by Alex Wilson | Photos by Luis Chavez
Ventura husband and wife team who own a legendary downtown surf shop craft surfboards and artwork inspired by the ocean and community.
Mignonne and William “Blinky” Hubina both grew up surfing at nearby beaches. Decades later they’re still feeling the positive local vibe that helps Ventura Surf Shop and her art business thrive.
Mignonne recalls growing up in the north Ventura Avenue area and carrying her longboard miles to the ocean. She now creates artwork from upcycled surfboard epoxy resin left over from the manufacturing process. Many of her pieces depict seahorses and other ocean themes that retain influences of those early surfing memories.
“My inspiration just comes from what I lived. My whole life has surrounded the beach. When I wasn’t in school I was at the beach,” she said.
The Big Short
Blinky started hitting the waves as a student at Simi Valley High School in the late 1950s. It wasn’t long before he became a pioneer in the surfboard industry.
Blinky says he and his friends made their first surfboard back in 1960. “It was a kit surfboard from a surf magazine. It was quite embarrassing the way it came out,” he recalled. “It was quite a failure.”
He started surfing even more while attending college in Ventura during the early 1960s. That’s when he teamed up with other local legends in the surfboard industry. As his surfboard building skills progressed, he played a role in numerous technological advancements. Those included shorter boards than surfers had traditionally ridden, as well as removable fins.
The first shortboard Blinky made during the 1960s came about serendipitously.
“I had a blank where the nose had been sawed off, so I decided to make a board that was only a 7-foot, 11-inch board, which was just a fluke. I started riding it and all of a sudden I’m making shortboards,” he said. “There was no one making shortboards back then.”
Mignonne says traveling to the best surf spots across the globe has been a muse for her artistic creations, although the materials she’s worked with such as sea glass and seashells have changed over time.
“I’ve always wanted to do ocean-inspired art. I started with greeting cards and seashells, traveling around the word making things with seashells,” she said.
But once her artwork sales took off, she could no longer find enough seashells and sea glass to use.
That’s when Blinky helped her discover new material for her artwork, collected from a Ventura business that puts the finishing touches on surfboards.
“He came up with the idea that resin would work,” she explained. “So we tried it and it works great! And what’s really great about it, is the colors are like jewel tones, so it’s a lot sharper, the colors that can come out of that resin. And it doesn’t fade like art glass that you could buy at a craft store.”
Mignonne says they invented their own process to turn leftover epoxy resin from Studio 609 Boardcraft into art.
“He gives them Tupperware and lets the runoff go in. So we take it, we break it up, and we throw it into a cement mixer with sand and water. We let it go for seven days to kind of give it a sea glass look and appeal,” she said.
Several local stores sell her artwork, including Jellyfish Ventura Vintage Boutique at 309 East Main Street and Mermaid Gallery in the Ventura Harbor Village.
Mignonne loves the feeling of sharing her art. “It’s very exciting to see it. In fact I just did a commission piece for a gentleman in Carpinteria. And it was a crab that was huge. To deliver it to him was so exciting because he was so thrilled. He absolutely loved it, which made me feel really good,” she said.
Ventura Surf Shop was established in 1961 and moved to its current location at 88 East Thompson Boulevard in 1995. It’s even had the same phone number since 1967. The Hubinas bought the business in 2012, which is just blocks from the beach.
Blinky says the shop has struggled at times in the past, but Mignonne rescued it with her social media savvy.
“My wife really saved the business. We were just not doing a lot of business. Our business was doing the same amount of sales every year for years. We were just not on top of it,” he said. “We were using the wrong type of media to advertise. Everybody uses social media. So four years ago, she started doing our Instagram, and other social media, which have helped our shop grow.”
Blinky says the pandemic also helped create booming business for the surf shop.
“Now because of coronavirus everybody’s doing outdoor sports like bicycling or hiking. I saw a thing on snowmobiles going through the roof. So I think we’ve had a 30 percent growth in surfers, because of this pandemic,” he said. “They may not stay surfing after the pandemic ends, but we’ve created a lot of new surfers.”
Blinky still gets satisfaction knowing people enjoy the performance of the surfboards he shapes. “I have kids on my surf team and I rely on their feedback and their input. So I make a surfboard, I have a really good person riding it, I go ‘How’s it work?’ Then next time they come in, I make changes to make it better. And so that’s how the surfboard progresses for me. The best reward I get out of it is when kids call me who I made a surfboard for. And out of the clear blue they ride the board and they call me and go ‘This is the best thing, thank you so much.’”
He also notes that Ventura is a great place to own a surf shop. While Santa Cruz and Huntington Beach vie for the title “Surf City,” Ventura has a lot going for it, including locals devoted to the sport and surf culture.
“Our location here is great. You can walk from here and go surfing. Everybody from the north comes by our shop to go surfing,” he said. “The best part about Ventura is that we probably have 20 surf breaks within 10 miles. We have consistent surf here all year round. So people come from everywhere to Ventura because it’s always breaking. We have world class waves in this area.”
Blinky figures that only about five percent of their business is tourist related. It’s apparent that locals have bonded with the store that’s played a big role in the surfing community for so long.
“We try to be a local business,” he said. “Most every surfboard we have in here is Ventura area local surfboards.”
Mignonne says wherever they go, she still feels Ventura is the best place to live, and to be in the surf shop and art business.
“Bill and I have traveled all over the world, and there are so many beautiful places, because we go to beaches. We’ve gone to Tortola [British Virgin Islands] and Australia, numbers of places. But when you get home and you look at Ventura, there is no place that I’ve ever been to that I would rather call home.”
“I mean this is it,” she continued. “I feel so blessed that we are part of the community, and that we are able to look at that ocean and look at the sunset.”