As the big wave season continues in full effect on the Central Coast, surfers out to buy themselves a new stick may be a little shocked by the prices on the racks, where surfboards are going for $100 to $400 more.
In December, Clark Foam, the world’s largest supplier of surfboard blanks, abruptly stopped production after 40 years of business. Since then, surfboard prices have been steadily increasing.
“Most manufacturers have raised their prices $100- but depending on the area, I have heard of a raise of $400,” Tim Cowan, the general manager of Wavelengths in Morro Bay said.
Clark Foam, a $175 to $200 million a year company, that produced an estimated 90 percent of the foam blanks for the surf industry, announced in December that they would no longer be distributing blanks.
Styrofoam blanks are the building block of a surfboard. It is the basic material that shapers carve away at and then glass over to create the finished product. Since Clark Foam supplied the majority of the world’s blanks, but now many board makers, especially smaller companies, are left to find a new supply.
Gordon Clark, the man behind Clark Foam, released a seven-page fax to surfboard manufacturers on Dec. 5, saying that production will stop for an indeterminate amount of time.
“The short version of my explanation is that the state of California, and especially Orange County where Clark Foam is located have made it very clear they no longer want manufacturers like Clark Foam in their area,” Clark said in the fax.
In the fax Clark pointed at lawsuits, fines, and even the threat of jail time by the Environmental Protection Agency, as the cause of the closure but would not divulge details.
“I would like to give a lot more details but keep in mind that I may have both fines and criminal charges pending at this time or in the future,” Clark said. “Therefore I have been advised by my attorney to say as little as possible.”
Since the announcement that Clark is done, prices of boards already on the racks went up everywhere anticipating a lack of supply, but the cost increase varied greatly. Where the shop is and if the shop is a manufacturer and a retailer or just a retailer affected the price change, Cowan said.
Higher prices are not the only way the lack of blanks is affecting Cal Poly, due to the dwindling supply, the Cal Poly surfboard shaping class had to be cancelled.
Tim Sleeper, an industrial engineering sophomore, used to teach the class through the craft center, but had to cancel it this quarter due to the lack of blanks. Besides teaching the class, Sleeper has shaped boards on his own for four years.
The class will be back next quarter, Sleeper said, because small companies in the U.S. and overseas suppliers are filling the need. Although the problem is apparent now, it may be somewhat hyped, and could be corrected in a few, months Sleeper said.
“There are blanks out there, epoxy and polyester, people are starting to make them fast,” Sleeper said.
Blanks are coming, but surfboard prices are up and they are going to stay up “just because they can,” Sleeper said of surf retailers.
“There is a more positive feel in the market that boards are coming,” Cowan said. He also said that manufacturers may be back to 100 percent as soon as April, but it is still up in the air.