The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: fun

Farewell from Raw Paua and the Land Under Down Under.


Live Dinner and Raw Paua. Photo: Pauline Nobels. Courtesy of Owen James Burke.

As the crew of the good ship Scuttlefish sets sail for new horizons, Raw Paua and I have but a handful of weeks left to spend in this fine South Sea summer. We’re not quite sure where we’ll roam, but it’s safe to say we won’t trudge too far from the sea or her foam.

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Wish You Were Here: Endless Rights on Frozen Nights, New Zealand

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

This quiet little cove lights up but a few times every winter, but when it does–provided the sandbar is well-situated–it produces what I won’t hesitate to call a world-class wave, which is why I wouldn’t dare say where it is. That, and despite its size, it can be a deceptively critical wave. A conveyor-belt ebb tide running along the rocks to the right is what holds its 100 yard long perfection; it’s not the swells that threaten to swamp you–they’re generally no bigger than head-high–but the fearsome outgoing tide.


You can never really see how the surf’s breaking from the top of the hill, but when the bay is this cloudy, it’s a safe bet that you won’t be going spearfishing. Photo: Owen James Burke.

After careering over several icy passes on dirt roads, it didn’t even cross my mind to take the time to watch for rips and unseemly rocks lying under the takeoff zone. I’d gone spearfishing here more times than I could count. Arrogantly, I told myself I knew this bay well enough to paddle out effectively blind–I’d never seen in producing surf.

A more astute human being–and any seasoned surfer–might have taken the twenty minutes to learn this seascape, but when surfing and traveling alone, the voice of reason is wont to escape us.

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Muralist Alexis Diaz Brings Ocean Creatures to Life in Cities Around the World


London, England. Mural by Alexis Diaz.

Puerto Rican muralist Alexis Diaz  brings mythical, ocean-dwelling creatures to life on urban building canvases around the world. These ocean hybrids grace the walls from Paris to Vienna and London to Miami.


Vienna, Austria.Mural by Alexis Diaz.


Paris, France. Mural by Alexis Diaz.

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Wish You Were Here: Titirangi Bay, Cook Strait, New Zealand

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand in a camper van with a camera, surfboard and speargun in search of stories, waves and fish. We’re putting together a waterperson’s guide to the island nation, but meanwhile, we’ll be publishing stories and photographs, short updates along the way from the Yankee in Kiwiland. -CD


Photo: Owen James Burke.

It’s a long dirt and gravel road full of hairpin switchbacks to the outer Marlborough Sounds, but the view alone is well worth the journey, even in a tired old truck such as Raw Paua.


Photo: Owen James Burke.

These are the old whaling grounds of the European settlers, who built lookout stations on the tops of these hills in order to spot the abundance of sperm and humpback whales passing through the Cook Strait. Whaling in New Zealand came to an end in 1964, but some of the stations still stand today. They’re a long hike out, but recommended. Leave the spear at home.


Listen to the Song of the Wind and Waves – Played by the Incredible Sea Organ of Zadar, Croatia


The Sea Organ. Photo by The Real Croatia.

Located on the shores of Zadar, Croatia, a monotonous sea wall erected after World War II was transformed into the world’s first pipe organ that plays music using wind and waves. Designed by Nikola Bašić in 2005, the architectural instrument has a system of polyethylene tubes and a resonating cavity, underneath a set of large marble steps.

The Sea Organ is 230 ft. long and narrow crevices are carved into the steps that lead to organ pipes. When the waves lap against the steps, air is pushed through the pipes to make enchanting, unrehearsed and gentle sounds – similar to a wind chime.

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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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Lessons in Boating: So This Is Why My Father Told Me Never to Buy an Aluminum Boat.

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand in a camper van with a camera, surfboard and speargun in search of stories, waves and fish. We’re putting together a waterperson’s guide to the island nation, but meanwhile, we’ll be publishing stories and photographs, short updates along the way from the Yankee in Kiwiland. -CD


Don’t ever buy an aluminum boat with rivets. This is never a good sight, but I must admit it evoked comical imagery from my Disney and Looney Toon-watching days. Word to the wise: A cork or partially chewed gum may work in the cartoons, but it most certainly does not work on an aluminum boat in the Pacific Ocean. Photo: Owen James Burke.

I promised I’d buy myself something classic for my seaward adventures in New Zealand. Something wooden, open-sea-worthy. Timeless. Big sweeping lines with a tall, sheer bow, ready for any swell the South Seas might throw her way. Instead, I ended up with a small, leaky tin boat. I suppose I got what I had coming.

We used to call those “fizzies”, my dad replied when I wrote to report that I’d purchased an old aluminum boat.


Yes, the entire deck of my poor, neglected skiff doubles as a livewell and petting tank. At least my mussels, abalone and sea urchins can stay fresh. Photo: Owen James Burke.

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Friendship Lures a Penguin Back to a Brazil – Year After Year


Screenshot from video by Paul Kiernan/The Wall Street Journal.

In 2001, a bricklayer living on the southeast coast of Brazil was met with a surprise outside of his beach shack – a Megallanic penguin lying at his doorstep, covered in oil. After cleaning and caring for the penguin, it returned to sea, and was presumably gone forever. But since then, the penguin nicknamed JingJing has returned year after year to visit his savior while feeding in the warmer waters off Brazil before migrating back to the breeding grounds off southern Argentina. It’s a remarkable friendship that would make anyone wonder about the sentience of these brilliant little birds.

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