you use in your home. The biggest source of waste is
their wood scrap: it could potentially be recycled, but they havent as
of yet found a method that works with the size of their factory.
The two biggest issues at the highly regulated Clark Foam factory are
the emission of styrene and isocyanate fumes. The levels of styrene
fumes have been tested and are lower than the limits set by the
federal government. For isocyanates the factory uses live-air
breathers, which are OSHA-approved. In the United States there are
about 1 billion pounds of isocynates (TDIs) released into the
atmosphere each year. Clark Foam, if you recall, emits perhaps 50
pounds of this. This means that your car has far more TDIs
associated with it than your surfboard.
*There have been allegations that surfboard foam releases toxic
gases when shaped. This is bunk. Polyurethane foams are fully
reacted polymers that emit no fumes after curing. The dust and
p. 46
shavings are considered by OSHA to be inert and a nuisance dust.
The main concerns are ventilation and eye protection. As with any
fine dust, a proper respirator should be worn whenever handling the
foam. The one that I use, which is overkill according to OSHA
standards, is manufactured by 3M and costs less than $40. The foam
dust waste is not federally regulated, but most local ordinances
demand that it is double-bagged in durable plastic trash bags before
being discarded.
More on isocyanates: The finish on the Cobra/SurfTech boards
consists of a two-part urethane spray. This finish is a concentrated,
atomized isocyanate. This means that just the finish coat on one of
these boards is nastier and more fume producing than all of the entire
polyester/polyurethane manufacturing processes put together. It is
possible that Cobra uses state-of-the-art scrubbers and filters to
manage these fumes, but everyone that I have spoken with who has
visited the factory had said that they had zero controls. What is the
truth? Or should we not care because they are Third World workers?
The bottom line is that you are trading away a tradition of small,
local business for big, offshore business. I dont know about you,
but I dont want my surfboard to be made like an athletic shoe or a
Hula Hoop. In the last decade or so surfing has been under siege from
some pretty scary, intersecting trends. With all the commercialism
and heritage-plundering now prevalent throughout our beloved
lifestyle, I want to embrace all the more one of the last really neat and
unique things about surfing: the custom surfboard industry. Dont
believe what the ads and the magazine hype tell you. The truth is
there you just have to dig for it.

#790800 - 02/06/06 02:05 PM Re: Why Everyone Hates Surftech, and Pop-outs in General [Re: rice]
hmmm Offline
Rabbitt Bartholomew status

Registered: 01/13/02
Posts: 9964
nice long post...too bad it fails to mention how clark clarked the surfing industry especially small shapers supposedly his loyal clients. its almost like parameter is defending the very person who clarked him lol the irony.

Edited by hmmm (02/06/06 02:06 PM)
Cool waves and shaka-to-ya-frada-cause-youre-nothing-but-a-bradda

#790801 - 02/06/06 02:23 PM Re: Why Everyone Hates Surftech, and Pop-outs in General [Re: hmmm]
hmmm Offline
Rabbitt Bartholomew status

Registered: 01/13/02
Posts: 9964
i am all for a custom eps but I hope you all see the absurdity of this pic (yes i know its in all my post but i am trying to make a point dammit )

why surftech is appealing to even hardcore surfers is that it at least tries to solve the durability question.

Cool waves and shaka-to-ya-frada-cause-youre-nothing-but-a-bradda

#790802 - 02/07/06 05:35 AM Re: Why Everyone Hates Surftech, and Pop-outs in General [Re: SLOsurfer]
SlicedFeet Offline
Miki Dora status

Registered: 12/16/04
Posts: 3888
Loc: Swarm Diego
Why does everyone hate Surftech and pop-outs?

That's easy, just ask the question why everyone likes custom boards so much. There's hundreds of answers, but the best one is that is proves to everyone that your not necessaily a kook anymore, or at least in your mind.

But why are Surftech's selling?

That's easy too - ITS THE SURF SHOPS!

And that's a no brainer why they will ALWAYS be pushed by the owner. He has OVERHEAD. Rent, payroll, workman's comp, general liability insurance, tax service, inventory to buy, advertising, credit card fees, it goes on and on. And if he can keep the doors open one more year, feed his family, prove to the world he is not a failure, and make all the stress he lives with more tangible with profits, more power to him.

Margins make the world go round. SurfTech delivers them. Till the custom/stock poly board rivals that...

Now, a huge added benefit with Surftech and the average Joe/Jane. Precieved lack of having to learn ding repair. Surfboard resin is damm right scary for most people, we all know those people with multiple board quivers that are COMPLETELY clueless on ding repair and scared about it. The've grown comfortable with letting their board become a throw-away, they think its cool and proves they rip. Americans are no longer craftmen, everything has been handed to us as finished products for too long now. We demand a finished product that never needs repair, if it does, we throw it out and by a new one.

We are the problem.

I'd really like to see the number of Surftech's sold in OZ as a percentage to total board sales compared to the US.

Edited by SlicedFeet (02/07/06 05:37 AM)
"God, please protect me from your followers"

#790803 - 02/07/06 06:56 AM Re: Why Everyone Hates Surftech, and Pop-outs in General [Re: SlicedFeet]
SLOsurfer Offline
Legend (inyourownmind)

Registered: 01/16/02
Posts: 224
Loc: San Luis Obispo, CA, USA

Why does everyone hate Surftech and pop-outs?

That's easy, just ask the question why everyone likes custom boards so much. There's hundreds of answers, but the best one is that is proves to everyone that your not necessaily a kook anymore, or at least in your mind.

If you really think this, then I hope you're at least consistent, and apply this statement to those that purchase off-the-rack boards, as well.

And if you are in fact consistent, and you DO lump those that purchase popouts AND those that purchase stock boards into the "KOOK" category, then you have just kook-ified a lot of surfers that surf much better than you do. Seen the photos of Chris Ward in florida on a stick that he pulled off the rack of a local shop? Or maybe Matt Archbold killing it on a Santa Cruz popout in the latest Cold Water Classic? Or, perhaps you've seen Kelly Slater on a Kechele popout in Campaign 2?

So you're lumping these guys into the kook category, eh?

You've got a lot to learn...

I think that this sort of mindset comes from the desire to differentiate yourself from other surfers. You latch onto something that makes others a "kook", so that you can distance yourself from whatever that characteristic is. Your subconscious is telling you, "Hey buddy, you're not a kook because you don't ride popouts. Aren't you awesome?"

You're condescending, and you're missing out on two of the joys of surfing: being happy for other surfers, and not feeling the constant need to re-assure yourself that YOU'RE not a "kook"; kooks buy popouts, and you don't buy popouts. Therefore, you're not a kook.

Keep telling yourself that, and keep glaring at those who paddle out on a Surftech. Keep thinking that you deserve more waves than those who don't surf as well as you, or ride something different than you ride.

I can tell you one thing for certain: there are a lot of "kooks" out there that surf one tenth as well as you and are ten times as happy doing it. Surfing is about personal enjoyment, and nothing else. So who's really the kook? The guy who's pissed off that others don't ride what he thinks they should ride, or the "kook" that is just stoked out of his gourd to be going straight on a 3-foot closeout on his popout funboard?

The better I got at surfing, the more I realized that surfing is just all about enjoying what YOU'RE doing. And if you can SOMEHOW manage to look past the supposed "kookiness" in the water around you, shed your selfishness, and actually be HAPPY for other surfers, you WILL, I GUARANTEE, get more enjoyment out of surfing.

#790804 - 02/07/06 07:22 AM Re: Why Everyone Hates Surftech, and Pop-outs in General [Re: SLOsurfer]
GWS Offline
Duke status

Registered: 01/11/02
Posts: 42607
Loc: done
There are guys on SurfTechs that can surf. In Santa Cruz I saw a number of them. In my area, I haven't seen one yet that is better than competent. Every area is differnt I guess, but around here, SurfTechs are usually in the hands of those new to surfing. And I am seeing fewer of them in the water instead of more. They are a very small minority of the boards in the water here.

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