No, not Clark Mountain, but I got your attention right? That reminds me, I got an email from Ethan Pringle recently who said he’s pumped to get back up there and give that cave some big love next year. Soo coool. And on that note, I want to take this time as well to congratulate Dave Mac on his resent ascent of ‘The Walk of Life’ E9. An ascent of an E9 is usually not very newsworthy, but when its original grade was E12, well then perhaps it garners some attention. And attention it has. Climbing Mag, Climbing Narc, Climbing this and Climbing that have already sprung at the chance to report all the juicy details I’m sure, so I will spare you, but when it comes to this sort of experience, it’s always much better to get the report from the mouth of those standing on the summit. Check out Dave’s blog, he’s done a fantastic job with his write up.
Okay, so moving on to the Clark Shutdown, it’s 8:00 am and the coffee is just now starting to kick in. Wink.
Not all of you are going to know what Clark Foam is, so I will attempt to recap. Clark Foam, was founded in 1961 by a man named Gordon Grubby Clark. What Clark Foam did was manufacture and distribute foam surfboard blanks for shapers and carvers around the world. In fact, Clark grew to the point where they owned a monopoly on the market. They settled on rigid polyurethane as the material for their blanks and ran this business for decades.
However, all of this came to a screeching halt (literally) on December 5th, 2005 when Clark Foam abruptly stopped answering phone calls and emails. No one could reach them, they were cut off from the world overnight. Surfboard companies all over the world began to panic. When visitors went to headquarters all they found was a chained gate. Everything was locked and shut down. The reason for this unexpected closure was due to harassment by government agencies and eventual legalities issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency citing the materials too toxic for production.
Now imagine this. A premier surfboard manufacturer being shut down by the Environmental Protection Agency. Sounds to me like a paradox of sorts. Aren’t surfers supposed to be one with their environment?
Aren’t climbers as well? I mean, shit, aren’t all people and all businesses?
For those in the know, some of the same toxins that go into surfboards also go into climbing holds. A few years ago I looked into starting my own hold company, because I loved route setting and training for climbing and I thought it would be a great way to earn a living, until I looked into what goes into plastic holds; Silicone and rubber, polyurethane, paint, dye’s, casting, thickening agents, resin, catalysts, fiberglass, microfibers, not fun stuff…etc…etc… and I just couldn’t feel good about working with all these materials everyday. In fact, did you know that all the large hold companies now manufacture their products in China? And one company founder in Canada was forced to outsource his pouring due to a mysterious allergy to the ingredients? YIKES. I realized I would have to wear a rubber suit and an oxygen tank on my back to work with these materials.
But climbing is fun, surfing is fun. Surely something can be done.
Since Clark Foam shuttered, surfboard manufacturing has been inundated with new and innovative materials, such as carbon-fiber, hollow blanks, and new “Flex” materials used by other various companies. Also, there has been a small resurgence of wood. Wood shapers and wood riders are coming back to the sport they love and are realizing the joy of surfing is not just in the high tech materials or all the extra bells and whistles, it’s in the water, playing with the waves, the way it’s been done for hundreds of years.
So, check out one of my inspirational figures, Tom Wegener. This guy decided on a way of life that would work for him and he set out to make it happen. He now lives in Australia with wife and kids and shapes wooden surfboards for anyone who wants to buy them. Read a good interview here. He even makes some boards without any glassing at all called Alaia’s. And he’s not the only one, there are now a slew of wooden surfboard shapers around the world, from the boys in Maine called GRAIN, Timberline in California, even a guy here in Pemberton, BC builds boards for the cold coast. It’s amazing and I can’t help but get pulled into the worlds of so many amazing people working with their hands. When I see something that inspires me, I feel the need to share.
So, uh, yah, I just wanted to share that. Happy climbing or uh, surfing or whatever it is you do.