Five years ago, we were sailing home from St. Petersburg, Florida, and stopped in Venice for the night. A brand new 50’ sailboat was in the slip next to us, and I commented to the proud owner about the awesome shine of his teak bright work. He said, “It’s not teak, its faux teak. It is a process that can be applied to wood, or fiberglass, or most any surface, and it looks like the most professionally applied varnish that you have ever seen. It is a process that appears to have depth and is quite lustrous.”
Fast forward to the fall of 2019, when I was at the Bayliss Boatyard at 600 Harbor Road in Wanchese, having some work done on my 35’ motor yacht. I asked the yard manager for an estimate to re-varnish the extensive amount of teak that is on M/Y Southern Heat. He gave me a “ball park” estimate and said, “We do faux teak, too, and it lasts eight to 10 years.”
To offer some comparison, varnish has to be applied annually.
He showed me two sport fishers with the faux teak application, and he told me that they had an employee who had begun doing the faux teak process: Israel “Izzy” Munoz, 39.
Munoz picked up so many faux teak requests that he started his own business — Izzy Teak — and is now a subcontractor for Bayliss. My interest piqued, I asked for a quote (which was more than four times the cost of varnish). Before I made the investment, I requested a sample of faux teak that would match the blonde teak on my boat. Munoz provided two panels with faux teak samples that looked exactly like the existing varnished teak and had a “wow factor” through the roof.
I was sold.
The faux teak process
The old varnish had to be sanded off, and then the teak is sealed with resin. A coat of primer is sprayed on and sanded down and the base coat of paint is applied. After that, the real artwork begins, and that’s where the cost is truly validated.
Varying widths and lengths of “wood grain” lines were hand painted on top of the base coat. Three layers of clear coat are applied next, followed by additional hand-painted “wood grain” lines, and then three more layers of clear coat. This process continues until the artisan is happy with the results. The last step: three more coats of clear coat.
Wherever I go with the boat, people comment of the fantastic looking teak. When I tell them that it’s faux teak — and most often have to explain what faux teak is — they have to have to take a nose-to-boat look, and they’re still not convinced it’s not teak.
A master of his trade
Munoz, who hails from Peru, immigrated to the U.S. 15 years ago, has U.S. resident status, and will be a naturalized U.S. citizen in two years. He lives in Kill Devil Hills, is married to an Outer Banks native and has a young daughter and young son. He also has two sons in Peru from a previous marriage.
Prior to starting his own business, Munoz worked directly for Bayliss Boatyard for more than a dozen years. One day, he saw a sign on the wall of the boatyard’s lobby that read: Faux Teak is the Future.
He said he “felt God was speaking directly to him,” and he began researching the technique, meticulously studying YouTube presentations on the faux teak process. For a full year, he practiced the process at home every evening after work in secret. When he was satisfied with his progress, he approached his employer and company owner, John Robert Bayliss, about the potential of offering faux teak work at the boatyard. Bayliss saw the potential, and he asked Munoz to apply the faux teak process to the helm of his small boat.
That was the beginning of Izzy Teak.
The first job he did for an outside customer was a boat transom — a project he did three times before it satisfied his own gold standard, despite the owner’s satisfaction with the first two iterations, Munoz says.
“Nothing can stop you but yourself,” Munoz says, adding that his pursuit of the American Dream — and the belief that the U.S. remains the land of opportunity — has not let him down. “If you work for it, you can reach your goals.”
Munoz plies his trade up and down the coast — most commissions come to him through word-of-mouth — and his craftsmanship can be seen on boats docked from Miami, Florida, to Ocean City, Maryland.
Munoz’s take on this American Dream come true: “Life is good, God is great.”