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.
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 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.
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.
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
The Defekts – Goofing Off 1979
Guess which one is Ben?
The Defekts strike a pose in 1980
Dano, Ben and Rich – SF 2005
Hank, Ben and Dano – SF 2005
Ben – Laguna Beach, CA 2005
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