All surfers know about Clark Foam, a company that produced 90% of the foam blanks used in surfboard construction. Gordon ('Grubby') Clark started his company in the late 1950s and completely revolutionized the surfboard business. He made a quality product, economically, and provided superior customer service. His deliveries were always on time, and he made sure his customers were taken care of. His company was innovative, always striving to make the best product, and make good money for himself. One could compare the self-made Clark to Hank Reardon in many ways. Both had vision, pulled themselves by their bootstraps, used science and research for commercial gain, and fought with the authorities. Both had to navigate a series of roadblocks, and jump through hoops to do business the right way. For years, the government was trying to close Clark down because he did not fit the norm. Using environmental laws as the excuse, they finally drove him out of business through expensive threats. Clark could have fought to keep his business open at great cost, but instead chose to close it on his own terms, and go on strike.

Here's Gordon Clark's goodbye letter to his customers, suppliers and friends.

Since Clark Foam closed its doors a few years ago, after initial supply disruptions, the free market created opportunities for people to fill the niche. There are now as many surfboards being produced worldwide as ever. However, the production of many boards has been outsourced to a factory in China, 1200 miles from the ocean. Surfboards being built by people who have never seen the ocean, never ridden a wave. The surfboard blanks that are used in the USA for custom boards are, to quote my shaper friends, not of the same quality and consistency of Clark blanks. They are not, as a rule, produced in the USA any more, being imported from Third World countries. The manufacturers of the new blanks cut corners, produce inconsistent product, and have rotten customer service, in addition to the quality issues.

Gordon Clark is a rugged individualist who never asked for, nor gave, any quarter. He is a success and was punished for it. Some people refer to him as a real SOB but many more respect his vision. His problem, like that of everyone, is that the government is in the business of removing freedom, not protecting it. Clark should have been applauded for his beautiful business model. Instead his plant is in ruins.

Since Clark left the scene, surfboards just aren't the same. The market has placed a premium on used boards with a Clark Foam label as they sell for a higher price, all things considered, than a generic brand.


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