The complaint of past dreams: ‘People have walked on it for 120 years – now you will surf on it!’



There is something fascinating about old wood – maybe it is knowing that it used to exist. Usually one can only imagine the generations that touched it, the stories behind each thing or sign. But at Ventana Surfboards & Supplies, the stories of their reused wooden surfboards take center stage.

“Instead of saying, ‘This is a piece that I picked up in the dump’. [I can say] “People have been walking on it for 120 years – now you will surf on it!” Says Martijn Stiphout, who co-founded the company together with his marketing-savvy business partner David Dennis.


Design your own fin for a Ventana board

Ventana is currently running its Fin Artist Project, a competition that selects US-based artists (two of whom are high school ages or younger) to create artwork for Ventana’s fins (made from Alaskan yellow cedar and Western Flyer- Waste). A portion of the proceeds will be shared with the winners and donated to the Western Flyer Foundation for boat renovation. All entries must be submitted before August 24th. For information on design requirements and rules, see the details on the Ventana website.

As the designer behind the beautiful boards at Ventana, Stiphout spends his afternoons in his Aptos warehouse that has been converted into a studio, a space filled with the earthy smell of wood and surfboards of various shapes. On one side, planks are stacked from floor to ceiling, and everything – from rosewood and sequoia to laurel and black acacia – is associated with unique stories and locations.

Stiphout and his business partner have curated everything from yellow Alaskan cedar benches from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to boards from the Boardwalk’s historic Big Dipper. They also purchased wine barrels from a local vineyard, boards from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, scraps from a high-end guitar shop, and redwood floorboards from a historic Victorian mansion.

The Western Flyer, the stuff of the Hemmingway legend.

(via Ventana)

They did research to get their hands on some of the precious CZU wildfire materials that survived, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Her real claim to fame, however, is the hull of a fishing boat that was once chartered by Monterey-based and famous American author John Steinbeck.

But let’s rewind a few years. Although Steinbeck is best known for Grapes of Wrath, his published magazine The log from the Sea of ​​Cortez documents his six-week voyage on board the Western Flyer. His expedition with marine biologist Ed Ricketts to collect marine specimens along the Gulf of California raised environmental awareness in the United States … and this very ship happens to be the one Stiphout and Dennis got their hands on.


How in the world did they manage to acquire such a valuable piece of history? It is all thanks to John Gregg, the current owner and renovator of the Western Flyer. “He bought the boat as a complete wreck,” says Stiphout. “It sank three times, spent months and months under water, as many barnacles inside as outside. The Coast Guard eventually set it on fire and turned it into a channel marker for a while. “

Gregg rescued the boat from a real estate developer who planned to cut off the wheelhouse and put it in a bar in Salinas. But Gregg’s plan is to stay true to Steinbeck’s original mission and prepare it for educational and research cruises from Monterey Bay. “[John] brought it back to the shipyard where it was originally built in 1937, ”explains Stiphout. “You rebuild it with the original band saw. And the grandson of the original builder is converting the boat. “

When Gregg met Dennis at the Steinbeck Center, he offered to bring him some of the unsaved boards.

Steinbeck’s diary also has a special meaning for Stiphout and his own journey of self-discovery. “I made a personal connection [to Steinbeck] because I fell for this whole business the first time I went down the Sea of ​​Cortez with my father, ”he explains, saying that he started the trip shortly after realizing the need for a career change.

After studying at Monterey Bay State and working aboard a boat doing research and tagging great white sharks and jellyfish, he realized that marine biology was not the field for him. “The researchers didn’t work together,” he recalls. “They’re all cutthroat … they’re all kind of keeping it a secret so they can get the scholarship.”

While building wooden planks with his father during their retreat, he fell in love with the craft. He also read The log from the Sea of ​​Cortez for the first time.

Martijn Stiphout at work in Aptos.

Martin Stiphout at work in Aptos.

(via Ventana)

After building his boards out of an old barn that Stiphout shared with the rats, he met Dennis and the two determined to build a brand together. The craftsman fondly remembers many a “business meeting” on surfboards under the Capitola moon. Today Ventana has received considerable attention, featured in an episode of Starbucks’ “The Art of the Craft” and INSP Networks Handcrafted America.

And make these works of art Strictly speaking ride the waves? “You will probably never find one surfing a contest,” says Stiphout.

Less than 10% make it into the wilderness – the rest spend their comfortable life on the wall in the living room. “Yes, a lot of people buy them with the intention of surfing, even surfing once or twice. I often think the women close them when the board shows up, ”Stiphout chuckles.

David Dennis and Martijn Stiphout with a Western Flyer piece.

David Dennis and Martijn Stiphout with a Western Flyer piece.

(Via David Dennis)

What’s next on the board bucket list? Stiphout would love to find some Lignum Vitae, a rare wood of exceptional density used in industrial revolution machine parts and antique bowling balls.

Dennis is dying to get his hands on wood from the original Roaring Camp Railroad buildings, something connected to the California gold rush and anything salvaged from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.



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