Proudly a South African brand, Vanhunks Boarding Co. celebrates releasing your inner explorer and embracing an active lifestyle on the water, now expanding its extreme sport brand from the beaches of Cape Town to the shores of Sarasota.
The legend of Van Hunks lives on amongst South African locals who still believe the tale of the Dutch pirate/explorer extraordinaire who came to the Cape of Good Hope to retire and smoke his days away. He landed at Devil’s Peak, a now infamous spot because of the mysterious encounter Van Hunks had with a stranger who turned out to be the Devil himself. The folklore goes on as an amusing, yet fatal pipe-smoking competition with the Prince of Darkness, but it was Van Hunk’s competitive spirit and pursuit of victory that inspired Vanhunks Boarding Co. To this day, when the southeastern winds blow (which are the best winds for kiteboarding), it produces a cloud blanket over Devil’s Peak on Table Mountain, where Van Hunk’s ghost is said to be hiding in the shadows as boarders rip through the sea and sky. From kayaks, SUP boards, paddles, kiteboards and surfboards, Vanhunks Boarding Co. broke out onto the aquatic adventure scene in 2010, and has since been building works of art for the superior sportsmen to withstand the elements of Mother Nature and ride through the toughest of conditions.
World-renowned shaper Elton Lee Ireland crafts each board with expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam core. Now gaining popularity, EPS is the lightest and most buoyant of the three foams used in surfboards/paddleboards. Its delicate nature also making it the most difficult to shape and frustrating to mold. However, it proves less likely to deteriorate over time and, with stability and performance in mind, Vanhunks coats the boards with a heavy-duty epoxy fiberglass shell and high-gloss polish. All boards are designed, hand-carved and tested in South Africa, then distributed to retailers worldwide. For U.S. Distributor Tyrone Cochrane, he gets 120-130 boards in cargo containers shipped regularly to Sarasota.
“We got two-40 ft. containers in the last two months and another coming in August because we’re moving through so much inventory,” says Cochrane excitedly. “We’re starting in Florida specifically because there’s so much water and there’s a good demand, but we want to spread throughout the entire United States—go up the coast and out to California.” Cochrane grew up and worked for Vanhunks back in Cape Town before moving to Sarasota and becoming the official distributor for North America. Since moving here, Cochrane has gotten the Vanhunks product line into local retailers and rental shops such as Silent Sports Outfitters, Above Board Paddle Company and Island Style Watersports, as well as on the east coast at Rogue Wave Surf Boutique and Sunrise Paddleboards. Vanhunks can now also be found on online dealers like Live Well Sports, Surf Avenue and Big Air Boards. Recently, the Surfrider Foundation integrated some of Vanhunks’ boards with the Smartfin, a board fin fit with sensors to measure ocean properties and help researchers and coastal communities understand trends in ocean health. “It gives you water parameters such as temperature, location, tides and wave characteristics,” says Cochrane, “all recorded onto an app as surfers are in the water and downloaded as data for research and conservation.” Vanhunks Boarding exists because of the majesty of its surrounding waters, so protecting the ocean as much as playing in it remains an important company role.
As does keeping its cultural pride alive. “Our product names are unique to South African culture—the ‘Impi’ and ‘Afro’ paddleboards are inspired by the Bantu ethnic group of Zulu Warriors,” says Cochrane. “There’s the ‘Spear’ surfboard, named after a popular African hunting tool, and the ‘Manakel’ performance twin tip kiteboard, meaning ‘Angel of the Wind.’” And with the latest addition to Vanhunk’s product range being the kayak division, its adopted home of Florida becomes evident with names like ‘Manatee’ for its deluxe fishing kayak—designed and rigged with its high-density grade polyethylene construction, swivel rod holder, ample rear storage and secure bungee straps to ensure you can carry everything you need for the day’s adventures. The super lightweight kids’ kayaks ‘Grouper’ and ‘Snapper’ are built for young anglers seeking their perfect catch, providing maximum stability, maneuverability and enjoyment out on the lake or river.
“The goal eventually is to carbon copy what we’ve done on the retail side in Cape Town and mirroring it here—opening our own store and selling our branded line of apparel and accessories, along with all our boards,” says Cochrane. But for right now, he keeps it simple by posting content on the Vanhunks website, and that alone gets people in the door to check out the warehouse in Northgate—completely stocked to the ceiling with word-class product, just begging to be put on an aquatic surface and live out its legendary heritage—from racing the waves of Atlantic tides to exploring the mangroves of Lido Key.