Myrtle Beach surfer-turned-entrepreneur knows what’s SUP

For Weekly SurgeJuly 2, 2013 

Trent Ventura, 24, has come full circle. Born and raised in Socastee, he spent three years in Honolulu and underwent a journey of discovery, faith and focus.

A longtime surfer, Ventura moved to the Outer Banks of North Carolina in 2009 as a surf instructor – and it was there that the idea to go to Hawaii first came about, mainly because several of the guys he worked with were talking about it. “I’m a member of the Coast Guard Reserve, and I started looking into transferring there,” he says. When the time came to make the move, he was in for an awkward surprise. “I tried to get ahold of everybody that was supposed to go with me, and everybody bailed.”

Likely crestfallen but undeterred, he set out by himself – taking what are called military hops. “It took me a week-and-a-half to get there because of how military flights work, and I had a lot of people ahead of me.” While hunkered down in a California airport, he was able to secure an apartment via Craigslist the day before he arrived in Honolulu.

Ventura did Coast Guard work for a month while looking for a job at local surf shops – since the plan was to surf. One day he stumbled into a place called Surftech, a leading surfboard manufacturer, and secured a job as warehouse assistant in its distribution center, eventually becoming assistant warehouse manager. Boasting an inventory of 4,000 surfboards and stand-up paddleboards – Ventura says he had free reign over all of the 300 demo and rental boards. “They just let us take whatever we wanted whenever we wanted to go paddle or surf – so I had a longboard if I wanted to go surf small-wave Waikiki. We had big guns for me to go out to North Shore and surf 15-20 foot winter swells – and then paddleboards for every occasion.”

He soon became enamored of a sport called stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP – and brought that experience with him when he moved back to the Grand Strand. In June 2012, Ventura founded an outfit called Carolina Paddle Company, LLC [ www.carolinapaddlecompany.com], an enterprise dedicated to bringing this sport to the Myrtle Beach area.

“[SUP] is a very versatile sport that anybody can do,” he says. “It’s something you can do on a lake or in a river – on rapids or up and down streams. Or you can take the same board and go hit the surf and have fun.” He adds that surfing is more of a solitary experience, and the idea of other surfers crowding a wave is not particularly appealing. But not so with SUP: “When you are out paddling, the more the merrier. If you get 15, 20 or 30 people just working their way up and down the river, it’s a good time.”

But is this for everyone?

When people call him they are sometimes a bit unsure about the process – they might assume they need to know how to surf or have awesome balance. “In Hawaii I had the opportunity to teach big Samoan guys who were 300 pounds or more how to paddle,” he says. “Two weeks ago, I taught a lady in her late 50s or early 60s who just had her knees replaced, and she didn’t fall off once.”

He is also involved with the East Coast distribution of a product called Kona Red, which is a Hawaiian superfruit antioxidant juice. “We just signed our third Lowes Foods location, and I am also sales repping for the company.”

Ventura’s Christian faith is a major part of his life. “Everything I do is surrounded by Jesus Christ,” he says. “I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for his hand in my life – guiding me – from randomly walking into the world’s largest SUP distributor and getting a job on the spot – and how he has guided me all the way back to my hometown.”

In this light, Ventura and childhood friend Jack Hannigan started a non-profit organization called The Stand Campaign [ www.thestandcampaign.org] which is dedicated to providing clean, potable water to those around the world who desperately need it. In the works is a plan to stand-up paddle from Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina to Jacksonville, Fla. on the Intracoastal Waterway – stopping in every city along the way for fundraisers. “We need to raise awareness,” he says. “We can drink out of a hose or even our toilets and get cleaner water than a billion people in the world.”

Know of a local with an interesting job or career that should be given the Working 4 A Living treatment? Contact Roger Yale at rgyale@gmail.com.

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