The Urethane Blog

Ten Years After

Corky Carroll: The father of foam, 10 years after the blast


John Davis, left, the first captain of the Huntington Beach High School surf team in 1967; and Gordon "Grubby" Clark, founder of Clark Foam and former maker of surfboard blanks, chat as they are inducted into the Surfer's Hall of Fame Friday in front of Huntington Surf & Sport. MARK RIGHTMIRE, , MARK RIGHTMIRE, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

It’s been a little more than 10 years since the surfboard industry, and the surfing world in general, was rocked by the news that Laguna Niguel-based surfboard blank manufacturer Clark Foam was closing.

This was about as devastating as it could get for surfboard builders. Clark Foam was by far the biggest and most important producer of surfboard foam known to man. Not only was Clark Foam the main supplier, but it also had the best molds and latest formulas.

Gordon “Grubby” Clark and Hobie Alter of Hobie Surfboards began experimenting with polyurethane foam as a new material to make surfboards in the mid-1950s. Once foam became the material of choice, Alter set Clark up in business producing foam for the entire surfboard industry.

By the early 2000s, Clark Foam was a mega company, and running it became a challenge. The constant changes in codes and restrictions were a nightmare to keep up with, and the costs and hassles of redoing everything whenever one of these changes came about, which seemed to be all the time, became too much.

Clark finally said, “To heck with it.” He had made all the money he needed and had no reason to keep the company going. So one day he closed the doors and said “adios.”

There was a period when nobody knew what was going to happen and whether the surfboard industry would survive. People started gearing up to make foam almost immediately, the biggest problem being that Clark had all the good molds, and duplicating them would be a challenge.

The industry survived, but a result of Clark Foam closing was that surfboard prices went way up. This was a good thing for surfboard builders. As things were, nobody could make any money building boards because the prices were too low and there was no profit margin. Even the biggest board builders just got by.

So, what many saw as certain death to the industry turned out to be new life.

One of the cool things to have was a Clark Foam T-shirt. Clark made these only for the shapers who used his foam and for his friends. When he closed up, he gave the rights to produce the T-shirts to Orange County local Allan Seymour.

I just found out that Seymour is making up a new batch for Father’s Day gifts. So if you want to grab a collector’s item, check them out at I have one in my collection.