Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nice Article in the Daily Pilot - Newport Beach newspaper

Updated: Friday, January 8, 2010 12:10 AM PST
My friend Kathy Escher has a teenage son, Kole, who surfs and she tells me about interesting things like a place where you can shape your own surfboard.

Foam E-Z near the Westminster Mall is a one-stop shop for any and all materials needed to make or repair surfboards. For professionals or do-it-yourselfers they have everything, including a shaping bay with all the tools, accessories, and help required to make your own board.

I had to check that out so I dropped by and was greeted by Grant Ramey. I introduced myself and explained why I was there.

“So, do you want to shape a board and write about it? he asked.

“Err, uh, me? Shape a surfboard?” I stuttered.

I hadn’t considered that. There are some things you inherently know just aren’t your strong suit and for me that includes making things with tools.

“Yeah, that would be cool,” I heard myself say.

So the game was on. It’s a busy place and Grant had customers so I cruised around the shop. A few minutes later, Foam E-Z’s proprietor, Brad Nadell, arrived and we talked for a while.

He started the business in 1993 as an alternative source of foam blanks for shops that had a hard time meeting the minimum orders required by Clark Foam, which for many years held a virtual monopoly.

Clark’s stunning decision to abruptly close up shop, and the repercussions still felt throughout the surfing industry is a story in itself, but Nadell had to adapt and change the business dynamic. Today their focus is more toward the hobbyist and outstanding customer service is their edge.

Brad helped me pick out a blank for my first effort. He steered me toward a “second” which works just fine but has a cosmetic flaw. They cost a lot less and are a good idea for novices.

He and Grant told me that coming up with a template for drawing the outline on the blank is an important first step. I went home and flailed unsuccessfully, so when I returned for my shaping session I used one of my boards and their templates to make the outline.

Then I had to cut out the shape with a hand saw. I did an OK job although there were a couple of wrinkles.

The next step was truing things up using a Surform plane. Luckily I had Grant as a consultant or it would have been a disaster.

I started removing material from the top and bottom using a planer. None of this is easy if you’re not used to it and the planer can do some damage so I went back to the Surform and some heavy sand paper.

That’s as far as I got during my first session. I came away with something that looks more like a surfboard than a coffee table so I’m calling it a success. There’s a lot more shaping to be done so we’ll see how it turns out.

I have a new appreciation for the skill that went into my custom made boards. My Foam E-Z experience was great — drop by or look up www.foamez.com.

Daily Pilot article