Alex Ventura Interview

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We spoke to Alex Ventura, legendary custom shaper from the Dominican Republic, about his love for surfing, shaping and the surf scene in DR. alex_ventura_surfing Where did your love for surf come from? I was a skateboarder first, and when I was 21, in 1990, the other skaters who also surfed told me that I could learn to surf easily since I was already a skater. From there I was hooked. What is your earliest surf memories? Back then we surfed at the only beach inside the city of Santo Domingo called Güibia. I couldn't swim when I started surfing (and still can't really swim) so my buddies put little-kid floaties on my arms. I fell off a wave and was panicking and trying to get my head above water when my friend "Hurricane" said to me, "stand up man, its shallow there!". Once I realized it was shallow I kept surfing at that beach because I knew I wouldn't drown. How long have you been shaping boards for and how did you decide to start? I started shaping 19 years ago in 1993 after returning from competing at the Lacanau Pro in France. While in France we visited this guy's house and he had some simple retro-style fish surfboards that he had made. The house was huge and he lived on the second floor. Each room on the first floor of his house was used for making boards. He had a shaping room, glassing room, sanding room and painting room. My friends, Matute & Mario, saw the house and the boards and said that if that guy can make boards, then I definitely could do it too back in Santo Domingo. When I got back to the DR I took a large room in the front of my house and put a dividing wall and made shaping and glassing rooms. This is still where I make my boards today. Where do you draw inspiration from when it comes to the design, shape and style of your boards? The local surfers are strongly influenced by the brands and boards coming from the US, and what they see in surf videos. This pushes me to be on the same level as shapers in the US and be able to offer surfers what they ask me for. av Do you have any heroes and/or mentors? John Carper is a mentor to me. When I started I didn't have a visa to go the US, and there weren't other shapers on the island, so I didn't have any where to go to see and learn how to make boards. John Carper's videos "Shaping 101" and "Glassing 101" helped me a lot and taught me the process of producing boards. In 2006 I finally got to meet Carper at the Surf Expo in Orlando and let him know how much his videos helped me. Robert Weiner is a big influence on me as well. He has a lot of experience and I like his style of making boards. I'm like him and do all the steps of making a board myself, unlike most shapers who leave glassing and sanding to some one else. What are some of your favorite moments in your career? The Dominican Republic has never really had a surf industry outside of shops that sell imported boards and clothes. When I started to see that the boards I was making were fun to surf and comparable to the imported boards, I realized that I actually could have a career as shaper and could make a living from it. What is something that you would do differently? I would have made my shaping room a few feet longer so I could make longboards. I think about it every time I'm in the shaping room. DSC_0600 What do you think is the future of your industry? I don't really know, but I think more and more boards will be designed on computers and shaped by machines. Thankfully there will be still people like me who will continue to do it by hand. Which board (of yours) is your personal favorite? The latest board I made for myself is always my favorite. I experiment when making my personal boards and I'm always trying out something new in the shape, or glassing or graphics. How is the surf/surf culture in Santo Domingo differ from anywhere else in the world? The surf community here is small and there are lot of posers. These are people who try to speak with authority, but are misinformed about what kind of boards are best for our surfing conditions and beaches. They import a lot of boards because they like to be seen with what ever is cool at the moment. In our country the best surfers usually don't have the money to buy the boards they need. The poser community is wealthy and can afford to import the latest boards and fashion to look the part. DSC_0116 Live in DR and looking for a new board? Contact Alex at

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