Local Malibu business Stoked Surfboards has both rideable surfboards and art boards for the wall. Bobbi Bennett, creator of the company, took this inspiration from her photography career and love of surfing.
Photos courtesy of Bobbi Bennett
Correction: The article has been updated to reflect the correct location of Zito Gallery in Montecito, Calif. and the correct website to access Bennett’s work is below.
Bobbi Bennett, the creator of Stoked Surfboards is an international photographer, who dedicates herself to painting and shaping surfboards. Bennett combined her passions for photography and surfing for branding her company.
Exhibiting her art for over 25 years now, Bennett re-coats the front of the surfboards with epoxy resin. Stoked gives a percentage of each surfboard sale to various non-profits, such as Surfrider and Santa Barbara Hospice.
The company’s headquarters are located in Ojai, Calif. There is also a showroom in the Malibu Contemporary Fine Art Gallery, located above Cafe Habana.
Bennett said the idea of starting the company came to her when she was doing an art piece for a gallery that she had on Zito, a non-profit gallery in Montecito, Calif. She put together a proposal for a hotel project and hung it on the wall in the gallery. It sold for $10.5k in about half an hour.
“I thought this could be a fluke or not,” Bennett said. “So I decided to make more and they really just took off. Then I just started getting commissions from celebrities.”
Bennett makes two kinds of surfboards — ridable surfboards and art boards.
“Essentially, I made the ridable boards because people keep asking me to do them,” Bennett said. “I’ll only make 25 of one board in a limited edition.”
Bennett’s business-forward creativity helps make her company more well-known to both local residents and celebrities. Bennett said there have been a few interesting occurrences that happened in her store, such as when one of The Beach Boys, Bruce Johnston, came into the Montecito gallery.
Bennett said he opened the book of Guy Webster — a photographer that Bennett represents, and he said, “That’s me.”
“Bruce Johnston had a surfboard that he had surfed on as a young man, and he’s now 80 years old,” Bennett said. “They decided to have me do images on the board and then he signed it. Now we’re donating the money to the Surfrider Foundation to help clean our oceans.”
The company, however, has met some challenges. Bennett said doing the rideable boards has been rewarding, but also challenging because learning how to shape the boards can be hard. Also, the whole surf industry, in general, is a real “boy’s club,” she said.
“I’ve been challenged as a woman,” Bennett said. “All of a sudden, I had to step up to these guys and say ‘Hey, I own this company’ and I found that I’m the only female surfboard company in the U.S.”
As for shaping a surfboard, Bennett said preparation includes buying shape tools and taking photos to add to the shaping process. It is important to define the outline, size and thickness of the surfboard when making one from scratch.
Because of COVID-19, Bennett ended up shaping more boards because she had more time, but the pandemic negatively affected many businesses due to the shutdown. She launched her store in July but it is not always smooth sailing, said Bennett.
“People get really nervous about buying expensive items,” Bennett said. “My production costs are really really high. It makes me nervous.”
Despite the impact of COVID-19, Bennett remains hopeful for the future of her company, and the ties that have brought her to the Malibu community. Bennett said she just felt a pulse to go to Malibu two and a half years ago and the first thing she did was a surf swap, which is buying, selling or trading surfboards.
Bennett had all her art boards out in the City Hall parking lot in Malibu. Bennett said she has become friendly with the community and has been super supported in Malibu.
Bennett said Porsche sponsored her to do an event Sept. 4, and she is also doing a big fundraiser for an animal shelter in Malibu. Bennett is donating one of her animal surfboards, which should help her raise a few thousand dollars.
“The moment I decided to shape my own boards, I would say I was ‘stoked’ all the time,” Bennett said.
To see more of Bennett’s surf art, please visit stokedforsurf.com
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