When we launched Ventana Surfboards & Supplies on December 6, 2014, we held our breaths, unsure if what we had created would resonate with customers. Liz Stewart allowed us to exhale. She placed on order online for a t-shirt, some stickers and a Save-A-Surf Tool. And, like we do for all Santa Cruz County orders, we hand delivered Liz's order to her home. Liz has since purchased more Ventana supplies and, until recently, didn't know that she was our first customer. And we didn't realize what an adventurer she is! Choosing Liz as a Ventana Adventurer was an easy decision. We think you'll agree.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get into ocean sports?
I am originally from the suburbs of Chicago, so ocean sports were never on my immediate radar. I used to see surfing in magazines and could only imagine how awesome it was. I skateboarded a little and learned to snowboard in my teens, but growing up in the flatlands doesn't give you much opportunity for extreme sports. After my parents got divorced, my dad moved to California, and I came with him. Eventually I made my way to Santa Cruz in 2007 and haven't left since. This is where I learned what real mountain biking was and the joys of the ocean. Surfing came to me later because the cold water was such a deterrent for me. I had never experienced a wetsuit. But some friends convinced me to try, and I have been hooked on surfing ever since.
What is it about the ocean that attracts you?
The ocean breathes life. There is something so calming and healing about being in and around the ocean that you don't realize until you are exposed to it. I feel like my appreciation of the ocean Zen is far more heightened because I didn't grow up around it. I didn't fully grasp it until I actually started surfing. Being in the water, surrounded by nature and working with it just to achieve one single ride of a wave brings a sense of ultimate contentment and stoke that nothing else in the world can duplicate. If I'm ever in a bad mood or feel off about something, I know it's time to get in the water and cleanse my soul. And it works ever time.
I am firefighter for Contra Costa County. I love my job because of the exposure I get to so many different aspects of life and people that you can't get anywhere else. From the absolutely tragic moments to the ones of survival and great joy and accomplishment, firefighting teaches you things not only about others, but about yourself and what you are capable of in any given moment. And I utilize those lessons in my day to day life outside of work. It inspires me to stay fit and active and explore my hobbies and passions to their fullest extent, because life is short for some of us. All we have is now.
What is it about Ventana that's appealing to you?
Ventana is appealing to me because of the vision of reduce, reuse, recycle. We are such a wasteful society, and I support local folks who have a vision and drive to do something better and make something beautiful where others would not. It's so easy to just throw things away and get new ones. What Ventana is doing not only with making amazing wood surfboards, but with all the rest of the products is inspiring to me. And the craftsmanship is above and beyond. I have made a few things of my own out of pallets, such as planter boxes and a headboard for my bed. And I've reused old kitchen cabinets to make art. I have a huge appreciation for others who do the same kind of thing. Plus I love Ventana's logo design. That's why I had to have that first t-shirt I bought.
What's your favorite beach or break in Santa Cruz and why?
I usually surf at 38th or Capitola. When those places aren't crowded, the people out there are usually familiar faces, and it's fun to surf with people you know. And I've also met some really great folks just passing through. I learned to surf at Capitola, so I am now very familiar with the break and, with a good amount of swell, l that spot has a nice, long, pretty chill ride. I ride a longboard and enjoy surfing smaller but consistent waves. There's a tranquility there for me that I need in my life. My favorite beach is New Brighton. It's usually uncrowded and big enough to run and/or walk for exercise and has amazing sunsets.
Tell us about an amazing adventure that you've had.
My most amazing adventure thus far was a road trip I took last August by myself. I drove from Santa Cruz all the way up the coast through California, Oregon and Washington and then hopped on a ferry to Vancouver Island and drove to Tofino. I camped almost the entire time with my Tepui Tent on top of my truck and stopped at many places to mountain bike and surf. It's amazing to mountain bike in places like British Columbia, Washington and Oregon that cater to the sport and encourage it. It was an incredible 21 day adventure and inspired me to do more road trips to see more places.
What's your dream adventure?
I'm planning on upping the adventure this September with the intention of making it all the way to Jasper National Park and Banff. My dream adventure would be to take a year off and do some world travel. The only countries I've been to outside the U.S. are Canada and Costa Rica. I want more stamps on my passport!
Liz has an amazing girlfriend, Sharlynn, who surprised her for Christmas 2016 with one of the most beautiful longboards we've ever crafted: The Redwood Treefish 9'0"!