Rough surf
A key supplier closes shop, and many board shapers and small retailers now face choppy waters.
By Maggie Overfelt, FSB contributor

NEW YORK (FORTUNE Small Business Magazine) - A surfing icon for more than 30 years, Clark Foam supplied nearly 90% of the foam cores used domestically to make custom surfboards.

So when the Laguna Niguel, Calif., company suddenly closed shop on Dec. 5, blaming government agencies for trying to shut it down, many independent board shapers and small retailers faced choppy waters.

"People are scrambling," says Brent Hudson, owner of Neptune Surfboards, based in Pacifica, Calif. "Overnight, our No. 1 source is gone."

Shapers who can't afford imported foam are out of business or unable to fill orders. Many retailers are limiting sales to one board per customer or doubling prices, anticipating a shortage until spring, when new U.S. suppliers are expected to emerge.

Randy French, founder of Surftech in Santa Cruz, Calif. (see Wave Maker in the September FSB), among the few manufacturers using resin rather than foam, has seen a temporary spike in sales. "Hopefully there will now be room for a variety of new boards and technology," he says.


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