The legend is true!
Although some incidents have proven to be hoaxes or cases of mistaken identity (more on that below), there have been enough sightings over the years, that there is near universal agreement that the Ventana Surfsquatch is real. Decide for yourself…
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The first Surfsquatch sighting
Local old-timers claim that the first sighting was in 1967 on a secluded beach in the Ventana Wilderness Area of Big Sur, California. Retired surfer Bill “Shot Glass” Swanton was camping on the beach after a date with a bottle of whiskey when a creature covered in thick brown hair at least eight feet tall and with a chest as wide as a limekiln barrel stomped down the sand through the fog. He paddled out alone into overhead surf and popped up with ease on a powerful, hollow right at least twice as high as the beast himself. Swanton recounted that the
Ventana Surfsquatch, a name he coined, rode regular foot on that first wave - fast and smooth on a redwood board 7 or 8 feet long. But, paddling back out, “Shot Glass” claims the Surfsquatch turned, caught a head-high left, and rode goofy with ease. Some believe his switch foot skills are due to his large feet and that this may be the reason for his nickname, “Bigfoot.” Others believe that Swanton’s vision was hazy from the antics of the previous night, casting doubt on his entire story. Even after Swanton’s death in 1985 when he fell asleep at Año Nuevo State Beach and was crushed by an elephant seal, barroom brawls have continued to plague the area, the result of heated debates about the veracity of his claims.
Various sightings over the years
Since the first sighting, there have been others. In 1972, Linda Cowell claims to have seen the Surfsquatch nose riding a redwood longboard under the full moon at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. The Seymour twins, “Humpback” and “Crabby,”
now in their eighties, still talk of a Westside dawn patrol session in 1978. Both contend that Surfsquatch emerged from the mist and dropped in on each of them in turn. In 1980, there were three separate sightings between La Selva Beach and Moss Landing. In each, the spotters claimed the Surfsquatch was riding wooden surfboards with unique designs. One single-fin noserider had an inlay of a redwood tree, a thruster short board had classic stripes, and a hybrid board that appeared to be decorated with hundreds of wooden fish-scales. Consensus is that the Surfsquatch uses tree sap to seal his boards and that his sharp fingernails and rough hands may double as cutting and sanding tools giving new meaning to the phrase “handmade surfboard.”
Surfsquatch hoaxes and cases of mistaken identity
Of course, many sightings have been disproven. The 1982 sighting by Mrs. Mitchell turned out to be her husband, Al, who fell asleep in their backyard under a bearskin rug. In 1984, the Davenport run-in, which included a grainy video, was proven to be an effort by the Antillon sisters to convince their mother that it was unsafe to walk to school. Over several weeks, Alicia Antillon taught their Great Dane, Ziggy, to walk on its hindlegs in a gorilla suit. Her younger sister, Davinia, then filmed the dog walking at Shark Fin Cove using a Super8 camera with gauze taped over the lens. The Eastside sighting in 1992 was determined to be Davey “Bushy” Johnson, an exceedingly hairy local who was surfing without a wetsuit. “Bushy” ran with the story and claimed to be the Surfsquatch until the most famous sighting of them all hit the press on January 3, 1997 and debunked his assertions.
"The Lighthouse Incident" in 1997
According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, what is now known as “The Lighthouse Incident,” involved three groms from the Mission Hill Middle School surf team who were suiting up for a pre-class session when they spotted the Surfsquatch collecting fallen branches in Lighthouse Field. They believe he was using the limbs to build a wooden surfboard. In the only known interaction with humans, all three groms claim that the Surfsquatch flashed them a peace sign and a casual salute. Freya Swanton, one of the witnesses, and granddaughter of Bill “Shot Glass” Swanton from the original sighting, has tried with little success over the years to finance a documentary about the incident. Her most recent GoFundMe campaign raised only $17 of her $5000 goal.
A covert research department at the University of California, Santa Cruz
Although shrouded in mystery, there is believed to be a Surfsquatch research laboratory deep underground in the basement of the McHenry Library at UC Santa Cruz. Former students, none of whom agreed to be named for this blog post, claim that the lab is affiliated with both The Grateful Dead Archive and the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department. Leaks from the lab include an estimate of the land and water speed of the Surfsquatch - 25 MPH (40 Km/h) and 60 knots respectively, an inconclusive DNA test from a lock of hair recovered after “The Lighthouse Incident,” and a photograph of an incisor later determined to be planted by one of the Antillon sisters in another attempt to stay home from school.
The inspiration for Ventana Surfboards & Supplies and the last two sightings
Over the last 20 years, sightings have become rarer with only two between 1997 and 2022. Early on the morning of March 2, 2012, marine biologist Martijn Stiphout was on a boat in Monterey Bay tagging great white sharks just off the beach, when he spotted the Surfsquatch emerge from the forest carrying a wooden board with a beautiful sunburst motif. Martijn reached for his phone to capture a video of the creature and his stunning surfboard, but given his relative disdain for technology, remembered that he’d left it at home. Still, Martijn was so enamored with the board, that he decided in that moment to dedicate his life to building wooden surfboards from local materials. Many of his creations are inspired by the sunburst design and by other eyewitness accounts of Surfsquatch boards. Martijn even went as far as to call his company, Ventana Surfboards & Supplies, after the Ventana Surfsquatch and the Ventana Wilderness that inspired his name.
The most recent sighting was on November 21, 2022. David Dennis, Martijn’s business partner, claims to have spotted the Surfsquatch walking toward the ocean through an artichoke field several miles north of the Santa Cruz city limit. He was carrying a board about ten feet long made of what looked to be old boat hull planks or fence boards. Holding his hand was a creature no more than three feet tall with auburn-colored fur, a skip in its step, and a garland of California poppies around its woolly head. Dennis reached for his phone but thought better of it and let the two disappear into the mist for what he could only assume was a father-daughter tandem surf session.
Have you seen the Ventana Surfsquatch? Know someone who has?
Scroll down and leave a comment. We will evaluate the veracity of your claims for addition to this blog post.