Hands Down Pure Fun – Ventana handplanes

Ventana Surfboards shaper Martijn Stiphout and the art of handplanes

By Neal Kearney


Are the choked lineups getting you down? Do you feel as though, with all of the ego and aggression in the water, surfing has lost its fun? I hear you. But don’t give up: open your curtains and put down the ice cream, because there’s still hope! One of the best ways to escape the madness of the surf scene wherever you are is to body surf. Pulling into closeout barrels on your stomach with only your pals around is one of the most thrilling and pure forms of wave riding there is. And while it doesn’t require anything except you and your arms, there are a few accessories that can enhance the experience. First there are flippers, which help you zoom around the water with greater ease, increasing your wave count. Second on that list are hand-planes. Some are plastic, some are carbon fiber, and most have a hand strap to give you increased flotation and propulsion during your ride and more control in the tube. For the last seven years, Martijn Shiphout of Ventana Surfboards has been upping the handplane game with handmade models crafted out of recycled wood. Waves recently caught up with Shiphout to get the lowdown on his miniature joy-makers.

Where do you find inspiration for your shapes?

Most of what I do with the surfboards and handplanes is determined by the wood that I have. A lot of the time it will be an interesting smaller piece of wood and I’ll kind of build a design around it that is aesthetically pleasing.

What kind of wood do you use and where do you get it?

The kinds of wood I use vary but I have my staple: redwood. Most everything that I build has redwood in it and that comes from the fact I love working with it—it’s a beautiful wood, both to work with and visually. Also, it’s everywhere here in Santa Cruz! … It’s also light, which is nice.

We work with Santa Cruz Guitar Company and get all of their waste wood. I’ll repurpose their wood, a lot of which is exotic species of wood that there’s not much of and [that is] hard to come by, but I can make use of small bits. We get a lot of cedar from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, as well.

Why wood?

Wood has different characteristics. Wood handplanes, like a wood surfboard, are going to be heavier than … a foam or plastic handplane. So you get a little more weight out of it. I still try to keep them as light as possible [because] you’ve got a rocket attached to your hand, hitting you in the face. The materials are up to the consumer, but of course we are trying to incorporate exotic and historic wood into the handplane.

What makes a good handplane?

What I look for in any handplane is: how comfortable does it feel strapped to your hand, and do you think you could rest your hand on it for an hour-plus? To me, it’s also important to have a good bottom contour and a little bit of rocker in it.

Are they only for beach breaks/shore-pound use?

In general, yes, however I’ve done pretty well at Capitola on some big days where you could easily get 150-yard-long rides from the outside all the way in—but it gets pretty tiring. The ones I build have a standard “fish” shape, and on a bigger wave you can easily get both hands on there and push your upper body out of the water. So they work well at point breaks, too.

What was your best handplaning session?

My best time was at Moss Landing: [it was] the longest ride, getting barreled and coming out on the shoulder and actually cutting back into the pocket—I never knew you could do that on a handplane until I managed to pull it off.

Why should someone give handplaning a try?

I’ve found that handplaning and body surfing are the most fun [types of] surfing. Everyone’s just having a good time—no one’s worried about priority or anything. To me, handplaning is like becoming a kid again and just having a great time.

Check out Ventana’s full line of qaulity surfboards, handplanes and other goodies HERE.


Taylor West of Humble Sea Brew Co puts his handplane to the test at Its Beach. Photo: Don Moulds


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