Walker Foam Inc. of Wilmington, Calif., has extended its polyurethane formulation and PU-blank molding capabilities into manufacturing entry-level surfboards.
``It was a big move for us going from selling surfboard blanks to selling a finished surfboard,'' said President Harold Walker. ``It changes our customer base from a handful of custom surfboard manufacturers to maybe 2,000 retail stores,'' with some expected to adopt private labels.
For the custom business, Walker Foam in May began rough-cutting blanks on an in-house-built, computer numerically controlled machine with carbide-tipped trim points. The firm now has programmed about 100 customer-generated shapes.
``We take their product, digitize it, make the [computer-aided-manufacturing] program and cut the part,'' he said in an interview at the Action Sports Retailer trade show, held Feb. 2-4 in Long Beach.
Shapers have used routers for more than a decade, machining one side at a time. Suction cups on Walker's CNC machine alternately hold each side for automated shaping.
Introduced at ASR, the entry-level finished boards in lengths of 6-11 feet will sell for $300-$500 through retail outlets.
Walker Foam employs 15 at facilities in Wilmington and San Pedro, Calif., and recorded 2001 sales of about $750,000.
In other show news, exhibitors displayed a range of new design features.
Surf Life LLC of Manhattan Beach, Calif., is marketing a 7-pound surfboard for children, made of a closed-cell foam copolymer. Automated compression molding of the 6-foot-4-inch-long Malibu Surfrider began in August.
``We make, package and ship boards from one facility,'' said founder and majority owner Matthew Murasko. ``We have manufacturing partners in France, Singapore and South America'' and anticipate production in Australia and Japan, he said. ``We make one surfboard every four minutes.''
Murasko calls the proprietary self-skinning copolymer Durafoam. Each board has a suspended wood stringer. In the spring, Surf Life plans to introduce a 7-foot-6-inch-long 11-pound Waikiki Surfrider model for teenagers and surfing schools.
Soft SurfBoards Inc. of Charleston, S.C., introduced a $200 rotational molded surfboard being manufactured by a plastics firm in Brazil. The 63-inch polyethylene structure is filled with foam from a small port in the back of the board. A 7-foot model will reach the market in April.
Last year, the firm sold 3,000 of its principal LiquidShredder-brand boards. Those boards, in five lengths, combine an expanded polystyrene foam board shrink wrapped in a heat-sealed heavy vinyl skin. No lamination occurs, so the skin flexes. Soft SurfBoards contracts with a firm in Peru to make the LiquidShredder boards. The Peru company developed the EPS-vinyl process for manufacturing body boards.
Soft SurfBoards had 2001 sales of $500,000, said Scott McClain, president.
Speeedfins of Alexandria, Australia, showed an injection molded carbon-ceramic fin designed to enhance a surfboarder's speed.
A single tab holds each fin in an embedded polycarbonate pot in the board. Trailing edges of a board's three fins flow freely with the water. Spring-loading into a turn results in more flex back, eliminating drag and increasing speed.
Co-designers Jim Banks and Graeme Davey developed Speeedfins over nearly a decade, and the product debuted in Australia in October, said Jodie Cooper, sales executive.