Santa Cruz, which locals consider the real “Surf City, USA,” has no shortage of visionary surfing entrepreneurs. The town which hosted Jack O’ Neill, creator of the wetsuit, is mythic in surfing lore. For Ventana Surf Co. founders and surfboard shapers Martijn Stiphout and Tyler Frome, it’s not history or money that push them to create surfboards — it’s concerns about surfers’ environmental impact.
“Many foam surfboards are mass-produced in China, and concerns about being environmentally conscious are non-existent,” Stiphout said. “Even American-made foam surfboards or boards made of 100 percent recycled foam still require unsafe production processes.”
Ventana Surf Co. builds environmentally friendly alternatives to foam surfboards. The company specializes in hollow, wooden surfboards made locally from 100 percent recycled wood, which come from trees such as redwoods. Stiphout and Frome find leftover wood from Santa Cruz sources, using it even when it is aged or punctured with nails.
“It is more work to find the wood. It’s more labor-intensive,” Stiphout said. “[But] wood is safer to work with and reduces our environmental impact.”
Ventana Surf Co. is also beginning to use bio-based resin on the boards in place of more harmful epoxy resin, which can lead a shaper to develop occupational asthma. With a less harmful resin, Ventana Surf Co. will complete the entirely safe board construction production process, becoming the first company in Santa Cruz to make sustainable surfboards.
“Bio-based resin is 70 percent tree sap based, so it turns a waste product into a usable resin,” Stiphout said.
Stiphout has been making boards for four years, and along with Tyler Frome, he formed a business that resulted from a passion for surfing, the ocean and the environment. For about a year and a half, they have occupied a shop on Mission Street.
Stiphout said he became tired after his last foam board broke, pushing him to build a board that would last longer and produce little waste.
First-year environmental studies major Maaya Hensman has been surfing for eight years. Hensman said foam and fiberglass boards pose different problems, for both the environment and for the shaper’s health.
“Shapers have to wear masks because shards of glass can get into their lungs. It’s also made of so many different chemicals that aren’t good for them,” Hensman said. “Wood boards are better than foam boards, because if they come from trees that are from local sources, they are much more sustainable.”
Stiphout and Frome have been experimenting in recent months. Ventana Surf Co. not only makes surfboards, but they work on different types of wood projects and create other sustainable surf-related products. The company shapes woodworking art and custom handplanes.
Frome enjoys being able to create something a product for surfers that is both unique and of good quality. For Stiphout and Frome, their projects are about connecting to the sport they love.
“When we make wooden boards,” Frome said, “they’re special and your surfboard is that connection to that feeling.”
Ventana Surf Co. is located on 2712 Mission St., Santa Cruz, Calif. To order a custom board, you can reach the company at 831-818-8988, or on www.ventanasurfco.com.