The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: gear

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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“The Ocean is a Scary Beautiful Place.” Life in Salt: Karim Iliya on Travel, Photography and Flying Drones Over the Red Sea for His Upcoming Freediving Documentary

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“For me, it’s about seeing things, and the camera is just a machine. I just use that machine to show people how I view existence.” Photo: Krannichfeld Photography/Courtesy of Karim Iliya.

At just 24 years old, British-born Maui-based photographer and videographer Karim Iliya’s curiosity has led him around the globe by sea, sky and land, to which his vast range of subjects are testament. He’s trekked the Arctic, dived into a humpback whale brawl off Tonga, and filmed a volcanic eruption in Guatemala. You might not believe it from his age, but the list goes on.

Ten years ago, when Karim first started with a point-and-shoot camera, his dream was to travel the world taking photographs. Today, he’s a wizard behind the lens, and a masterful drone pilot. We caught up with him in China, on his way to North Korea, where he’s hoping he might be allowed to boot up his camera.

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Manda: Cyrus Sutton’s New Organic, Coral-Reef-Conscious Sun Paste


Photo: Simple by Nature.

Each year, something like 5,000 tons of sunblock washes off swimmers and over coral reefs. Ingredients like Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, which are commonly found in mass-produced sunscreens (and as the FDA declared several years ago are inactive and effectively useless), blanket reefs and kill algae, thereby “bleaching” or killing coral too.

Using eight bio- and food-safe ingredients, surfer and filmmaker Cyrus Sutton has teamed up with a few friends to bring us Manda Organic Sun Paste (Kickstarter campaign launching October 1st).

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The Wanderlust of #Vanlife – A Sublime Video from The Atlantic Perfectly Encapsulates Why I Drive a VW Van. And Why You Should – or Shouldn’t.


Screen grab from The Wanderlust of #Vanlife video from The Atlantic. 

The friendships, the adventures, the breakdowns, the stories, the memories with my wife and kids. Here’s to keeping planned obsolescence at bay – courtesy of a terrific video from The Atlantic. 

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Kingii: This New Inflatable Wristband Probably Won’t Save Your Life, But It’s a Nice Idea.


Kingii, a new concept for a lifesaving flotation device is drawing a lot of interest on Indiegogo and has already raised nearly half a million dollars in funding (almost 10 times its goal), but we were skeptical as to whether or not the tiny wristband could hold the potential to save a life out on the water, above or beneath the waves.

We enlisted the expertise of Scuttlefish friend and veteran open-water lifesaver Jonathan Hoover–who has rescued some of the world’s top watermen (including professional big wave surfer Greg Long). We asked him what he thought about this new device, and he told us that while it’s a nice idea, it doesn’t hold much (above) water.


OJB: Jonathan, what do you think about this new product on Indiegogo, Kingii, “the world’s smallest flotation device”? These guys have sure raised a lot of money, but I think there are obvious shortcomings. You’re supposed to attach this gadget to your wrist, which wouldn’t really help keep your air passages above water once deployed, especially if you were unconscious.

Jonathan Hoover: The problems are fairly obvious. This clearly requires a conscious person to deploy it. I think you nailed it when you talk about location being a problem. Someone who deploys this in a conscious state is likely to be exhausted by the time they deploy it. With that in mind, you can see how it could be problematic trying to hold yourself up by your wrist to keep your airway above water. From the standpoint of deploying this product, I like the wrist, primarily because it is easily accessible unless there is an entrapment issue. (Ed’s note: if you were to get the clunky thing wedged in a crevice or between coral heads, or your other arm were hung up somehow, you wouldn’t be able to engage the device.)

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Life in Salt: How California Surf Photographer Chris Burkard Finds Joy Beating the Crowds on His Frigid, Far-Flug Adventures

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“…if there’s one thing I’ve realized, it’s that any career, even one as seemingly glamorous as surf photography, has the danger of becoming monotonous.” “Hofn Beach”, Iceland. Photo: Chris Burkard.

Chris Burkard is a self-taught award-winning photojournalist and photographer from Central California with a proclivity for harsh, cold climes and wide open landscapes. But it wasn’t always that way. Burkard began his career following the best of the best in surfing to tropical destinations that usually dominate the covers of surfing magazines but endless, palm-fringed reef pass barrels can make even the life of a surf photographer seem routine.

“The more time I spent traveling to these exotic locations,” Burkard mused in a recent TED talk (see below), “the less gratifying it seemed to be.” The trappings of the digital world come along with you when you visit Tahiti, Fiji, or take a yacht to the Maldives, but they’re nowhere to be found in Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, Alaska’s vast coastal outback or even wild, ice-glazed north Atlantic shores.

In the following paragraphs, he shares a few of his mind-blowing images, philosophies on work and life – and few pieces of must-have gear.

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“All this shivering taught me something: in life, there are no shortcuts to joy. Anything worth pursuing requires us to suffer just a tiny bit.” Chris Burkard, Lofoten Islands, Norway, Arctic Circle. Photo: Chris Burkard.

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The Definitive Guide: The Wirecutter’s Best Summer Gear for Sand, Surf, and Sun. From the Crew of The Scuttlefish.


Photo: Quinn Dixon.

A few months ago, I started working with Wirecutter and Scuttlefish founder Brian Lam – and a slew of talented editors and waterpeople – on an update to last year’s Wirecutter Summer Gear Guide.


Photo: Quinn Dixon.

After a serious expenditure of editorial energy – somewhere around 200 combined hours (at least), we’re proud to unveil the work of authors Jaimal Yogis and Mark Lukach, filmmaker Sachi Cunningham, former Outside online editor Joe Spring, fisherman and Scuttlefish writer Owen Burke, surf Divas Nicole Grodesky, Kate Barattini and underwater photographer Abi Mullens. What follows an editorially unbiased and journalistically pursued summertime gear guide that is frankly, like nothing I’ve ever worked on, and nothing I’ve ever seen.

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How Nat Geo Is Filming Creatures of the Deep Like Never Before


Sending divers down to the Abyss is dangerous. Sending pilots down in subs like Alvin is dangerous and expensive. Sending Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to the ocean’s depths can prove to be catastrophically expensive, as was the case with Nereus, which was lost last year.

Now, National Geographic’s remote imaging team is probing the depths using what they call “drop-cams,” capturing images like the one above of a gulper shark, which had never been seen before in the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean.

In the video below, mechanical engineer Alan Turchik gives a rundown on the drop-cam after a January 2015 expedition to the Indian Ocean.

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