The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: hand plane

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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Handplanes and Big Waves at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach


“…once I figured out how to use a handplane in big waves, it was all over for me.”

Author, public speaker and Scuttlefish contributor Mark Lukach is well known for his big-wave surfing within San Francisco’s Ocean Beach community, but the Delaware native has a newfound joy in something old: bodysurfing. He’s ditching his surfboard for a small plank of wood the size of his forearm.


“It felt like I was falling and flying at the same time. Wave was my wings. Best bodysurf wave of my life, no question about it.”

-Mark Lukach

Strange Love Craft: Short and Fat, The Latest Brownfish Handplane

The new Brownfish Handplane, described by Gary from Brownfish, is “short and fat”, but he says its his favorite handplane ever. I’m not sure why he says it isn’t the best for beginners, but I can guess why he likes it so much–every hand plane I’ve ever tried with hard rails, fins and concaves just goes faster and faster. That mega channel on the bottom helps it hold faces and lines without using as much rail. So you’re getting a lot of surface area at the same time you’re carving lines. In my experience, it’s easier to get up and go with a smaller plane with hard edges than a big fat one with soft edges. The square tail probably helps its drive, too, but that’s my surfboard theory creeping into handplane theory. It’s a little different, I think.

I ordered one. We’ll see how it goes.


Strange Love Craft: Taylor’s Mistake (The Handski and Beach)

I had just finished a body surfing session a few months ago when I saw an older gentleman in the parking log, sopping wet, with a satisfied look on his face. In his hand was a beat up old handplane like I’d never seen before. I introduced myself and asked him what his Strange Love Craft was.

“Taylor’s Mistake”, he said.


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Strange Love Craft: My Massive Handplane Quiver

I like body surfing with a handplane. I guess a few other people do, too, since Keith Malloy is making a movie about it. Here’s my quiver. I don’t know how I ended up with so many, but I get them and give them to friends and somehow this is what I ended up with.

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The Remove Of Her Embraces

I have been on the road for the day job a lot lately. I’ve been home maybe 10 days in six weeks, and in most cases–aside from a week sailing in the caribbean with my pops–I’ve been in big cities and the desert. I didn’t realize how I’d missed being in the ocean and my California life until I saw this video, though. I watched it first and remembered the cloudy, salty water and the sky playing off each other. The cold water and beatings of the waves that kept my sinew and body resolved and strong. I felt the absence of my friends and lady, too. In new york I bond over the indulgences of food and drink and the lure of the indulgences; but in my life at home we live like sea otters. I remember all the great waves my friends have ridden, maybe better than they do.

How to Make Handplanes

Cyrus Sutton of and Stoked and Broke did up this video on how to make design and shape wooden handplanes.

Strange Love Craft: Almond Surfing Handplanes

Neat. They’ve got alaia blanks, too.