30 December 2005


Waiting for me to blog about something? Don't hold your breath. I haven't been in the water since I don't know when. Both the swell and my work schedule have conspired to keep me on land. I must say that their conspiracy succeeded. I'd venture to guess I won't be in the water for another week. Now, my teaching schedule—of two days of work per week—is something I miss. I got to surf about four times a week back then. The memory of that is enough to tempt me to go back to the classroom. Then I think about my paycheck and the temptation is long gone. However, I'm not averse to the idea of teaching over the summer. I could get my share of waves and a full-time teacher's salary. I may try and make that happen. In the meantime, I'll keep doing what I'm doing.

22 December 2005

Why Bother?

I was going to ride my bike at the beach today and get another look at the magnificent show being put on by Mother Nature. Then I looked at Uncle Grant's pictures . . . and the path—the one going by El Porto, the one I was planning on riding down—was covered with water. A rogue wave did that. I'm sure there will be others. That means the path is now covered with wet sand. Once again, I'll pass.

21 December 2005

Oh, Hell No!!!!

What was I thinking, loading up the car, expecting to get in a session today? What was I thinking?!? I knew it would be big, but damn!!! I didn't want any part of that once I saw it.

This is what our home break looked like today. Actually, this is a picture that Uncle Grant took at Venice. My home break looked no different. The waves were massive and truly unsurfable. Did I say massive? Hmm, that's not the right term. Perhaps I meant to say there were gigantic. I've never seen anything like that before.

How do I know how the home break looked? Well, I went there to skate after arriving at, considering, watching, and finally vetoing RPB. For one thing, RPB was firing so hard that I thought I was seeing things. It was a shortboard break today. There wasn't much anyone on a longboard was going to do out there except get hurt. For another thing, there were so many people there that it wasn't safe. The only waves that were working, when I was there, were at The Point. And those waves were way overhead. The guys on shortboards were killing it!!! The guys and gals in the bay, on the other hand, were stuck with slop. I saw nothing there that tempted me to paddle out. Nope. Instead I saw a guy on a longboard get out of the water with blood on his face from what looked like a pretty good cut on his forehead. I also saw a guy whose leash had snapped. He was frantically running after his board (which was going to be pounded up against the rocks). That was more than enough for me. Those waves were no joke. While my skills have improved, I'd be delusional if I thought I could actually go out and tackle what I saw today. Mind you, the RPB cam usually shows a place that's virtually flat. You might see one ripple on the cam if there's a swell. The cam today didn't even do justice to what was going on in the water when I got there.

I watched for awhile and finally acknowledged that those waves were too much for me. At least my skills and wave knowledge are such that I actually know what I'm looking at. I can easily gauge the size of the waves, the strength of the current, etc. Although I desperately wanted to get wet, it wasn't worth the possibility of getting hurt.

19 December 2005

At Least Santa Loves Surfers

Wetsand says:

Thursday the 22nd this swell would start to back down, but according to today’s models, we’re still in for some heavy surf in the 12-15 foot range at least.

Friday the 23rd the swell would back down more to 1-3 feet overhead.

Saturday the 24th is so far looking to be a head high + day, and Christmas day is looking a bit smaller.

Although Christmas Day may turn out to be smaller than previous NW days, we have another big NW swell on the charts for the 26th, and being based on 84h+ models, timing could turn out that this swell hits midday on Christmas. In any event, this next system is forming right now in the Western Pacific, and models feel comfortable placing this one on a low-latitude trajectory towards our coast. This could be bigger or similar in size as the swell hitting Wednesday the 21st, but based on such long-range projections, we’ll need to see how this one pans out over the next few days.

Beside Myself

I'm gonna miss this swell. We're back to being a one car family, thanks to the dick of a claims adjuster at the insurance company. This means I'm getting dropped off and picked up at work. I wouldn't be so distressed if it weren't for the fact that I've got the later shift three days this week. That's three days when I could conceivably surf before work. Thanks to the insurance company, that's all been shot to hell. I checked the report/cam for LPB this morning. It said the wave height was seven feet!!! My god! How big is this swell going to be?

15 December 2005

It's Time

Now that the funboard is no longer a challenge for me, it's time to face my fears (of being and looking like a complete kook) and move down to the 7'0". I know the transition will be difficult. But I'm ready. My skills are such that I know I'll eventually master this board. The only thing is it certainly won't be pretty. I'm ready for that. I need a new challenge in the water. I went out to the home break yesterday. Damn, it's cold these days! The waves weren't all that great. It would have been the perfect day to spend some time on the shorter board. So, my plan is to now take two boards to each session.

12 December 2005

Too Tired to Think of a Title

That's what RPB looked like when I checked it this morning. There was nothing there. But wait!! There is a little something. You can see it in the picture, can't you? It just wasn't enough something. So, I drove around checking spots, knowing that RPB only needed a little time and a little less water. All of the beach breaks I checked were closed out enough for me to say an almost audible "no" to the idea of paddling out. I even called CYT from our regular spot. I told her not to bother coming out. People were being slammed off their boards. It wasn't pretty. I ended up at my home break. Waiting. Talking. Hanging. And then, a few of us decided the time had come. RPB might actually be doing something. Remember that empty break in the picture? There were no cars parked there when I checked the first time. By the time I went back, cars were parked up and down the highway. However, not many of those people were taking the plunge. I'm not a big believer in waiting and watching for too long. Once I saw the lone guy in the bay get a nice, long ride, I started suiting up. And for a time, he and I were the only ones in the bay. The waves, while not quite big, were powerful enough to satisfy me. So he and I had that part of the break to ourselves for a good 20 minutes. You know, this break is funny in that you don't really notice that other people have paddled out. It's one of those places where you watch the horizon for a wave, turn around to see if anyone else has gotten in, see no one new, and then turn back to watch for waves. Then when you do it five minutes later, you'll find that 50 people somehow snuck into the water while your back was turned. The place did fill up rather quickly. Luckily, I'd gotten some fun ones before the crowd came. And when I wanted a wave, I paddled around the newbies and took it. I've complained about RPB in my time. There are so many newbies that it almost makes you shudder. Still, the vibe is peaceful. I'd much rather go there than some aggro place where everyone's got the stinkface thing going on. I did walk the board today . . . going backside! I didn't even think about it. The board stalled, so I stepped up to the nose to gain some momentum. I stayed there for awhile, thinking highly of myself. Then the board stalled again and I fell off. Someday I'll be able to walk forward and backward without thinking about it. I enjoyed myself today. The waves could have been bigger, but I'm satisfied with what I got.

08 December 2005

The Fax that Signaled the Beginning of the End?

Gordon Clark explains the abrupt closure of Clark Foam

The closure of Clark Foam on Monday stunned the surf industry. Rumors and speculation about why and what happened are still running rampant, as is the public's reaction to the abrupt and somewhat mysterious act. What follows is the original seven-page explanatory fax, straight from Gordon Clark himself. Stay tuned as details unfold. And send reactions, rumors, lies, etc to Marcus Sanders for an upcoming story.


Monday, December 5th.

For owning and operating Clark Foam I may be looking at very large fines, civil lawsuits, and even time in prison. I will not be saying more than is in this letter so I hope you read it carefully. I do not want to be answering questions about my decisions for the next few years.

Effective immediately Clark Foam is ceasing production and sales of surfboard blanks.

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. Therefore I have been advised by my attorney to say as little as possible. I do not want this document to be used as an admission of wrongdoing nor am i going to help the government prosecute me. I do, however, feel I owe everyone some sort of explanation- even if it is incomplete and not a full disclosure of my problems.

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.

The main concern of the state and the county government is a toxic chemical we use called Toluene Di Isocynate commonly called TDI. Some of the other concerns are the use of polyester resin, dust, trash, some of the equipment I built or was built to my specifications, and numerous safety concerns both for employees and the local community.

The way the government goes after places like Clark Foam is by an accumulation of laws, regulations, and subjective decisions they are allowed to use to express their intent. Essentially they remove your security, increase your risk or liability, and increase your costs. This makes the closing of Clark Foam and similar manufacturing and accumulation of issues and not a single issue. They simply grind away until you either quit or they find methods of bringing serious charges or fines that force you to close.

Ince the main issue is TDI I will cover this first. Over the years almost all of the TDI users have left California. The government attack on TDI has been going on for decades and California was not the only state to attack its use. It was a billion pound per year chemical in the United States. In the last few years about one third of the United States TDI production capacity has been closed. I believe on of the reasons was the opening of very modern TDI plants in Asia that cost much less to build and operate. It also appears they have built a better infrastructure for handling the raw materials such as natural gas terminals and refineries.

About 20 years ago OSHA came down on our TDI use very hard and more or less tied one arm behind our back when it came to competing on the international market. We survived this and worked very hard with that agency to meet all of their requirements for using TDI. This is a federal program and in my judgment OSHA is far better managed than other agencies.

A little over 10 years ago the Orange Country Fire Authority changed their inspection methods. California also passed some new laws on TDI use. The Fire Authority also had signed up 23 cities plus the unincorporated areas of the county. They are one of the largest most powerful fire departments in the United States. They set extremely tough standards and have informally asked Clark Foam to move.

In 1999 the Federal Environmental Protection Agency copied parts of the California Law on TDI and implemented a weaker version of the California Law. California then added to the new Federal Law and their version is considerably tougher. The interpretation of this law is quite flexible and the local Fire Authority has taken a very tough line and added extra regulation that could be focused on closing Clark Foam.

Since the Fire Authority first showed an interest in TDI and today I estimate the physical changes they have required for my factory took two people less than a week to build. The cost of engineering studies, and time to satisfy their demands for our TDI processing equipment has cost in excess of $500,000. This is many times the original cost of the equipment. They are still not satisfied and continue raising new issues or go over old issues that I assumed were closed.

Another tactic used by the Fire Authority is to report us to other government agencies. This is probably a correct action on their part. For the TDI use this has become quite serious.

Based upon a complaint by the Orange County Fire Authority and information that was almost 100% supplied by the Orange County Fire Authority, the very strict Ninth District of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued Clark Foam a 10-page, very serious citation. This has never been resolved. The EPA has hired a private safety engineer to pursue their citation and I believe this process is still taking place. The seriousness of their citation could mean that I could have to go to prison and be fined an astronomical amount of money. (A personal friend just paid a $4,000,000 EPA fine and barely got out of going to prison.) It is my understanding that the EPA is very slow, are difficult to deal with, and Federal Judges almost always agree with thee EPA. Essentially they refuse to directly communicate with Clark Foam.

I do not know if it was the Fire Authority's intent but by asking for Federal help they essentially killed any chances of moving to another State.

The fire Authority has reported our TDI progress to the South Coast Air Quality Management district (AQMD) several times over the years. Each time they supply information and then they openly disagree with the AQMD findings. This tends to stir up the AQMD. The last go-around with the AQMD based on TDI cost quite a bit of money in engineering fees. (The AQMD issued us a permit for our existing equipment but the Fire Authority was not pleased with this action. Therefore, they went to the Health Department.)

The Orange County Health Department operates through the State Department of Toxic Substance Control and the State Environmental Protection Agency. In this case the Fire Authority escorted them to our premises and made their case. This is a series of hazardous waste issues both in definition and methods of disposal. This is very serious stuff and evidently subject to a lot of arbitrary interpretation.

We are emitting TDI fumes in the air.

A large part of the Fire Authority's focus has been on TDI spills. This is very well documented. A few years ago I realized that any spill would create a massive response by the Fire Authority and I doubt they would know how to properly neutralize the spill or know when the spill was no longer emitting toxic fumes. To protect myself I purchased a $50,000,000 spill or release insurance policy with a $500,000 deductible. This was only necessary due to the current regulatory and legal environment in California. When we have gotten to this point it is a good sign that the game is almost over. (Furthermore, I doubt that $50,000,000 would do much more than pay the legal fees. Look up the 6,000 pound spill by General Chemical in California. The billed attorney's fees were reported to be in excess of $900,000,000.)

We did our last research into new foams in 1993. What we did was, in a large part, illegal even then. Today almost any attempt at research would be very illegal due to TDI (or any isocynate) handling. The cost of required permits would be much higher than the cost of "outsourcing" or doing the work in other countries.

There are two future TDI issues. First there is a good chance that the AQMD or California will require a TDI fume "scrubber" sometime in the future. This would be a roughly 250 horsepower, giant unit costing over a million dollars. Second, there is a legislation being proposed in the state government that out TDI supplier has told us would result in them withdrawing 100% from the California market. (This has already happened with TDI storage. One supplier moved out of California in one day and was trucking in from out of state. Now they quit altogether.) If this proposed legislation passes it appears TDI will essentially be banned in California.

The above covers some of the TDI issues. Next I will move to the AQMD.

We have had AQMD permits since the 1970's. Recently they declared the polyester resin use for the center stringers is really an adhesive and fits into different rules. One method of calculation put us into a category of a large refinery and required massive controls, permits, etc. They did some testing that substantiated some of their claims. While it appears they are wrong, they have not responded. Wo do emit over 4,000 pounds of styrene fumes per year. It appears they will call for a scrubber at some time in the future. This will cause a serious problem as we must keep fume levels within the OSHA limit. (OSHA inspects us for styrene fume levels.) Therefore, we are looking at a massive unit in the million dollar range.

When reviewing our AQMD compliance with our consultants it appears we are out of compliance in several other areas.

The next issue is ironic. When the Surfrider Foundation was just a Volkswagon Bug and a couple of guys I gave them $10,000 being the seed money to get started. Now the Surfrider foundation is a leading advocate of the storm water runoff legislation. Three agencies inspect us. We have been cited several times. While we are currently in compliance I do not believe anything but a 100% indoor facility could ever comply with what the law requires. The Surfrider foundation would have us closed down.

The Fire Authority really ripped into us over 10 years ago. We had to remove our outdoor fire sensors, have a licensed mechanical engineer certify our steel tube racks for strength, put up about 50 signs, build in rack sprinklers, add a bunch of sprinklers, and do a lot of other stuff. (This was just a few years after they forced us to quit making slab foam.) It appears the forthcoming issues could be aimed at cutting our production capacity. This is nothing new but simply an ever tightening of the screws. There is also another complete section of our processing equipment they have not addressed. So far they have only played around the edges of these issues. I read the Fire Code and they could shut us down very fast. It is a terrible feeling when one person walks in and says what you are doing is wrong. Now and then it is OK, but when an agency does it over and over you finally get the message.

The above are only some of the government agencies that inspect Clark Foam. It was put well by an expert in these areas when he said: "Ignorance of the law is no excuse ��� but try to find the law".

Our official safety record as an employer is not very good. We have three ex-employees on full Workman's Compensation disability ��� evidently for life. There is another claim being made by the widow of an employee who dies from cancer. According to the claim chemicals and resins at Clark Foam caused the cancer. A few years ago we had one of those horror stories one hears about lawyers. Almost $4,00,000 in lawyers fees and the ex-employee suing Clark Foam got $17,000. The Judge in the lawsuit advised me "this is just the cost of doing business (in California)".

We have had no problems with the local city government. The Fire Authority has reported us for violations several times with no consequences. A long-range problem might be a city master plan that wants to eliminate manufacturing at our location and build offices for uses like Lawyers and Doctors. While the local city government has said nothing it appears we are also violating a number of current buildings, electrical, fire and land use codes.

There will be questions about the future of the Clark Foam manufacturing facility and equipment. I will answer them below.

Another owner or tenant cannot use the buildings without bringing them up to current code. This is impossible so the buildings will probably be torn down. There is no sense discussing the issue of permits or using the Clark Foam facility further.

In addition, you could build many blank making facilities outside the United States just for the cost of permits in California.

The equipment and process issue is based on a term frequently called "standards". This is a difficult legal concept and will be difficult to explain. I will try my best but warn may not be accurate or correct from the point of view of a lawyer.

Hobie Alter and Dave Sweet independently showed that a polyurethane foam board was possible. Rodger Jennings, Chuck Foss, and Harold Walker pioneered the first successful blank business selling blanks directly to surfboard builders. A lot of other people were involved including myself. All of the resins, supplies, processes, and equipment were very original innovations.

Upon founding Clark Foam I began using different foam formulations, processing methods, and equipment than the other blank manufacturers. Today my plant is almost all original designs, built in house by our staff and myself. The small amount of equipment purchased outside of Clark Foam was built to my specifications or modified by me for our unique process. To sum this up no one in the United States or for that matter the rest of the world uses equipment and a process like mine. It is very unique and there was nothing on earth ever built this way before.

This is just an extension of the methods everyone used when the first foam boards were built. I continued merrily along assuming this was the way things worked. No one copied much of my process or equipment and it was very successful. I used no outside engineering firms or other experts for the majority of Clark Foam.

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency used lawyers to prepare their citation. They used the word "standards" a lot. I finally realized with shock that the EPA has determined that my equipment does not meet acceptable or accepted "standards".

Looking back this has been the same complaint of the Fire Authority and others. They are not as articulate as the EPA lawyers and I did not understand their points. A lot of the $500,000 I spent trying to satisfy the Fire Authority was engineering studies to determine if my equipment met "standards".

The EPA and the Fire Authority have only been interested in a small part of my equipment that handles TDI. Most of the rest of my equipment also does not meet any established "standard".

Upon pursuing the matter with experts in the law I found that for the majority of my equipment and process I am the "standard". This means I am legally liable for everything I designed, built, modified, or used in my unique process.

Some years ago I read that the old communist Russian tractors had a negative economic value. They were so poorly built that the raw material used to build them was worth more than the tractor that would rarely work.

I find that due to this "standards" thing my equipment and process has a negative economic value. Why sell something for a dollar when you are risking a lawsuit that could cost you anywhere from the dollar to everything you own? Since I am the "standard" I am liable for everything that was built to my "standard". Therefore, I am not going to sell any of this equipment or the process. The liability is far too great. Furthermore, most of the equipment can be dangerous if it is not operated properly.

In closing this letter I will make several comments.

First, Clark Foam's customers have several well known and well publicized options for making their surfboards. I will not comment on any of them nor give advice or opinion.

This letter gives a wealth of advice on isocyanate foam manufacture and some other manufacturing issues particular to Orange County or California. I do not want to clarify any of these issues further than this letter due to both pending and potential civil and criminal liability. In sum, do not bother asking me questions.

When Clark Foam was started it was a far different California. Businesses like Clark Foam were very welcome and considered the leading edge of innovation and technology. Somewhere along the way things have changed.

The State of California and Orange County California are trying very hard to make a clean, safe, and just home for their residents. This is commendable and I totally support their goals. It is my understanding their plan is to remove selective businesses to make way for new, better jobs that will be compatible with the improved environment. They are putting an incredible amount of resources into their effort. This is a tough job and they are doing a good job of meeting their goals.

The only apology I will make to customers and employees is that I should have seen this coming many years sooner and closed years ago in a slower, more predictable manner. I waited far too long, being optimistic rather than realistic. I also failed to do my homework.

What will I be doing in the near future? There is a very good chance I will spend a lot of time in courtrooms over the next few years and could go to prison. I have a tremendous cleanup expense to exit my business. I have the potential for serious fines. My full time efforts will be to extract myself from the mess that I have created for myself.

In closing I want to thank everyone for their wonderful support over the years. This has been a great ride with great people. I have loved this job and the people I worked with.


Gordon Clark

07 December 2005

The Clark Foam Saga Continues

Yes, I surfed today but I want to continue a bit of the discussion about Clark Foam. I asked one of the "old guys" at the break what his take on the situation was. (Now, when I say "old guy," I don't mean he was old. I mean "old guy" as in "Old Guys Rule" t-shirts. In other words, he's older than I am and has some gray in his hair.) This guy makes his own boards. He's probably been surfing as long as I've been alive. He thinks this factory-closing is all a ruse by Grubby Clark to cause chaos in the market, thus sending prices higher. This guy also asserted that Clark already has a fully functional, ready-for-production factory in China. The old guy said Clark never did anything to help the surf industry and that Clark has only ever been in it for the money. So, as I said, the saga continues. When I posted the story about Clark Foam, I didn't comment. Something about it doesn't ring true to me. I could be wrong. Frankly, it's my instinct that tells me someone isn't being completely forthcoming with the truth. I just don't know who that someone is.

The surfing word for the day is . . . COLD! Want to hear something frightening? There was a guy out there today in nothing but trunks. Trunks! He must be on crack! I was in a rashguard, a 3/2, and a hoodie. I was still struggling to keep myself from paddling back in after about 20 minutes. The waves weren't even that good. So what was I doing out there? I don't know. Enjoying myself. Smiling a lot. Feeling at one with the world. My surfing and my approach to my surfing are changing. I'm much less concerned about what I can do on a longboard. Walking the board is at the bottom of my surfing to-do list now. Lately, my goal seems to be to develop my style. What I do now is carve and work the waves. Right now, that's all I want to do. It's all I like to do. I don't just stand there anymore. I actually feel my body language coming into its own. I can feel my arms moving into place once I'm on a wave. But it's all taking place naturally. I'm not trying to emulate anyone. I'm simply allowing myself to surf. I think I wasn't doing that too much over the summer. I was on a mission to walk the board. I wanted to be a true longboarder. Now I want to be me. The walking will come back. I can see that. Right now, I'm allowing myself to read waves and work with the waves I'm presented. Today, the waves tended to jack up. For some reason, I decided this meant I should spend some time pausing before I popped up. This meant, in turn, that I was taking steep drops from the top of the lip. Normally, I don't do that. Today, it seemed natural and I did it on at least four waves. CYT, who seems completely fearless to me, remarked that she'd be too scared to drop in as late as I was doing it. I wasn't afraid at all; I thought those drops were fun. These days, my surfing is much more instinctual. I notice that I've stopped over-thinking what I do. I just surf. As a result, I'm finally becoming the surfer I want to be.

06 December 2005

This Ain't Good

Clark Foam closes its doors

by Marcus Sanders

Monday December 5th, 2005 was a dark day at shaping bays and in surf shops around the country. Orange County-based Clark Foam -- far and away the world's largest supplier of surfboard blanks -- shut its doors after over 45 years in business due to a series of ongoing environmental and safety concerns.

The main issue, as outlined by Gordon 'Grubby' Clark in a seven-page fax that was circulated among shapers today, is a toxic chemical in use at Clark Foam called Toluene Di Isocynate, commonly called TDI. Most companies using this chemical have already left California; in 1999, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implemented a slightly weaker version of California's existing anti-TDI law, while California itself instituted stronger laws. The Orange County Fire Authority repeatedly reported Clark Foam to other government agencies, including the 9th district of the EPA, who gave the blank manufacturer a 10-page citation that is still unresolved. "The seriousness of the citation could mean that I have to go to prison and be fined an astronomical amount of money," Clark writes in the fax.

Other issues contributing to the closure were, according to the fax, polyester resin, dust, trash, and the fact that almost all the technology inside the factory was designed and/or built by Clark specifically for making surfboard blanks. And due to the fact that all Clark's equipment is original, the EPA claims is does not meet industry standards.

"The only apology I will make to customers and employees is that I should have seen this coming many years sooner and closed in a slower, more predictable manner" Clark writes. "I waited far too long, being optimistic rather than realistic."

The fax is slightly cryptic, because, as Clark writes, "I have been advised by my attorney to say as little as possible. I do not want this document to be used as an admission of wrongdoing nor am I going to help the government prosecute me." But while its explanations were less that clear, its effects were immediately felt around the world.

San Diego-based boardmaker Rusty Preisendorfer received his regular shipment of blanks at noon today, and the fax came through at 2pm. "It was a really heavy afternoon," Rusty said. "And it was really sudden -- I wish he'd have given us a little warning. I have a whole warehouse of employees to think about, not to mention everyone else in the industry."

And it's not just a few SoCal surf companies or shapers that'll be affected, either -- anyone that buys surfboards will be hit. It's estimated that 90% of the world's blanks came from Clark Foam. Grubby developed, designed and built all his own technology and guarded it ferociously and his well-known aggressive business practices and unending pursuit of innovation assured him the lion's share of the market. Sure, there are other blank manufactures in Australia and a few here in the US, but no one is prepared to deal with the huge gap left by Clark Foam's closure. Surfboard prices will go up overnight and shapers still aren't quite sure what will happen next.

Ryan Sakal, of Sakal Surfboards in Huntington Beach is concerned. "I've never used anything other than Clark Foam," he says. "I don't have any backup or any contacts on how to get anything else."

Some folks think Clark Foam's closure is the beginning of the end. "The culture around the custom shaper is getting smaller," Allan Seymour, longtime industry observer, surf auction organizer and friend of Clark's explained. "This is definitely the end of an era."

"In the short term, it's a really big challenge," Rusty continued. "But I'm sure we'll find other sources of foam."

Other big name shapers are reeling but optimistic as well. Rich Harbour of Harbour surfboards posted the following on his website: "I have been on the phone non-stop for the past 6 hours. I have talked to many old friends in the industry and we all are confident that this billion-dollar industry will survive. There are many options, such as Australian foam, overseas foam and PVC foam. Over the next few days we will look into all of these and come up with some solutions. We have a stock of blanks on hand, but customers will have to be a little more flexible on their choices. In closing, Harbour Surfboards has been at this since 1959 and have no thoughts of quitting. There will be a solution, and we will find it."

Gordon Clark himself sees an end of an era. "When Clark Foam started it was a far different California," he writes. "Businesses like Clark Foam were very welcome and considered the leading edge of innovation and technology. Somewhere along the way, things have changed."

Stay tuned to Surfline as this story unfolds.

05 December 2005

Let's Go Surfin' Now!!

Let's not! I was primed for a session. Wetsuit? Dry and sweet-smelling. Towel? Washed and sweet-smelling. Surf backpack? Everything's present and accounted for. Surfboards? Waiting patiently to be chosen for today's session. Waves? Nowhere to be found, dammit! And I even had the car! But after looking at every surf report I could find, I realized it wasn't worth it to drive out to the beach to verify (and perhaps disprove) those reports. Once again, I was on the bike. I managed to make it out to the beach and back before work. Yeah, they were right. There was nothing there. I don't mind hanging out on my board on the flat days if it's hot out. But I ain't even thinkin' about doin' that when it's cold. Period.

02 December 2005

I Gave My Wetsuit a Bath

No, I'm not kidding. I actually did give that stinky thing a bath. After today's session, I left my wetsuit in the Cinch Sac for a few hours. By the time I got around to washing it out, it stunk to high heaven. My wetsuit is always a bit odiferous. I think that's just the nature of the beast, you know? When I took my wetsuit out of the Cinch Sac today, I'd had enough. That bad boy (i.e., my wetsuit) needed a good washing. Well, it's a bit too big for a sink and I dare not stick it in the washing machine. So I worked with what I had: I put a small amount of my child's Plumeria Foaming Bath—my choice of bathing oil, not his—in the tub and then tossed my wetsuit in there. It's a miracle!! My wetsuit no longer stinks. I'll be bathing my wetsuit periodically from now on since rinsing it with the water hose doesn't quite do the trick, especially on overcast days when the sun isn't out to bake the suit a little. (Yes, I know you're not supposed to dry your wetsuits in the sun. Just allow me to be the sinner that I am!)

I finally got wet again!!! CYT, my hero, lives only a few miles from the Venice/Santa Monica beaches. Still, she was nice enough to come all the way here, pick me up, take me to Venice for a session, drive me back home, and then head right back to that side of town again. That's a true friend! I'm happy to say that the session was a good one. I was a bit scared when we drove up and saw the waves. They looked enormous to me. Not El-Porto-broken-boards-in-the-trashcans-up-and-down-the-beach enormous, but enormous to someone who's lost a bit of confidence because she's not been out in the water more than once in the last week. The paddle out turned out to be an easy one and the waves weren't as big as I first thought. In fact, the wave machine turned off after we got out there. I was left wondering where the waves ran off to. (Yes, I know that was a dangling participle.) I was in a charging mood so I didn't do any of my typical watching and waiting. Today . . . I surfed. I went right. I went left. I did rail grabs. I managed a few successful kick-outs. All in all, a good session. CYT and I couldn't help but marvel at how much improvement we've both made. The waves today were the in-between kind where you can go left or right because there's shape but no real corner. Well, on one of them, CYT and I both paddled for it. To our surprise she was going right and I was going left. We were definitely going to meet in the middle . . . and we did. Now, a year ago, we both probably would have panicked and jumped off, thus decapitating one another with wayward boards. Today, we saw what was going to happen, yelled to each other about who was supposed to go where, came within about a foot of one another, and then both turned, thereby avoiding a collision. I don't think either one of us ever panicked. I'd already picked the line I would take had she kept going right; I would simply have straightened out and allowed her to pass behind me.

Okay, the water is #$%!@! cold. It is! You know that hoodie I've been wearing to protect my almost locks? Well, boy howdy, that thing works wonders in preserving body heat. My teeth didn't chatter one bit. Yeah, I was cold. However, I wasn't freezing. I think we stayed out for a couple of hours. In past winters, I was usually good for about an hour and then I was done. I'm in love with my hoodie . . . even if it makes me look kooky!

Hair update: The locks are beginning to take hold. I don't have many bona fide locks. But I can tell my hair is changing. When we started this, my hair wouldn't stay twisted. Now, my hair doesn't want to stay straight (okay, wavy). As you can see, my hair is growing like mad. By the time I have a full head of locks, my hair may be down to my shoulders. All I really want is to feel water run through my hair again. I hate having to keep the locks under wraps while I surf. I'm patient though. I'm almost there.