Jim Evans is a surfer / artist who is best known for his stunning airbrush illustrations for the surf and skate industry back in the ‘70s. Surfing has always been a big part of Evans’ life and that kinetic energy continues to propel him into his multimedia graphic design today.
What was your life like growing up?
I grew up in Oceanside, CA, and spent most of my time surfing, playing in a rock band or drawing. Very little attention was paid to school, although I did manage to get a varsity letter on both the swimming and tennis teams. Trips to Mexico to surf or hang out in Tijuana were a pretty regular occurrence while in high school.
When did you get your first surfboard?
In 1961. It was a 9’6” board built by Don Hansen, who had just opened a shop in Cardiff. I spent $125 of my hard-earned newspaper route money to get it.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I loved it. I had always spent a lot of time in the ocean, but the experience of surfing was a huge game changer for me. Surfing became the center of my universe; everything else revolved around it. I learned pretty quickly, immediately joined the Tamarack Surfing Association and entered local contests. When the Oceanside Invitational happened in 1964, bringing the top guys to town, I was totally hooked on competition.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young man?
When I was young, I mostly admired musicians: Buddy Holly, Link Wray, Eddie Cochran. Then the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds and other English Invasion bands. From a surfing viewpoint, my first idols were Phil Edwards and L.J. Richards; they were both local and the most stylish surfers I had ever seen. Since then, it has been mostly artists, designers, photographers, or filmmakers (like Warhol, Sagemeister, Murakami, Del Toro, or Hedi Slimane).
How did you get involved in art?
I’ve always been an artist. When it came time to make a living, I started doing posters for my band and other local bands. Soon, I had a tidy little business going. Then, I went to Cal Arts and got into the underground comic scene. That led to album covers, rock posters and a career. I met Rick Griffin early on. We surfed together and he introduced me to everyone. I soon had more work than I could handle.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out and why?
The North Shore of Oahu is my favorite place. It has everything and the surf energy is electric. You feel like you are at the center of the surf universe, and the conditions are always dynamic and challenging.
Who/what inspires you?
My inspiration changes and it is more in the nature of fascination or obsession. I currently find all the permutations of new media inspiring. The way that new things instantly replace old in the area of communication is something I appreciate. I also find the lack of respect for existing paradigms and methodologies to be refreshing. New disruptive technologies come along and change the perception of what communication means, leading to altered views of art, music and every other form of basic human interaction.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
I’ve assembled a lot of information, and observed what seem to be many of life’s lessons, but I’m not really sure I’ve learned anything of lasting value. Each time I think that I have learned something, another lesson comes along and changes my viewpoint. For me, there is no empirical truth—only shifting perceptions of the nature of reality.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
None … except possibly wishing I had worked less and enjoyed myself more.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
I started surfing so young that I’m not sure that surfing changed my life as much as informed my development. Surfing became my central obsession, a source of fun; it led me on adventures and provided exercise. I tended to live places where I could surf. Most everything else I did because I had to do it. Surfing I did because I liked it.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Spending time with my wife and family.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Kelly Slater obviously is a huge inspiration and has driven surfing to new levels. I like Taj Burrow, Andy Irons, Dane Reynolds, Mick Fanning and Bobby Martinez. Also, I think Sofia Mulanovich and other top female surfers are inspiring, and are having a major influence on the popularity and development of the sport. All of the slab surfers at Shipstern’s and the extreme tow guys at Jaws have completely altered what surfing can be. I love to watch.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
I’m a big fan of Al Merrick’s Channel Islands boards. I have a 6’6” Flyer thruster, a 6’8” Flyer II, and a 7’0” K-Step (for the big winter swells or trips to Hawaii). My favorite spot is probably 2nd Point Malibu at medium to low tide on a big late summer swell. Mid-summer, I surf up top at 3rd. Other spots I dig are Swami’s and Tabletop down south, and C-Street and Rincon up north.
What’s your favorite meal?
Sushi at Nobu in Malibu.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
It changes constantly, but today I’m listening to Alberta Cross, Artic Monkeys, The Big Pink, XX, Health, Darker My Love, and Monsters of Folk.
What causes/organizations do you support?
My wife, Nancy, and I actively support gay rights, AIDS research, cancer research, Heal the Bay, Surfrider Foundation, pro choice, and all manner of progressive environmental, gender and human rights politics.
What’s next for Jim Evans?
I just got a new Nikon D3s, so I’ll probably run around and take lots of pictures.
More information about Jim Evans and his company Division Thirteen can be found here.