Forever Stoked: Ben Shipman

Ben at Levee Plaza Skatpark - 1978
I wanted to take this opportunity to share with everyone a small glimpse into the life of Ben Shipman, my best friend. I met Ben in 1971 as a 1st Grader at Oxford Elementary. Oxford is a small town of about 1,800 people in northwest Indiana. Ben and I quickly became best friends and made the best of growing up in a typical small Midwest town. Our friendship was rooted in our drive to create and explore our little slice of Americana. We were typical 70’s kids and filled those years of life with forays into remote control airplanes, model rockets, explosives, photography, and making 8mm movies.

Ben with G&S Fiberflex, 70mm Kryptonics and Gullwings - 1977
In 1976, we discovered skateboarding and that quickly replaced all of our other distractions. We spent hours sidewalk surfing and learning the latest flatland/freestyle tricks of the day. Ben was a natural. He could hold a handstand for blocks and down the steepest hills our little town had to offer. To this day, Ben has the record for the longest handstand at Henry’s Speedway, the local stock car race track, really.

Ben reading Skateboarder magazine - 1979

Ben had a subscription to Skateboarder magazine and each month we would memorize its content cover-to-cover. We debated if the person landed the move or exactly how the move was done. We didn’t have video in those days and the sequence shots in the magazine gave clarity to what, at times, seemed unimaginable. Ben loved skateboarding and he was usually the first to master a move. He learned inverts, rock-n-rolls, frontside airs and frontside ollies at a time when those tricks were newly innovated. He was stoked to learn a new trick as well as help others learn a trick.

The Defekts - Dunn Meadows @ Indiana University in Bloomington 1980

In an effort to reach outside of our small town confines through Skateboarder magazine, we stumbled across a radio program hosted by Dr. Demento. We already had an interest in music and when we heard “Blockhead” by Devo on the Dr. Demento Show, it opened the doorway to the genre of punk rock. We started writing our own songs and learning to play instruments; Ben learned to play the bass guitar. Along with Dano and Greg, who also skated, we formed our first band, The Defekts . I don’t think the term “skate punk” existed at the time but that’s pretty much what we were, skating and playing music. Ben had a Nash Rambler station wagon and it was the perfect car for hauling our skates and music equipment.

Eventually, all of us graduated high-school and went off to college. Ben attended art school in Cincinnati and continued to play music in a new group, Musical Suicide. If you know of the Jockey Club in Louisville, you probably saw or heard Ben play guitar for Musical Suicide. After completing his art degree, Ben made the move to his state of birth, California. It truly was his home and that is where he found his new passion, surfing.

One of Ben’s Original Surfboards
Just like everything else in his life, Ben developed and refined his surfing skills. This eventually led to designing and building surfboards. Shipman Surfboards became the conduit that combined Ben’s love of the arts and his natural ability to create. He earned the respect of his surfing peers and the local surfing community through his craft and his ability to inspire. Thanks Ben for being such a great friend and I am honored to have shared in a part of your life.

Forever stoked and rest in peace good friend – Rich

More of The Defekts - Goofing Off 1979

The Defekts – Goofing Off 1979

The Defekts - Goofing Off 1979
Guess which one is Ben?

The Defekts - Purdue University 1980

The Defekts strike a pose in 1980

Dano, Ben and Rich - SF 2005

Dano, Ben and Rich – SF 2005

Hank, Ben and Dano - SF 2005

Hank, Ben and Dano – SF 2005

Ben - Laguna Beach 2005

Ben – Laguna Beach, CA 2005

Read more tributes to Ben:

20 Responses to “Forever Stoked: Ben Shipman”


  • Great story and pics!

  • As a fellow person that had the drive to create and explore a typical small Midwest town in the 70s, I think that Ben made best use of his time here. Totally bored enough to create your own fun and get some work done in Indiana, then enjoy the fruits of California after you’ve developed into a solid human is a good formula, imho.

    Best Defekt story: Months after watching some Defekts performance on the Purdue University campus that included cutting off some kids hair to the music, a woman told me that her kid brother had come to campus to visit her for the weekend. It was his first big trip away from home by himself. Of course he was the one who got his hair cut off and his mom was freaking out. Excellent!!!!!

    I’m sorry Ben had to be ill for so long.

    Chris Clark

  • Wow, thanks Richie. Didn’t lose it ’til I read this. Sure wish I had kept in better touch with you all over the years….

  • Thanks so much , Ben was a great friend.

    Please check out Shipman Surfboards

    Swaylocks.com (general discussion)

    Surfermag.com (design fourm)

    Ray Meek

  • Shipman was a great guy, the real deal. It was hard to hear about his passing.
    I used one of your photos on my blog post about Ben.
    http://surfysurfy.blogspot.com/2007/05/rip-ben-shipman.html

    peace,
    JP

  • Rich,
    Thanks so much for sharing the photos and stories of growing up with Ben. I remember how excited you guys were about The Defekts – and I even had the album which had “Red Snerts” on it!!

    I’m really sorry that I lost touch with Ben after high school. But just reading through some of the other postings, I can see that he was the same great person that I remember: humble, patient, caring, talented, and genuine.

    Ben will be missed. He was truly one of a kind. May the Lord bless him with eternal peace.

    JoEllen Miller

  • I met Ben though the San Diego Swaylocks get together. Still green at surfing and looking to learn to make some of my own boards, we’d talked. He gave me inspiration to be able to jump into something I have no clue (or previous application) nor natural ability. I remember the genuine care he had in his questions.

    So thanks Ben. See you later, you’re in the care of God . . .

  • Rich,
    Thanks for the Photos and comments about my dear friend Ben.

    I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to have lived and shared a home with Ben for the past 11 years. He was truly the finest man I ever meet. He was a talented, loving, gentle man that everyone who meet him instantly liked.He fought his Lymphoma with great courage and dignity. He was often in great pain but never complained. And now, after his 15 year struggle, I am absolutly certain that Ben is home with the Lord.
    Words cannot describe how much I will miss him.
    A Mass was said for Ben t the Catholic Church in Old town San Diego on sat Morn May 5. He had many friends and family attending. It was a beautiful service.
    This weekend there will be what the Surfiers call a “ride out” for Ben in Carlsbad.

    Rich your photos and words brought back many memories, and Ben save me a seat, I’ll be there before too long. Aloha
    Jim Palmer

  • The last I had heard Ben was doing well so I was saddened to hear of his passing. My thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family.

    I knew Ben as “The Shred Rat” which is the nickname he acquired while playing guitar in Musical Suicide during his Cincinnati years. I was the lead singer, Bill Igerent. Ben really shredded things up on the guitar and was a big part of our sound. He wrote a number of our songs including “Competition” and my all time favorite “No Spoons” which I wish we had a recording of. I was a bit of an outsider to the middle America punk scene and was always impressed with Ben’s huge cadre of friends both in Cincinnati and in West Lafayette, where we played and stayed with the Screaming Dogs. I’ll always have great memories of our gigs and associated antics.

    I scrounged up a few old photos of Ben and the band. You can check them out here:

    http://www.gigocorp.com/images/suicide1.jpg

    http://www.gigocorp.com/musicalsuicide/images/bill_commctr2.jpg

    http://www.gigocorp.com/musicalsuicide/images/bill_mohawk.jpg

    http://www.gigocorp.com/musicalsuicide/photoshoot/ms_ps_22.jpg

    His song Competition can be heard here on the MS mp3 page:

    http://www.gigocorp.com/ms_mp3/

  • My sister is a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team In Training Mentor and will be running in the Dublin Marathon and I’ve asked her to add Ben to her list of people she is running in memory of. You can check out her TnT page here:

    http://www.active.com/donate/tntcfl/andicanny

    Is anyone else in TnT? Does anyone know if there are other ways to donate in Ben’s name?

  • I always knew Ben as the cute, somewhat shy blonde guitarist in Musical Suicide with my brother, Tim. I am honored to add Ben to my sadly ever-growing list of people I am running the Dublin marathon in honor or memor of. I’ll have to put Musical Suicide on my iPod for the race, huh? It will be my inspiration for each of the 26.2 miles to remind me of the pain our friends, family and heroes go through in their disease.

    If you want to make a 100% tax-deductible donation in Ben’s honor, please visit my website.

    http://www.active.com/donate/tntcfl/andicanny

    Great job with the site, Rich.

    Andrea Canny

  • I’m so sorry to hear this. I met Ben when he was playing with “Musical Suicide” in the summer of 1984.

    Saw him play a show at “Modern Times” in Indianapolis along with “Dandilion Abortion” (band of Paul Mayhern from Zero Boys) and a California band called “Faction.”

    I write this because I actually recorded that show on a cassette tape and it came out pretty good. AND I STILL HAVE THE TAPE!

    Plus, I still have the “Musical Suicide” sticker that Ben gave me after the show when we were driving from Indy to Muncie.

    Yuki Gipe was at that show (of the Repellents and who later became lead singer of Boston’s Bullet la Volta, and is now with The Konks in Boston)

    Musical Suicide did a song called “I Hate Everything.” But for that show, they did it as “I Hate Yuki.”

    Anyroad, in case anybody is interested, I’ve still got the master cassette from that show. And yes, Jackie was playing bass with Musical Suicide at the time. Drop me an e-mail…

    Yeah, I still have my original vinyl of Red Snerts too.

  • Ron,

    I’d be interested in getting a copy of that tape. Contact me at tim(at)gigocorp.com! I’m trying to pull together as many live recordings of MS as possible for a future site.

    Thanks!

  • Ben and I met at a party in 1996. We were both surfers, and, although I know he initially thought I was a kook, he “let” me hang out with him. As it turned out, not only were we roughly the same age, but we had almost everything in common. I knew I had stumbled onto something rare.

    He invited me to his house many times and, like kids twenty years younger, we’d surf and work on art for his surfboards/logos. Playing guitar with him on bass was a little rough since he had little music “education”, but, fortunately, his random, chromatic style fit in with the punk genre. I was surprised he had actually recorded on vinyl…and was equally surprised how good “The Defekts” sounded.

    Surfboard design was his life’s greatest passion. He shaped me about 8 boards over the years – I was his guinea pig, but most of them were pretty good. Despite his lack of experience, a couple were practically professional. With some marketing help, I believe he could have eventually made it in the industry.

    Of course, I wish I could have met him without his stress from Lymphoma and all the medical stuff – although, after all that he had been through in the 10+ years I knew him, I was starting to think he was some sort of super human. When the emails suddenly stopped, I knew, but could hardly believe he was gone.

    Rich, Thanks for the blog.

  • Ben and I worked at an italian restaurant Adricas while we were both in art school(1984). I went to the Art Academy, while he went to the University of Cincinnati. We became good friends over the next four years. I knew him as a very funny and creative person . I had been trying to reconnect with him when I stumbled across this tribute. I am sorry that I will not be able to reminisce with him .
    Jimmy

  • sorry to learn of Ben’s passing. a week into september in 1982, i joined up with the Screaming Dogs- Ben was the first bass player in my first band. rip. it was a good time.

  • Rich,

    I am so sorry to hear of Ben’s passing. I was surfing the web for old contacts when I found your website. He was a great person and I will always remember the good times we had in West Lafayette. I think I actually took that out of focus picture above. It was taken in the Purdue underground library when it was being built.

    Take care,

    John Cioch

  • just thinking about Ben today, we went school together in Cincinnati. Ben had his infectious smile, very likable yet rather private, somehow we became friends…

    While he had his medical condition for a long time, he visited & stayed with us here in NYC when he recovered from his surgery sometime in 1990s (he was already in West Coast back then). Saw him last time at La Jolla a year before he left us forever, he looked good & happy. When I received a letter from his partner & his photo fell off from the envelope, cried before reading the letter, knew…

    He was in very good hands in the end of his life. We still display his photo with his smile, and his note on Post-it (from over 10 years ago)

  • Just randomly searching from music & people of my distant pass. Fall 1981. Working at Slatewood selling vinyl. Defekts hung out there a lot. Dano hated me but Ben was always so nice. . . gentle ben. He ordered some records under the name Ben Dover. I didn’t get the joke ’til I yelled across campus,”Ben! Ben!! Ben Dover your records are in. Oh shit. That isn’t your real name, is it?” He gave me a huge 17 year old ‘s grin and came in and picked up his LPs the next day. He never made me feel stupid for being such a Hoosier girl. He was my favorite Defekt . Rest in peace my friend. I am a cancer survivor and will now always hold you in my thoughts and heart.

Leave a Reply