The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: eco

A Surfboard Made from John Steinbeck’s House? Ventana Surfboards and Supplies Brings Historic California Back to Life in Their Upcycled Products


Ventana’s stunning 6’0″ Cannery Row – made from wood that once adorned John Steinbeck’s cottage in Pacific Grove. Image courtesy Ventana Surfboards and Supplies.

I was first introduced to Ventana Surfboards and Supplies when they contacted me to be their November featured author for The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival. The company is located in Santa Cruz, California – near my old Monterey Bay stomping grounds; a place near and dear to my heart.

When I started poking around their Web site, I was floored by the stunning beauty of their surfboards. All wood, with intricate designs, alternating inlays and a spot of pearlescence, from abalone shell. But quickly I learned that Ventana, is far more than a simple surfboard and supplies manufacturer. They’re bringing new life to old wood, through upcycling – an ecofriendly use of materials that have already served another purpose and would otherwise be thrown away. As an example, check out their recent show-stopper board made of wood panels, from the cottage of famous Cannery Row author, John Steinbeck.

Ventana Surfboards is the brainchild of Martijn Stiphout and David Dennis, who built the company with sustainability at its heart and a message of eco-responsibility echoed throughout the local community. Stiphout is the master craftsman and board design visionary and David drives sales, marketing and surf supply innovation.

I had a chance to catch up with the busy duo, as they prepare for a full calendar of events leading up to the holidays. Their expanding on-line shop sells not only surfboards and supplies, but recycled and repurposed products ranging from t-shirts to the Save A Surf wax box.  


Handmade handplanes in action. Image courtesy Ventana Surfboards and Supplies.

Carolyn Sotka: How did this John Steinbeck project and product unfold?

David Dennis: John Steinbeck is one of the great American authors. He even won the Nobel Prize for literature. We’re really excited to have old growth redwood from his first house. I was on a panel talking to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Teen Conservation Leaders about sustainable business practices. I mentioned our Upcycle Partner Program and how we’re turning “trash” from local companies into surfboards and surf supplies. One of the adult volunteers at the aquarium, René Gaudette, came up to me afterwards and said he was working on the restoration of Steinbeck’s house with Houstons Home Improvement & Repair. He asked if he could donate the wood to us. I was speechless! We now have a few larger planks and some smaller pieces, even a board from Steinbeck’s bathroom! You can still see the cutout where his medicine cabinet used to be!


Martijn Stiphout at work in the Ventana shop. Image courtesy Ventana Surfboards and Supplies.

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How a ‘Bubble Curtain’ Will Protect Marine Life When San Francisco’s Bay Bridge Is Demolished


It would appear that this might be the greatest lengths any demolition project has ever approached in order to save a population of smelt, and that is why we love San Francisco. Gif file:

This fall, before 9072 tons of dynamite are detonated, likely this month, when waters are believed to be least teaming with fish and mammals, a diffusion of bubbles will be cast around the bridge in order act as an alarm, hopefully dispersing and deterring wildlife from the area. An audio recording will also be played in hopes of warding off birds, too.

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Waterworld: This Is How Cities Around the World Might Look After 2-4°C (3.6-7.2 °F) of Global Warming

“The future… The polar ice caps have melted, covering the earth with water. Those who survived have adapted, to a new world.”

Climate Central‘s peer-reviewed projections should business resume “as usual”, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. In summation, Lower Manhattan may want to start garnering gondolas and building floating docks, or it may just be time to head for the Colorado Rockies, build an ark, and wait for Waterworld to begin.

Check out these interactive images that show the drastic difference in sea level rise by a mere 2° celsius (click the tab in the middle of the screen and slide it back and forth.)

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Is Kelp the New Kale, Omega-3 Supplement, Snack, Animal Feed, Bacon – or even Gasoline?


Illustration of Bren Smith’s 3-D ocean farm. Image from

There is a revolving door in global markets for food fads. Coconut water and related products have become a billion-dollar industry. Kale, in the ‘chip’ form alone, made about two hundred million dollars last year. But there is a new contender that is gaining in popularity, sneaking up on a number of different food products and may turn out to be far more than just a fad – seaweed.

I’ve always been fascinated with seaweed, especially since my husband is an ecologist who studies algae, and I’ve worked with him on several studies, as well as in the aquaculture world. So last week’s article by Dana Goodyear  in The New Yorker was especially interesting

The article laid out the future of seaweed on the American plate – “A New Leaf: Seaweed Could be a Miracle Food—If We Can Figure Out How to Make it Taste Good”. In the article, Goodyear explores all the potential roads to success for the ‘sea vegetable’, especially against the backdrop of seaweed as a carbon negative crop; as a conservation measure to restore seaweed habitat and the thousands of marine species that rely on it, and as a way to mitigate impacts of run-off due to the fantastic ability of seaweed to absorb nitrogen and phosphorus.

Goodyear features Bren Smith – a fisherman turned entrepreneurial ocean farmer, who wants to bring sustainable seaweed and shellfish to a table near you. Smith is a lifelong commercial fisherman, who turned to aquaculture as a way to restore jobs for out of work fishermen, and help hedge against climate change, while creating an environmentally-friendly farm that has zero inputs.


Kelp harvest. Image from at Thimble Island Ocean Farm.

Thimble Island Ocean Farm, off Stony Creek, Connecticut is the equivalent of 3-acres of ocean surface and 6 feet in depth. Smith’s approach has been a multi-trophic and integrated ocean farm, which means numbers of different species are raised in the same area. In addition to seaweed, Smith also harvests marine invertebrates including mussels, scallops, and clams. His farm is self-sustaining and he told The New Yorker that, “…The farm is a reef for hundreds of species. This is what you want to see. This is good, restorative ocean farming.”

For an in-depth, 2014 Scuttlefish interview with Smith check out: Life in Salt: A Talk with Bren Smith, Owner of Thimble Island Oysters and Long Island Sound’s First Vertical 3D Ocean Farm.

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What to Do with Tens of Thousands of Discarded Life Vests Piling Up in the Greek Isles?

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Screenshot from the BBC’s video clip taken from Lesbos.

An estimated three-quarters of a million migrants have made the shores of Europe this year alone, mostly in the Greek Islands bordering Turkey. As a result, “tens of thousands” of lifejackets, the BBC reports lie along the shores of islands including Lesbos, where fishermen now say the waters are so clogged that they can’t even manage to fish.

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Screenshot from the BBC’s video clip taken from Lesbos.

Unfortunately, these mountains of nylon, plastic and foam are presenting a far greater, long-term dilemma. Some are calling them an “ecological timebomb”, but, according to the BBC, authorities say they don’t have the capacity to “dispose” of the safety vests.

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How to Farm Fish Without Killing the Planet


Photo: Ocean Farm Technologies.

Aquaculture has been the world’s fastest-growing food sector for several decades, and some argue it is the only feasible answer to the predicament of trying to feed a growing global population that is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.

And they have a point. Since the 1970s, roughly half of the world’s fish and seafood harvested for human consumption has been farmed, and in 2011, aquaculture exceeded global beef production for the first time in history.

But how can it be done without introducing pathogens (as well has hormones and potential toxins, like antibiotics) and depleting the ocean of precious oxygen and nutrients?

While there appears to be plenty of space in the ocean for the industry to expand, many, if not most of these farms lie in lakes and near-coastal waterways where, if not properly managed, they pose a serious threat to the surrounding environment.


Graphic: Dr. George Pararas-Carayannis.

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“Release All the Big Ones.” Night Diving with Giant Spiny Lobsters off Southern California.

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“Got a nice eight-pound lobster here. Release all the big ones.” That’s not something you’re likely to hear anywhere in the world (regarding lobster, at least). Screenshot from video below.

Spiny lobster (or cray, as they’re known here in New Zealand) let their guards down and stray from their holes at night, when foraging along the open seafloor is relatively safer for them. Most lobsters you’ll find off Southern California will be around two pounds or so, but this crew of divers has found a honey hole.

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Sharks of the Bay, An Evening with Experts at San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay


Image: The Bay Institute.

There’s been a lot of talk about the recent footage of a white shark tearing apart a seal off Alcatraz, but did you know that there are about seven species of sharks that regularly visit San Francisco Bay, all of whom serve critical roles in the ecosystem?

Close out Sharktober with the Aquarium of the Bay on October 29th for an evening short films, photography and lectures on San Francisco Bay’s sharks by David McGuire (Shark Stewards) and Michael Grassmann (Aquarium of the Bay).

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