Collaborative artistic efforts like photoshoots may seem like a tricky proposition given the social distancing recommended to curb further spreading of COVID-19, but local photographer and surfboard designer Bobbi Bennett recently managed to do just that when she captured the image soon to be emblazoned on a custom decorative surfboard she designed for display at Montecito Bank & Trust’s new Mesa branch.
Depicting a male and female surfer riding side by side on the same wave in the waters off of Thousand Steps Beach in front of a glowing, orange sunset, the surfboard is the latest the photographer has designed with her fairly recent venture Stoked Surfboards. Through Stoked, she marries her love of taking pictures with her passion for surfing.
This combination entails Ms. Bennett taking new and old surfboards, changing their front designs to her photographs, and recoating the boards with epoxy resin. After displaying her first attempt at a redone surfboard in an art gallery and seeing it sell very quickly, Ms. Bennett decided it was something worth continuing.
Since starting Stoked Surfboards, she has designed boards for celebrities such as actor Dennis Quaid and Beach Boys member Bruce Johnston. Ms. Bennett told the News-Press that the surfboards are intended to be admired, but can also be used to catch a wave.
“They’re made for display, but they’re totally rideable,” she said.
When she displayed one of her surfboards at last year’s Montecito Motor Classic car show, the photographer’s work earned the admiration of Montecito Bank & Trust president George Leis.
In search of some “local flare” to enliven the bank’s new Mesa branch, Mr. Leis commissioned Ms. Bennett to make one for Montecito Bank & Trust. For that local flare, Ms. Bennett decided to redo a board made by celebrated local surfboard builder Reynolds “Renny” Yater and purchased a 9 foot board at his Surf N’ Wear Beach House. For the photograph itself, she aptly decided to shoot Thousand Steps Beach, a Mesa location for the Mesa branch.
When it came to shooting the photograph that she’s adding to the Yater board, Ms. Bennett and her company of course had to practice social distancing. Those on the shoot totaled eight people and included her, a few assistants, a backup video person, local surfers Vanessa Lytle and Glen Ritke serving as the models, and TV producer Gail Kvistad who was documenting the shoot for Cox TV program and YouTube channel “Living Local Santa Barbara.”
Ms. Bennett remarked that getting the shoot done while maintaining a safe distance between all those present was an “interesting” but very unfamiliar experience.
“I’ve never had to do a photoshoot like that,” she said.
The shoot taking place on a wide-open beach made it not as difficult as it would have been if it were held in an interior space, but it still required certain painstaking precautions. For instance, three cameras were used on the shoot and each of them had to be wiped down before a different person started handling them.
“You really had to think about things that you normally wouldn’t think about,” Ms. Bennett said.
Because the day of shooting was so cold and the wind was creating “blown out” waves that often collapsed before the surfers could properly ride them, it wasn’t a particularly easy shoot. Therefore, it was tempting to embrace one another after a hard day’s work. However, the circumstances dictated that the day wouldn’t have quite the celebratory conclusion of a normal photoshoot.
“Everyone wants to give a hug or share a drink, so it was not that,” Ms. Bennett said of the shoot’s ending.
Currently, Ms. Bennett is working on adding the photograph from that day to the board, something she described as a “process” and “not something you whip out overnight.” Describing how she felt getting commissioned to decorate a surfboard for Montecito Bank & Trust, Ms. Bennett chose the most appropriate adjective.
“I’m really stoked to be doing this for them. I’m really honored,” she said.