The End of Foam & Fiberglass Wave Skis?

I was just in the Infinity Surf shop this afternoon, speaking with Steve Boehne, and as was reported, Clark Foam has totally shut down, leaving the surfing industry in a state of total chaos. With over 80% of the world’s foam blanks coming out of Clark, essentially the industry will come to a screeching halt until new sources can be developed, or emerging technologies can evolve. The price for boards and skis currently in the racks, is already climbing dramatically… driven by the laws of supply and demand.

But there is good news!! As of this past weekend, Infinity rolled out a brand new high-tech wave ski based on the production process developed by SurfTech. The classic Stinger design is available in a 9’6" x 27" model and a 9’ x 24" model. These unique creations feature an adjustable foot bed that will fit a person of almost any height. The core material is super-light weight, and best of all, the unit will be considerably more durable then traditional foam and fiberglass models.

The SurfTech construction method has proven very successful for building surf boards. Infinity will be the first to incorporate the approach into building wave skis. The price will be very comparable to the hand-shaped Infinity foam and fiberglass skis.

According to Steve, we probably have seen the last of boards and skis constructed in the manner pioneered by Hobie Alter and Clark Foam back in 1961. Word to the wise…if you have a line on a previously owned Infinity wave ski…best to move on it now! It will become a collector’s item in short order.

An article with photos covering the new Infinity/SurfTech wave ski will appear soon on

Are they like the soft surfboards?

I was kinda thinking about getting a Softie long board.

Hard Shelled
They are hard shelled and look exactly like the foam and fiberglass models. If one didn’t know the construction process, you wouldn’t be able to distinguish it from the classic Infinity skis…with the exception of the unique adjustable foot bed. They are beautifully finished and carry some really nice graphics.

Softies… Ain’t That What I Saw
at Santa Cruz with the Rotomod models they had out there?

Not really a factor

– Last Updated: Dec-07-05 8:27 PM EST –

Almost all, hi performance wave skis are made with open cell Styrofoam/epoxy that is still available every is not the polyurethane type foam Cark was blowing.
The Clark foam is/was too heavy for the really light 12-15 lb skis. This should have no effect on the vast majority of ski builders.

As far as Randy French and SurfTech...he was involved in building sail boards back in the 80's and 90's under the Sea Trend name. He had some bad problems with delaminating for a while...but seems to have incorporated some techniques from the more forward thinking custom shapers and moved past the problem. The technique he is using is well proven in the custom windsurfing arena.

It made a huge impact when Keith Notary ("Clam Sandwich" Brand) started to develop epoxy sandwich construction. Tem Berkstressor was also making some super light strong sandwich boards under the "Berky board" label. As well as Hypertech out in the Columbia River gorge. These three guys were way out in least here in the U.S.

Randy always appeared to have a larger vision. While the three innovators were content to build custom race boards for the top pro windsurfers, French went for a bigger market. You have to give him credit...he is now poised to take a huge leap towards market domination with the demise of Clark foam.

The Surf Tech method along with all like Epoxy sandwich construction has been a better method for about 20 years, but the entrenched Polyester/Clark foam oriented industry never allowed it a strong foot hold. Now ...overnight everything is going to change.


Like Bic surfboards?
Looking forward to your article on sopsa site.

Is probably one of the few Ski builders that used Clark foam.


That Was What I Was Thinking…
But it got really confusing when folks started throwing terms like open cell EPS, closed cell, Polyester (gel coat) vs epoxy resin, etc.

Monitoring some of the offshore sites, I haven’t cued in to the same level of angst that’s been pumping in these 24 hours around our shores.


More like a giant Boogie Board with plastic on the bottom and soft foam on top.

One thing about board surfing I hated was getting hit on the chin with the hard boards if you take a peak straight ahead and a wave hits

but i bet with tne new infinity it’ll be like with the epoxy surfboards: they just don’t float the same in the water. my g-force is epoxy and it’s really pretty corky. you can’t compare that ski to the infinty – they’re different machines – but you can definitely tell the difference b/ polyester and epoxy. in a sense i like them both but if i had to pick one it’d be the poly. the extra weight and the glide you get with it is beyond compare.

like jlk said, if you’ve got a line on an infinity now’s the time to seal the deal. i guarantee you you’ll be happy. and if you aren’t, i’ll buy the ski off you just like that!

Not too difficult…foam 101

– Last Updated: Dec-09-05 4:34 PM EST –

Open cell Styrofoam (EPS) (Expanded Polystyrene)is the bead type foam that you see at Home Depot, Lowes ETC...It can be had in large blocks so it doesn’t have to be laminated together. Usually one pound density (one pound per cubic foot) if the fiberglass skin is punctured this foam will suck up water almost like a sponge. You can only use Epoxy with this foam. Often covered with a cross linked PVC foam like Divinycell or Klegecell to form a strong stiff sandwich. Open cell is the lightest weight is even made at .5 lb density.

Closed cell Styrofoam (XEPS)(Extruded Polystyrene)is like the Dow Blue insulation foam, Dow use to make a dedicated 2 lb version of this in white for the surf/sailboard industry. They quite making it in the late 90's if I remember correctly. It doesn't absorb water like the open cell does if the skin is punctured. Again epoxy must be used. It produced a lighter board than most Clark foam and resisted pressure dings and delaminating better than Clark or Open cell EPS. Not as light as Open cell or Open cell/divinycell sandwich. Hard to shape.

Clark foam is polyurethane foam (PUR)somewhat like the foam you pour into boats for flotation. The color is different, the cell structure and density is different...but it's in that family. It doesn't absorb water too quickly but it does absorb some water. It can be glassed with epoxy or polyester resin. Standard Surfboards use polyester because of cost and the fact the build process can speed along faster with polyester. A good pro shaper can shape a short board in 15 min with a Clark such luck with the other foams.
It came in at least three different densities Super Light, Super Blue, Super Green.

I am surprised to hear you like the poly/Clark foam board better…the first Epoxy Sandwich sailboard I built ruined me for life…you couldn’t pay me to get on a polyester Surfboard, Sailboard, or Wave Ski…but hey it’s cool you like them…our difference make for an interesting world. It’s all good.

Dumb question:
Way back in the '50s, when surfers started building boards from glass & polyester resin, did they not use EPS blanks? If so, why the admonition about needing to ues epoxy with EPS?


inquiring minds and all that

Right on Waterratt … Sea Trend
IMO had the best shapes back then but the construction was lacking … strong but lots of filler and glassing not implemneted so great.

Hi-Per Tech Gary something …( not Hi Tech) was way way ahead with the Divincell decked and bottom ‘hollow’ boards with solid glass rails and a floating I beam in the middle. He even was using 7781 glass and bagging the components. They also blew their own styrene blanks for the wave boards. For anyone reading this, they also had a valved board that one could ever so slightly CHANGE the BOTTOM on with supplied pump ! And they held up too.

I can remember bringing in sections to builder for them to see, but I just don’t think they got it.

The surf ( board ) industry is hung up in the good ole boy days of stringers and generic glass. Will be interesting to watch them ‘catch up’. Twisting in the wind for a while.

New Manufacturing Processes W/CNC
that are being discussed on may actually mean more high quality waveskis at probably reasonable prices.

The kink in this is that if surf kayaking is small, waveskiing is even smaller. May not have enough demand for a distributer.


Answer to Jim

– Last Updated: Dec-09-05 3:05 PM EST –

EPS (Expanded Poly Styrene) is what is commonly called Styrofoam. What the Surfboard Board manufactures have been using for the vast majority of boards is Polyurethane Foam. They are two different products.

The first surfboard I made was back in 1968 (just turned 14 years old)…right when the short board revolution was happening. I didn’t have a source for Polyurethane blanks that I could afford, so I made it out of Sheet Styrofoam from our local lumber yard (good to have a dad who was a contractor ...LOL) the only source I found for epoxy was Sears and Roebucks …don’t laugh…it worked…here I didn’t even know how to surf but I had the most state of the art board in town…a 6’-10” pin tail when every one else were on 9’6” logs…LOL

So it was there but no one was using it…plus the Epoxy back then was thick, brown, very rubbery, and had a terrible alimine blush.


The fun part about custom Surfboards, sailboards, or wave skis is the variety…as your skill progresses and you are able to feel how the board responds, you can tweak it towards what is best for your style…moving closer to “your perfection" every time you move on to a new one.

A molded board is always going to be a compromise…something for the masses…LOL Instead of the board adapting to you…you must adapt to the board…which is fine when you are just starting out because you don’t have a clue of what does what…but after you get it figured out, the board of the masses will feel like it’s inhibiting your creativity on the wave.

That is were building them yourself really pays off. If you don’t count your time, you can build three skis for what you pay for one new. Most die hard surf junkies can easily justify experimenting a little with $250.00-$300.00


The CNC Processes…
are not molded. Just CNC to shape the foam and then epoxy glass.

Still looking too work on my own. Exciting part, one of my surfing buddy, who has already made two prototype glass surf boats, is also thinking of taking a cut at making a ski. It’ll be interesting!


I like my 7’10"x24.5" Island waveski. Well, at least, I can go through decent breakzone without getting creamed and trashed. Just want more speed and carve on that baby. I’ll work off that for a version with more aggressive rails.

I ain’t a shaper. So working off some existing guideline is a good start for me.


If you looked into it you would find most of these advancements came from the windsurfing arena. Surfing community has always been rather stubborn when it comes to embracing new technology. There has been a hard line that has held that if it’s not Clark/polyester its crap.

When windsurfing became popular it brought forth a new cliental…one that was a little older for the most part and had a lot more money to spend. Think about it…one carbon fiber mast, or one set of carbon booms, or one small sail costs more than a custom polyester surfboard. Take together a $1,500 board, a $500 mast, $500 set of booms, a $65.00 Universal Joint, 4 foot straps $120, one sail @ $600, and a G-10 Epoxy fin for $150 and you can see there was a lot more money at stake to chase technology. That’s just one rig and you are looking at $3,435.00 and most core windsurfer have 2-3 boards , 2-4 masts and a quiver of 5-6 sails that are replaced every1-2 years. It has been a very technology driven sport. Yes some of the ideas and processes had been around for a while, but until the windsurfing industry got a hold of it and made practical use of new materials and techniques it was pretty much dead in the water.

All this stuff, Epoxy Sandwich is nearly 20 years old, there was pro windsurfer from New Zealand writing CNC programs for board design and shaping over 10 years ago. It is exciting to see these things finally get an opportunity to show the surfing world there is life after “Clark” and it’s a darn good one at that.