Dana Point Welcomes Chispa House Films & “Search for the Big One”

Four Humanity Focused Films Set To Premiere at Hobie Surf Shop in Dana Point


Cate Stokes

Join Hobie Surf Shop in Dana Point on September 12th as we welcome Chispa House as they premiere their film Search for the Big One, featuring Rob Machado and Hobie Surf Shop Team riders! This series features four short films that raise awareness for ocean and land conservation.

The Chispa House team produces films about aspirational humans and providing glimpses into the lives of people that inspire them. Their struggles and triumphs reveal ambitions, motivations, and ways we can better ourselves and the world around us. They reveal the truth, which is exactly what they’re chasing at Chispa House.

Donations to the Surfrider Foundation will be accepted to support their mission to protect our beautiful coastline. This is sure to be an amazing event, so don’t miss it! https://chispahouse.com/


Temples of Stoke: A Tribute to Surf Shops

Surfers and surf shops, one can’t exist without the other; theirs is a symbiotic relationship. From grommethood to adulthood, from working-life into marriage and parenthood, legions of the truly obsessed continue to visit surf shops. Like the growth rings of a tree, significant moments in the life of a surfer can be marked in these “Temples of Stoke;” a framework of existence made up of freeze-frame moments. Surf journalist, Sam George likens the surf shop experience to a “mirror into which surfers have gazed, searching for self.” And historian Matt Warshaw suggests that the surf shop is “a time tested cultural stronghold,” functioning as a channel for information, gossip, and propaganda, a supply center, workshop, and quite often as the theater of the absurd.

Historically Dale Velzy is credited with creating the surf shop ideal, when opening his 1950s factory and showroom in Manhattan Beach, California. Rudimentary at best, the first surf shops were little more than small, one room operations producing a single product: the surfboard. You, the customer, upon entering would likely find a pair of sawhorses, and a single, bare light bulb suspended from the ceiling, with balsa wood shavings, inches thick, carpeting the floor.

With time, and surfing’s cinematic popularity, the surf shop morphed into a factory/retail operation. Hobie Alter is credited with being the first to construct a purpose-built operation at Dana Point, California. By 1961 surf shops were becoming full service emporiums with silk-screened tee shirts, trunks (today’s boardshort), magazines, wetsuits, and board making supplies. By 1963, according to Peterson’s Surfing Yearbook, surf shops were exploding nationwide. There were 41 in Southern California alone!

Today the surf shop means many things to many people, but, as Justin Housman explains, writing on the Surfer Magazine blog, “the anchor of the surf shop is still the surfboard… you’re sure as hell not buying surfboards online…. We still insist on holding a board in our hands before buying it.” Houseman again, “… from the very beginning [surf shops] have always been about much more than just commerce…. [They have] functioned as a ‘third place’ – another place to gather and socialize outside of work, or school, or home.” For those of you who may be new to surfing and the current expression of the surf shop, there are still a few old-school “Temples of Stoke” around. Places were the guy or girl behind the counter can actually talk about the nuances of surfboards, and sell you the latest beach-lifestyle fashions, all while telling you about how the waves were that morning — because they surf. But you’d better hurry, they are an endangered species in today’s e-commerce, big-box, mass-produced society.

For more on the “Temples of Stoke, A Tribute to Surf Shops” experience visit the SURFING HERITAGE AND CULTURE CENTER (SHACC) at https://shacc.org/temples-of-stoke-on-display-through-october-29-2019/.

Andrew Cowell for Hobie Surf Shop and SHACC.

Hobie Surf :: Gary Larson, 4 Clark Foam Blanks, and the Past, Present and Future of Surfing.


From the 1960’s until December of 2005 Clark Foam was basically the only game around for surfboard blanks – you know, that foamy stuff that surfboards start as – if you built surfboards, you were building them with Clark Foam blanks. Period. And, you were happy. Very happy. Clark was dependable and reliable. On time shipments of the highest quality. They were the shoulders that the surf industry stood and grew on. They were the hub of the wheel, all else in the industry basically spoked off of Clark. And, the industry was happy and had grown fat off the labor of owner, Gordon “Grubby” Clark. We were fat and happy and didn’t think anything would ever change how happy and well taken care of our blank needs were. Until it did.

On a Monday, with not a whisper on the wind of warning, a 9 page fax* dropped onto the floors of shaping rooms and glass shops across the country. “…Effective immediately Clark Foam is ceasing production and sales of surfboard blanks.” The word “Immediately” was never more properly used to describe an action. There would be no Tuesday. There was barely a Monday afternoon. By the time shapers had finished the text of the goodbye letter, the molds at Clark had been destroyed, and with them any hope of a resurrection or change of Grubby Clark’s heart. It was over. Beyond repair. Beyond any loss that an entire community felt they could endure. There was no one happy that day. We had taken the man that had held us up for a generation for granted, and now he had destroyed the ball and he blew town in a flurry of faxes.

*See the entire text from the “Blank Monday” fax at the end of this story. 


A few Clark Foam blanks have survived over the years. Hobie has several salted away for special times. Guess they were feeling like it was one of those special times, because they pulled out four treasured pieces and sent them to Gary Larson to be shaped. Holder of a Masters Degree and a college professor on top of being a Master Surfboard shaper, Gary, is a lifelong intellectual. His opinions are always well reasoned out with layers of deeply thought out conviction. The combination of the history of the blanks and the character of the man shaping them called for an interview during the shaping process. -Tracey Engelking


Tracey :: What was the blank ordering process like? 

Gary :: You choose what you want and call up, say I want a 62c blank with a Hobie rocker number 18. Meaning they know what rocker to grab to go with a 62c. Or you may say I want it with a number 17 rocker or something else because you would want a little more rocker or a little less. Then they would go to the Hobie section of rockers and grab that one stringer, that is the key, put it down and cut however many stringers they needed for the order. Then they put the key back.



What does First Quality mean and the dots? Is that significant? 

First Quality means that it’s without any imperfections and deliverable. Second quality means that there is an issue with the blank, be it an air-bubble, stringer is not quite right, whatever it may be, it didn’t pass inspection and was sold at a discount.

The dots are a type of code. Those dots indicate the barrel of the polyurethane liquid foam that that blank was made from and also the person who poured the blank. Say, it was a really humid day while blanks are being poured. This slight environmental change might affect the way the foam cures in the mold. You may have shapers calling Clark saying blanks are tearing, or they have air bubbles, or some flaw. The shaper will write down what blank it was, it was a “Super Blue with three dots under the U.” So, it was a way to go back and see what day it was poured, what was the temperature when it was poured, what happened? Why is there this issue? Also, you could check back with other shapers who got foam from the same barrel and see if they too were experiencing the same problems.

It was a quality control code.




What were some of the little things lost that have never quite come back with newer companies? 

What was really cool about Clark was, see how it has this almost Seersucker texture to the blank? (Feeling the blank, it has an almost skin like quality or a very soft corduroy to it) Clark used this special release paper to release the blank from the mold. When the liquid foam was poured in, which was an extreme art in itself because the foam was expanding as you were working, you needed to get it just right. You don’t want it to be denser on one side then the other. It needed to be precise and it was all done by hand. But, the release paper that Clark used to make sure the blank didn’t stick in the mold when you opened it, it’s never quite been duplicated. The first few batches of blanks right after the closure, that came from the new companies, there would be chunks missing on the deck, or ripples, because they were using different techniques and the blanks just were not coming out totally intact or as perfect as Clark’s blanks. You just couldn’t use any paper. Whatever paper he was using, it was special and it worked flawlessly and it left the texture you feel on a Clark Foam blank that you don’t feel on anything else still today. That was really unique.

The wood too. Clark’s lumber was very high quality. It was always good. I don’t know if it is just because wood is so expensive now, or if he just had the best sources, but his was by far the best.

The other thing I really miss is calling there in the morning and saying “I need four 94B’s with this weight, this rocker, ect,”and the very next day, they would be in the shaping room waiting. They were right down the street, they had the local delivery truck… but, it is a LOT of work. This one piece of foam comes out, they cut it in half, they go get the rocker key, cut that out, glue it, clamp it, let it dry, unclamp it and get it to you. That is what the lines are across the blank, the index lines they drew before cutting it in half, so after placing the stringer, they could place the two halves back together properly.



When you look back, does it impress you how much they were able to do for surfing and get done for board builders? 

I think it almost shows how a generation got a little cocky and forgot all he had done. People in the industry weren’t too fond with some of Grubby’s business mores. It’s rumored he used to put people on a blacklist (this is a very well known fact inside the surf industry). But in the end it’s his company, he can do what he wants. But, people used to complain all the time about him, people would bad mouth him all the time. I guess it would be comparable to if you had a teacher you thought was unfair, or someone who had a little power over you and they are someone who you HAVE to interact with, they in the end might be a dick, but they make you a better person. And, it was the same thing with Clark, as soon as it was gone, everyone was like wow, he had this perfectly rock solid well-oiled machine of a company that all of us took for granted.




There is a beauty in the way he ended it, don’t you agree? It’s like the dream deep down inside that we all secretly have is to just be able to go out and not just burn the bridge behind you, but to blow up the cliffs with it? Molds gone, check. Doors locked, check. Fax semi explaining why you did it sent, check… It was the ultimate Fuck You if there ever was one. You have to respect that in a way, right? 

Yeah. He had to think of himself. He had put his entire life into creating this thing to sustain an industry and the industry had no shame in bashing you, and be so dense as to not understand what you are doing then “I’m sorry but this is going to sting. See you later.” He had all the money he needed, a nice place to retire. And the feeling of if you don’t think I’m that important, then we’ll see. It was beautiful, it is beautiful.

Now that social media has so taken over, and it is so easy to categorize a company… “That is a cool company.” “This is for kids.” “That company belongs over here for a high end consumer.” “This company is for the punks.”. Where instead, it was “This is a business.” Clark was a business. I provide a product. It’s not focused just for the shortboarder, or the radical shortboarder, or the garage shapers. The purist, the machine guy. Or the longboarder. It was a product for everyone. I listen to everyone. I distribute to everyone. I have a good system. You shouldn’t be bashing it. It was his business. He could run it however he wanted to, and he did, whether you liked it or not.





That’s true… back then you didn’t see any other companies really popping up trying to take business that Grubby wouldn’t take.

Did you ever go to John Paul’s coffee in Laguna? So he was widely known as the

biggest ass hole ever. He would kick people out of his store while standing in line to buy something! If you showed up with a Starbucks cup, or any other cup, and wanted a pastry, he wouldn’t give it to you. He would just tell you to leave, he wouldn’t serve you anything. He was notorious for that…

Like The Soup Nazi from Seinfeld? 

Exactly. But, there was always a line out his door every morning.

That was what it was with Clark. You did what you had to do to stay off the blacklist. You followed Grubby’s program, or you didn’t get your blanks. And, maybe that was an extreme asshole move on his part. But, again, in his mind, if you are going to buy blanks from someone else, and you are not going to buy them from me, then that is the choice that you made.

It’s very egotistical, no, maybe the better word is insecure. I don’t know why he would blacklist people, it’s strange.




Maybe it was an age thing? The blacklist probably didn’t start in the 60’s, 70’s, or even the 90’s? Maybe he just flat out got over people? 

Terry Martin would have known.

It’s definitely an insecurity. If you classically defined it, it would be insecure. But, whatever, people are allowed to be insecure, that is human. And, if you want to run your own business that way, that is fine.


Has there been anything as good as Clark Foam was and probably would still be? 

That’s hard to say… US Blanks, I’d say. The people at the front of the house are the same people that were at Clark. So in that sense, yes, US would be the most comparable. But, they are different. The foams are different. To say one is better than the other? I don’t know. If you gave me two blanks that didn’t have any markings, shaping them, I would be able to tell. But in the finished product, I probably couldn’t notice a difference.


I worked at San Clemente Surf Company at the time of the closure, and I remember the weeks and months around it. It was wild. Watching people go from having consistent work, to instantaneously having absolutely none. Then companies popping up overnight cranking out pretty sub-par blanks. So there was a beauty to it, but…. 

It was an immediate vacuum that was left. Because then you have everyone jumping in and trying to grab a little portion of the market that he left to keep it all going. So, of course, in the beginning, there was just crap. There was so much bad foam, so having a blank didn’t necessarily mean that you had work.


You went the opposite way, right? Started shaping prone paddle boards for a bit? 

Yes. Because the only foam that was around was EPS. Or, the only foam that you could get that was semi reliable, was EPS. You could get it and it was cheap. And, of course, glassers were looking for work, so, since there were no polyurethane boards  to glass, they would glass with epoxy in a heartbeat. You could get anyone to glass with epoxy, because there was no other option. You want to work today? Then I have this EPS board, you weren’t picky.


What is something people may not know about Grubby? Something surprising about him? 

Well I never knew him on a personal level but what was really cool and what I really admired about Clark, the guy really came across, as very intelligent. He often sent out lengthy newsletters. He would send them out every-so-often, and the way that they were written, you could see that every sentence was well-thought out. Everything was supported with evidence, everything was clear. He had a message, and there was no BS within the writing, it was just “This is what I’m saying. This is what I mean. These are the facts why I’m saying what I’m saying.” Every newsletter was like, “This is the current state of the industry.” or “these are the new blanks I’m releasing and why.” “This is the new foam I’m coming up with. Why it’s lighter or why it’s denser” What market was it filling and why we are making it, why we are changing it..


There were clear layers to the commentary… 

Very clear. Very, very clear on everything he sent out. They never left room for anyone to question what he was doing. Not until the end when he said, “I’m out.” All of the sudden there were these questions, because he was always so clear spoken before that. A very transparent person. Then he was just gone. That goes back to the beauty of what he did. Breaking the molds. He left no options, no room to question… what would he have done with them? Sell them to the highest bidder? That’s not fair.


So as unthought out as his fax seems, and the closure seemed, it was perfectly thought out. Perfectly finished, with no room left to question? 

Exactly. There was no room left for one more blank, or to stay in business for one more week, one more day. There was no way to start again tomorrow afternoon, because there was no way to put it back together. It was an unquestionable ending, even if it wasn’t one you liked.

Is there one blank you miss having? One that has never come quite back? 

Not really, everything has been replaced. Everything. There are ones that I have a lot of memories with. Like the 94B or 94H. In the early 90’s that was what we were shaping. The high performance longboard, before the whole single fin deal and logs came back around, those blanks were the go-to. This blank came out, the whole line, the 94B, 94H, and the 95S, which were all pretty much the same kind of performance blank. But, very subtle changes. I remember doing tons of boards out of those three blanks.

The first board I ever shaped was a 611R, which I shaped a ton of. I think I knew that one so well, I knew all the curves in it. But, now, most companies have all the bases covered. The wood though, his was still better than we get today. I don’t know what it is. iIdon’t know where he got it but it all planed really nicely.



It almost makes me nervous seeing them in the room. It’s bizarre. Again, what we’ve been saying, it won’t come to pass again… These are some of the last. 

You have to think about the future. Are we even going to have blanks in the future? Or will it be a 3D printing process? Where do we go from here? There will always be that hand crafted guy, but for the masses.. Will there still be an Al Merrick?

3D printing makes the case for the ultimate “Perfect Board.”

It will be identical to the one that came out before. It’s about being resourceful. Wasting less. That is what we need to be mindful of as we go on. That is the idea, companies try and trim the fat anywhere they can. How do we create less waste? 3D printing is a way. Look at how much waste I produce everyday. Toxic waste. Plastic waste. There is less waste to 3D printing, but it still produces a product and most products end up in a landfill at some point, but, there was no waste in the producing of it.

 Maybe it becomes a perfect circle and instead of hitting the landfill, the board gets melted right back into the printer and turned a different board entirely? 

Maybe with that kids might feel that boards are disposable. Well, I snapped my board, I’ll just make another board. There are some like that already. That wasn’t really the attitude about boards when I was growing up. You treasured your board. Each ding hurt. I have a feeling that in some ways it can relate to our obsession with social media, when tour pros show the quiver shot, and it’s not even a quiver for the year, it’s a quiver for one contest, and it’s 16 boards. For one contest. It’s pretty mind blowing.


I think, even for people who come here to Hobie Dana Point, and look into your window, most of what you are doing is lost on them. The craftsmanship. The time it took for you to get good enough to be mediocre, then mediocre to good, then good to a master craftsmen. The thousands of hours in the dusty, toxic environment… Just to make them a toy. 

It does speak to the surf culture. Maybe on the whole deal. But, it gives us our life. This wasteful mentality has sustained a business. To kick out in the shore-break and snap the board, it has kept us working. Possibly.



Is there loyalty in people to a hand shaped surfboard? 

Yeah. Absolutely. There will be the people who don’t care. Then there will be the people who will only ride a custom surfboard. There will always be the ones who want it right now, and they won’t care what they get.

I read an article a while ago and it differentiated between the depression era population and the post WW2 population and the main thesis of the article is that the depression era population would reuse everything, and not because it was designed to be reusable, but because it could be reused. It’s a glass jar, it’s a nice plate, we have to keep it clean. We have to reuse it. They would reuse boxes and milk bottles because they were reusable. It was products that weren’t designed to be durable items, it was just what was.

Then post WW2 was the disposable generation. Products were designed to be disposable! It’s Dixie cups, TV dinners, plastic silverware. Now these objects, that at one time had reusable value, now had no reusable value. But, still, a depression era person just looked at it as a cup, a plate, a fork, and the idea of it being disposable never connected. When it was a glass cup, it was precious because it was a cup, when it became a paper cup, it was still a cup, and therefore still precious.

They both have the same use, but one was reusable and one was not considered such. But, in the end it comes down to the consumer who actually assigns the product a “value.”

It shows the way we view a product and the way the next generation may view a product. For example, a product never touched human hands, so it’s not precious. We only know surfboards as touching human hands, but maybe this generation or the generation after will know surfboards as this product that comes out of a machine. Are we still going to have that same attachment to that board? That generation that never knows hand shaped surfboards, they only know this board came out of a machine. There will never be that attachment. It will come out exactly how you want, at the touch of a button.

It’s not that it’s disposable or not, it’s the attachment that you carry along with that item.


I think of the SciFi movies where the future is stripped down. You have one plate, one spoon… Simplification. You would have one surfboard. With Kelly’s wave pool, that could be a reality? Only the need for the board for the wave you set…

The limit to choice frees your time. You flip the script on surfing. Originally, you may have had a board for a specific wave condition. And Mother Nature sets that condition. This created the need for a quiver of surfboards.

Today, we can create the conditions. If your board is only a 6’2” or a 6’6”, a high performance board, then you set the wave machine to produce a high performance wave. You tailor-make that wave to what you want! I’m just happy to be around to witness this new era of “surfing.”



Below is the “Blank Monday” fax sent out by Gordon Clark on December 5, 2005.


The end of an era… remnants of the Clark Foam moulds. Photo by Mark Stavron

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

Hobie Surfboards to Collaborate with Shaper, Timmy Patterson, on a Limited Edition Line of Surfboards.


San Juan Capistrano, California –  Timmy Patterson, a second generation surfboard shaper, has a bloodline that dates to the very first days of the “Surf Industry “in the 1950’s.  His boards, made in the legendary San Clemente Surf Ghetto under the T.Patterson Surfboard’s label, are found under the feet of some of the world’s surfing heavy hitters. Having started his shaping career in the early 80’s at the Hobie Surfboard’s Factory, it was only fitting when Hobie decided to do a few limited edition collaborations, that Timmy would be first on a very short list of names to consider.

His father, Ronald, and his uncles, Robert and Raymond, moved to California from their native Hawaii in the 50‘s to work in the surfboard building industry. All ended up living in Dana Point and working in the Hobie Surfboard’s factory, becoming masters of the art. Timmy grew up in and around the factory. Honing his craft from an early age at the feet of legends, he learned from and looked up to iconic craftsmen and surfers like Terry Martin, Dale Velzy, Hobie Alter, Phil Edwards, Ben Aipa, Terry Senate, Randy Sleigh, Mike Hynson, Butch Van Artsdalen, and Joey Cabell.

By 1995 Timmy Patterson, was not only a very successful shaper, he was also opening up his own in house glass shop to go along with his successful label. To this day his shop has always focused on high quality, hand finished, high performance surfboards. As the industry moves more toward computer aided design, Timmy will still be found spending the majority of his time in the shaping bay and not in front of a screen. This doesn’t make him a throwback; this makes him one of the very best surfboard builders on the planet. It’s our privilege to work with him and to collaborate on this project.

See the T.Patterson for Hobie surfboards debut at The Boardroom Show May 14th & 15th in Del Mar California.

-Tracey Engelking