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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Build Your Own: The Foam E-Z Interview

Are you harboring a secret shaper? Do you look at your board and just know you could do it better? Is there a radical, flying inverted vee-bottom, cross channel, static wing, stand up board that just needs the right hands to make it a reality?

What you need to do is get out there and make yourself your own board. And if you want to do it right- all you need to do is give the crew at Foam E-Z a call. We were able to corral Brad Nadell the ringleader at Foam E-Z for a little Q and A session. Here's what we got:
Hey Brad, introduce yourself to the folks out in cyberspace.

Brad Nadell: Hi, I'm Brad Nadell, owner/president of Foam E-Z the ORIGINAL One-Stop Surfboard Supply Shop! I know you as part of the notorious HB/Seal crew- tell us about your surfing background.

B.N: I’ve been surfing on and off for more than thirty years (ouch). I grew up in Seal Beach, spending most of my early surfing years there. Tell me about Foam E-Z, how did it come to be, what's the back story?

B.N: I started with a partner, Steve Adler, who owned the thriving glass shop The Surfboard Factory. Foam E-Z really happened out of necessity. Everyone in the HB (Huntington Beach) area needed foam and they needed to be able to get it quickly. Basically, they wanted to be able to drive up and buy blanks. Steve had both the space and the customers. He just needed someone to run the biz- that turned out to be me. So was there a point when you got inspired to expand the business?

B.N: I wish I could say in 1993 I had one but I didn’t. At the time I was racing Mtn Bikes pretty seriously and the work schedule we set up fit perfectly with my race schedule. I was stoked. The early days were quite different than they are now though. Back then we sold foam primarily to professional board builders and had almost no tools for sale. As time went on we added tools, other materials, videos and books; the rest is history! I assume you stock some products that are hard to get- specialized tools that you've got to hunt around for...

B.N: Probably the biggest logistical nightmare at Foam E-Z is trying to procure niche items- tools used only for shaping surfboards. A lot of our items are custom built for us so we have many different vendors that we have to coordinate with...

P.Net: So give me an example of something really cool that you guys stock that you basically can't get anywhere else...

B.N: Hmm… I think it’s gotta be the CF03Planer. That thing was specifically designed to build surfboards. There’s really no other place to get it. So you started by selling foam only to professional shapers- things have changed now haven't they?

B.N: We definitely cater to the “home-builder” and first time hobbyist more now. We sell less foam but more of the peripheral stuff. The death of Clark foam affected us a little... about a difference of TEN THOUSAND blanks per year! I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to that number but we’ve reshaped our business plan to adapt with the ever changing situation in the surf industry.

P.Net: So let's get back to your customers. How would you describe your "standard customer"?

B.N: We sell to all ages, 12 to 75; pros to beginners; carpenters to chemists; so as you can see we don’t have a standard customer! There are guys that came to us way back in 1995 who were just learning to build boards. Some are still doing it, a few make them professionally. Here's a good one, in 1996 we were approached by a maximum security federal prison to buy product so their prisoners could make boards. I still to this day don’t understand how they let some of the tools we sent past the bars. More on this story in the future… Have you ever sold supplies to an amateur shaper who later went big time?

B.N: Yeah, we’ve had a few guys go “big time”. It’s hard to define “big time” nowadays since it seems the only guys that are really “big time” are Merrick, Rusty, and Lost. But we have a number of guys decide to build boards for a living and I think that’s “big time”. Any pro surfers come in for supplies?

B.N: Yeah, we get that all the time. Even pro surfers want to build their own boards now and then. So what about us- the dark-side guys, the janitors, the sweepers. Do you sell stuff for stand up paddlers?

B.N: The only thing different about a stand up board is its shear size. We have specific stand up blanks, extra wide cloth, and all the other tools and supplies you need to make your own stand up board. The shaping tools you'll need are standard inventory at our shop. So if I was interested in jumping in and shaping up my own board, what would be a good starting point?

B.N: Come down or call to get solid information. If you're just starting, ask a lot of questions from someone who knows what they're talking about- that's us. There is a ton of information on the web but not all of it is good. You can sift through it and you’ll probably come out with a decent understanding of the process. What's the most common mistake you see backyard builders make the first time they decide to make a board?

B.N: Sometimes people jump right in and get all the “pro” tools. Really, you don’t need them unless you are going to stay with the hobby- and build lots of boards. How about this one: A big concern with stand up paddlers is how to repair molded, Surftech style, boards when they get dings- do you have anything that specifically addresses that problem?

B.N: That’s tough since we try not to promote boards made overseas. We support boards made over here. So we don’t stock products to repair molded boards. Probably a bad business move- but we have to make a stand somewhere?! Fair enough- when are we going to get you on a stand up board?

B.N: That’s a tough one. Actually I’ve been on one a few times but I can’t see myself owning one for a while. I have to make some room to house it. Luckily I know a few people who can loan me their prototypes!

P.Net: Alright Brad, thanks a bunch for your time. Why don't you give us your contact information- you never know, there might be some future SUP kingpins out there.

B.N: No problem- we've got everything you need to build it your own way. You can find us on the web at the physical location of our shop is 6455 Industry Way Westminster, Ca. 92683. Thanks a lot. Also, I want to mention the boys at the shop: Grant, Rob, and Mark are “The Guys” that make Foam E-Z do it’s thing- thanks guys! Right on Brad- talk more soon!


Jeff Bach said...

great read!

John Ashley said...

Hey Jeff-

Glad you enjoyed that- those guys over at Foam E-Z rule... I'm almost tempted to try to build one of my own- except everything on it would come out asymetrical- and it'd be UGLY!

Thanks for the positive comment!

John Ashley said...


I just checked out your website... COOL STUFF- I'd love to paddlesome of your waters... on a stand up board!

Keep it up!