Editor’s Note: The Inertia is excited to head to Ventura, Calif. with Flying Embers, a proud member of Ventura’s vibrant community. The next four episodes of CREATORS will profile individuals making innovative contributions to surf and outdoor culture in “The City of Good Fortune.” Color us lucky to hang with purveyors of tasty, hard booch and feature Ventura’s inspiring humans for the next four weeks. Stay tuned.
“I wanna feel how Otis feels when he’s running,” says Michael Arenal from behind a blank in his shaping bay.
Otis, of course, is his dog. Otis’ spirit – the glide – that’s what we’re all after.
The Ventura-based shaper’s surfboards certainly get us a step closer. While Arenal’s surfboard building journey started with an attempt to create an alaia, like most good journeys, it’s evolved. In a fortuitous twist of fate, he met Donald Brink, a shaper unlike any other. Brink shared his knowledge, taught him how to glass, and helped set him on a path to where he is now. Lately, logging water time – and occasionally time away from the water – has inspired his shapes.
“Creativity mostly comes from surfing,” says Arenal. “If I’m surfing a lot, I get excited about thinking about design and working on new stuff. But I get away from thinking about it, too. Say I go backpacking or hiking for a day and get away from the surfboard thing for a bit, then I kinda get that clear state of mind when the creativity starts to come in.”
Arenal’s surfboards are vaguely inspired by the late ’60s and ’70s, but only vaguely. Like any good shaper, he’s always learning, always adding, always looking for new things that pique his interest. He makes surfboards for Ventura waves and Ventura surfers. Recently, he’s been spending a lot of time at C-Street, absorbing the nuances of gliders and noseriders.
“So much of what I’m doing with surfboards and the boards you’re making depend on the waves you have where you’re at, the people who are around and what they’re surfing,” says Arenal. “Really, at this point, I feel like everything I’m doing is focused around Ventura and these waves and these people.”