Frank Scott Krueger and Taylor West are two of the founders of Humble Sea Brewing Co. They are now brewing beer, searching for just the right permanent space, and seeking investors. Humble Sea brews outstanding beer and is building an innovative business model focused on giving back to the community and to the ocean.
Frank and Taylor are also outstanding bodysurfers. They both own beautiful, reclaimed wood, Ventana handplanes made with offcuts from Santa Cruz Guitar Company.
Frank and Taylor are the first two people we’ve chosen for the Ventana Adventurers program. They embody the Ventana values of craftsmanship, responsibility, and adventure. We’re proud to support them just as they have supported us. We sat down with Frank and Taylor to learn more about them and their new business venture.
Tell me a little about yourselves. Where are you from and how did you get into ocean sports?
FRANK: I grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains and crawled out of the redwoods to bodysurf and skimboard every chance I got. As a kid, I would find the punchiest beach break possible and see how long the waves could hold me under. For some reason, not knowing which way was up or down in a soup of swirling flotsam and jetsam was a comforting feeling. Maybe it’s a womb thing? Naturally after a childhood filled with Derby Skate Park sessions and Dodge Ridge snowboarding day trips, when I got my driver’s license and could drive down to the water after school, I got into surfing.
Also, I grew up around sail boats as my step dad is an experienced sailor and racer. I was actually lucky enough to circumnavigate New Zealand’s North Island with him when I was ten, where I saw big fish like Mola Molas and sharks for the first time. It was also the first time I heard the f-word spoken more than once in a single sentence.
TAYLOR: I was raised in Ben Lomond and attended San Lorenzo Valley High School in Felton. I grew up boogie boarding the San Lorenzo River and exploring local Santa Cruz beaches. In high school, I played traditional sports like football, basketball and baseball. I moved to Missouri to play college football and spent three years experiencing the heartland of our country. Although beautiful in its own way, it wasn’t until moving to the Midwest that I developed an appreciation for Santa Cruz’s beauty and uniqueness. If you’re willing to explore, the amount Santa Cruz can provide grows exponentially. Since returning home 4 years ago, I’ve become fascinated with surfing and have explored other water activities like spearfishing and bodysurfing.
What is it about the ocean that attracts you?
FRANK: It’s a combination of things. The first reason is its power. I remember the first time I caught a wave on my belly. I couldn’t believe water could move me so swiftly and that I could control where I went. On the other hand, it’s human nature to be attracted to the ocean. Emotionally, I’m drawn to the shore because of how I feel near or in water. Scientifically, our planet is mostly water, and so are we. Although we’re not native to the water, there’s no place more comfortable for many of us than in or near it.
For any ocean-lover, I recommend Wallace J. Nichols’ book, Blue Mind, which helped me put my finger on why I find any excuse I can to jump in the water.
TAYLOR: I love how the ocean acts as a giant playground. There’s a certain level of nostalgia attached to getting worked by a punchy beach break when bodysurfing. I feel like a big kid. Also, I love submerging myself with a morning plunge and having my senses jolted awake. It’s an enjoyable and humbling experience.
We understand that you guys are working together on a new business. Can you tell us more?
FRANK: Taylor and I teamed up with our childhood buddy, and the best brewer we know, Nick Pavlina, to form Humble Sea Brewing Co.. It's the nation’s, maybe the world’s, first philanthro-brewery. Our three core values are beer, community and design. Our beer stays true to its European and West Coast roots while offering several ales and lagers that are more palatable than your typical West Coast ales. Our goal is to share our product with not only beer nerds, but also with working class and Latino populations in Santa Cruz County. This market segment drinks quite a bit of beer and, until now, has been relatively uninvolved in the local microbrewery scene. There’s no reason why a beer like Budweiser, part of a multi-national corporation headquartered outside the U.S., should still be the go-to beer in this country. Craft breweries only make up 7% of the beer market, but we want to be a part of changing that.
The beautiful thing about beer is that people want to drink it. It brings people together in the most traditional sense of the term “public house.” Humble Sea’s beer is our vehicle to meet people where they will already be - in a pub - doing what they already want to do - drink beer - to create systemic change in our community. We’re focusing on giving our support, skills and a percentage of our profits to ocean conservation and education-focused organizations. We also have plans to feature local home brewers on tap, involve local artists in our label and apparel designs, and be a hub for change-makers in the Santa Cruz area.
Acknowledging that our product needs water, we’re researching creative ways to build our business while minimizing our impact on our local water sources. We’ve even found a natural spring in the Santa Cruz Mountains that may be able to fuel your future, favorite beers.
TAYLOR: We are so enthusiastic about our current project. Santa Cruz already has so much great, artisan beer, and we would love nothing more than for Santa Cruz to be recognized as a “craft beer hub.” Our brewer makes phenomenal beer, and we want to showcase his product. We also want to address social issues, and we view the microbrewery as an avenue to do that.
What is it about Ventana that’s appealing to you?
FRANK: Two things: the craftsmanship and the responsibility behind the materials. It’s 2015. We have unlimited options of beautifully crafted products to choose from. The real difference behind Ventana is their sustainable use of reclaimed materials, and the personality behind every piece of art they sell. Realistically, I can handplane on a lunch tray (not very well), but the fact that my handplane is crafted from discarded Santa Cruz Guitar fret boards makes it the most beautiful object in my house - and in the lineup for that matter. This is some of the world’s best wood, and it would’ve ended up in a dumpster without Ventana reimagining what it could be. I’m honored to share Ventana’s story every time somebody asks me about my handplane.
TAYLOR: The craftsmanship and creativity behind Ventana is incredible. The fact that we were able to buy wooden hand planes that look beautiful from upcycled guitar wood is mind boggling. Beyond the aesthetics, Ventana products are incredibly functional. Having a well-shaped handplane allows us to glide effortlessly down the face of a wave, making our ocean experience that much better.
What's your favorite beach or break in Santa Cruz and why?
FRANK: It depends on what I’m doing. I’m not the type of surfer to only surf one break with one style of board. If it’s a sunny summer day with ankle biters, I’ll take the log to Pleasure Point and try my best to get up and down the board. If there’s a solid swell hitting, I can’t resist paddling out to Middle Peak or Indicators at the Lane. If I’m handplaning or bodysurfing—my latest favorite ocean sport—I’ll get the left off the rock at Its Beach. I’m in love with how wild that wave can be. There are wedges, rocks and lots of sand to make every wave seem like it could potentially end your life. It brings me back to that childhood feeling of sheer respect and fear for the ocean.
TAYLOR: I love the Slow Coast! Santa Cruz has very consistent waves in town but the beauty surrounding Highway One is remarkable. Although neighboring the Santa Cruz city limits, breaks like Waddell Beach can rival the top breaks in town while lacking the crowds. I try to take advantage of any chance I have to make it up north.
Tell us about a wild adventure you've had.
FRANK: If I had to narrow it down, my best adventure has to be somewhere in the three years I spent backpacking through Latin America. The Darién Gap, the 100 mile stretch of jungle between North and South America, is considered one of the most dangerous regions in the world. It’s the only place that the 30,000 mile Pan-American highway doesn’t continue its route, and crossing it by foot is a non-option unless you’re highly trained military personnel and enjoy traversing through terrain riddled with drug cartels, paramilitaries, the FARC and indigenous tribes that frankly prefer you at a distance. I actually read an account of a special ops British marine who made it through the gap by floating on a log down the river for over a month.
So, that leaves backpackers with two ways to travel around the gap: the first is flying from Panama City to Cartagena, Colombia; the second is to take a five day sailboat journey through the San Blas Islands. As I was on a budget of $2.50 per day, I improvised a third option that entailed haggling fishermen to give me rides in their boats to the next port on the Caribbean side of the gap. When a fisherman wasn’t traveling South, I slept in my sleeping bag on the sand and watched military-grade trucks unload containers of take-your-best-guess from the thick of the jungle out to sea. After seven days of relentless haggling and sleeping on deserted Caribbean beaches, I arrived at Turbo, Colombia, one of the ugliest places I’ve ever visited. Actually, the journey was quite delightful. What made it frightening was the unknowns of what would happen if I crossed the wrong person’s path, or if I was even going the right direction.
TAYLOR: This past January we went to the Dominican Republic for our friends' wedding. After a few days at the resort, we needed to explore the island. We spent two weeks traveling by foot, bus, motorcycle taxi, and car, using subpar Spanish as our guide. Moto taxi drivers wove us through traffic, disregarded stop signs and used sidewalks as additional lanes. We found ourselves in a few sticky situations. After leaving the island’s southern region, heading north, our bus driver decided the base of the jungle was as far as we could go. Exchanging bus rides for moto taxis, we sliced through the Dominican Republic jungle, lush greenery on our left, breathtaking views of the Samana Bay on our right. I was feeling pretty carefree, and I eventually realized I was separated from the group. The motorcycle driver stopped and the haggling began. It felt like hours. I could sense the tension increasing as I refused to pay the exorbitant amount of money demanded. Superbly timed, my friends showed up and helped settle the argument. A deal was made, both parties won, and our adventure continued by foot.
What's your dream adventure?
FRANK: It's been on my bucket list for about six years to circumnavigate the globe on foot (crossing major oceans by barge, working my way across). I acknowledge this dream could sound a bit ridiculous, and that's because it is. But I met two Romanian brothers when I was living in Costa Rica that were on a six year journey around the globe by foot, with a $0 budget, and it broadened my perspective of what an adventure could be. The point was to put their faith in the people they met on the road and trust that everything would be ok. There's a lot to be learned from a six year adventure.
TAYLOR: My dream adventure is to travel through Baja Mexico on motorcycle with all my camping and surfing equipment. I would like to travel with a dual sport motorcycle, something that can handle rough terrain, so I can navigate the coastline. I want to explore hidden beaches, coves, camp off the beaten path and be able to fish for food when needed. The trip does not have end in Baja Sur. I would love to cross the Sea of Cortez to mainland Mexico and travel as far south as I want. Eventually, I would sell off my equipment and buy a plane ticket home. Currently, I'm looking into motorcycle equipment and Studying spanish to prepare myself for this adventure. Hopefully, one day soon...
Bodysurfing photos by: @dmoulds
You can find Humble Sea Brewing Co. at facebook.com/humblesea and humblesea.com.