Hang out at the Ventura Surf Shop on Thompson Boulevard and be immediately immersed in Ventura and Santa Barbara’s glorious surfing history. Although the selection is deeper and prices have changed since the shop’s first iteration in 1963, the place still has that wonderful golden-age vibe – one that knows its surf history. And orchestrating that vibe from behind the scenes is owner Bill “Blinky” Hubina, a first-tier 805 surfing legend. 

Summing up Hubina’s long and rich career in surfing – and his sixty-year relationship with Rincon Point – is a mammoth task. Born in 1943, Bill arrived in Ventura in 1961 and immediately became a regular at C Street, Rincon and other local spots. He also began to rise through the local shaping ranks. The glory days of California’s surf scene were in full swing, and Blinky had the perfect perch to witness the golden age up close: the Morey Pope surf shop, a Quonset hut at the end of Santa Clara Street. (In the Quonset next door, a guy named Yvon Chouinard made mountain-climbing equipment.) It was from here, barely a stone’s throw from Surfer’s Point at C Street, that Blinky came to play his role in history as the surf world was turned on its head. In his words, “the golden age of surfing was cut short by the shortboard revolution” of 1967.With breathtaking speed, designers dropped board lengths to eight feet, then seven feet, and then even shorter. Through all the change, Hubina kept surfing, shaping and innovating. It was for his exemplary career that Blinky last year received a rare honor: induction to the International Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame, where he joined legends like Dewey Weber, Bob Simmons, Dale Velzey and other gods of surf-dom. 


Making surf history 

It all began in 1963 when Hubina started work at Tom Hale’s (b. 1942) Ventura Surf Shop. The next year, Tom Morey (1935-2021, of future bodyboard fame) joined the shop, creating his own “Australian” boards. In 1965, Morey and Karl Pope (b. 1936) struck out on their own to open Morey Pope Surfboards. Blinky went along to become the first employee. As he gradually mastered the craft of board shaping, Blinky had the mentorship of Richard Deese, who had board making chops learned from Dewey Weber, and another legend-in-the-making, store manager and lead shaper Bob Cooper (1937-2020). Cooper had a spectacular run at Rincon during the second half of the 1960s. 

In 1967, Blinky took the leap to his own shop via a partnership with colleague and shaper Dennis Ryder. For a label, they combined their given names: William Dennis. But Ryder soon moved away, and since then, it’s been all Blinky atop William Dennis, which 50 years later is still the Ventura Surf Shop’s flagship. 

Times were sometimes lean in those early days, and at one point Hubina found himself needing a board of his own, but with only a modest-sized blank to build it. He ended up with a 7’11” board. Therein lies a delightful story to sum up the conventional longboard wisdom at the time: Blinky took this (then) diminutive board to Rincon one day in 1967. As he walked out to the water, he passed the great Miki Dora (1934-2002) who shook his head and cryptically opined, “it will never work” – meaning the rideability of such a small craft. But it did! (To be fair to Dora, at the time just about everyone rode longboards and expected to do so forever. A famous Ron Stoner photo from December 1966 shows Dora walking into the Rincon waves with Denny Aaberg and John Peck. Dora is carrying a 9’2” Yater Spoon.)

Another momentous encounter at Rincon around the same time: Blinky ran into Australian Bob McTavish (b. 1944). When they noticed they were the only ones on the Point that day with shortboards, Bill invited McTavish to use the William Dennis facilities for shaping during his Cali visit. One of the results is the board pictured nearby, which bears the William Dennis brand and a “shaped by McTavish” inscription – as well as a 1968 Newport Beach surfboard permit. Talk about history!

Those early years were full of innovation. Tom Morey refined and perfected the fin box in 1967, which allowed both portability and the chance to pair the appropriate fin with current conditions. Karl Pope was all-in on a three-piece “Trisect” longboard for travel. And Blinky himself discovered Slipcheck in 1965, a spray-on alternative to wax that allowed for a firm grip on the board, especially useful for getting one’s toes firmly fastened to the nose of longboards. (Blinky sourced the original material for Slipcheck from a highway contractor.) The product took off in the wake of the 1965 Tom Morey Invitational, a nose-riding contest in Ventura and one of the first-ever “professional” surfing contests. As that contest’s beach marshal, Blinky checked that no more than one-third of each board’s length was “nose” real estate and covered with anything that would allow a grip. Coating that space with hyper-sticky Slipcheck became all the rage, and Blinky got royalties from Morey Pope for each sale. The money helped keep William Dennis afloat during lean times. As Blinky likes to joke, by participating in the shortboard revolution himself, he helped doom his own innovation as nose-riding (and Slipcheck) quickly fell out favor with the longboard’s decline.


Back to the future, and a scoop 

No sooner had the longboard era been put to bed than nostalgia for surfing’s golden age began to stir. Locally, it first came to fruition in Don Balch’s 1987 “Queen of the Coast” longboard contest at Rincon. An advantage to today’s longboards, as Blinky notes, is that the modern versions benefit from all the technological and material improvements of the last 50 years. It’s more than likely that the departed longboard heroes of the 1950s and 1960s would be very pleased with today’s versions – even Miki Dora.

Speaking of longboards, here’s a modest scoop: Chris Keet of Surf Happens and major-domo of the Rincon Classic is planning his own homage to longboards at Rincon around late October/mid-November. More details to come but planning for a “Toes in The Cove” contest is gathering steam. Stay tuned!




Vince Burns and Stephen Bates have written a photographic history of Rincon Point: amazon.com/dp/1467108707 which is filled with surf history. It is available online or via many local venues. If you have stories about the Queen of the Coast’s surf history, get in touch with Vince at vinceburns805@gmail.com. 

(1) comment


When I relocated to Ventura in 1978 I met Habana at C street by the red wood condos not knowing his history. He impressed me as a genuinely good natured "local" and I have continued to support his shop with my business ever since. He's a real nice guy.

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