John Wesley

by Glenn Sakamoto on February 20, 2012 · 2 comments

John Wesley is a talented young surfer/shaper from Dana Point, California. Mentored by Terry Martin and getting his inspiration from such surfing icons as Bob McTavish and Nat Young, John is poised to become the next big thing. We spoke with John to learn more.

What was your childhood like?
I had a great childhood growing up between Mission Viejo and Dana Point Ca. When I was growing up I was super competitive with everything I did, and was fortunate to have a supportive family behind me. I started surfing when I was eight years old, and would beg my mom to take me down to the beach. In middle school I was a total rascal and got in a ton of trouble for messing around in class. But it was the first time I went to school with other kids who surfed, and occasionally before school we would ride the city bus all the way down to the beach before school. The first time I ordered a custom board, a 5’0” yellow keel fin fish by Midget Smith. That was a fun time and I got to surf a lot more. By the time high school came around, I was really amped on competitive surfing and was doing contests almost every weekend.

When did you get your first surfboard?
I got my first board when I was 8 yrs old and it was a 6’10” six-channel, semi-gun thruster shaped by Rick Rock. My dad picked it up at a garage sale for me for $25! I was stoked and still have it to this day and ride it every once in a while, it actually goes pretty good in solid waves.

What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I don’t really remember, but about a week later I surfed somewhere in San Clemente for the first time and got caught in a rip current and the lifeguard had to save me. (laughs)

Who did you look up to and admire when you were a child?
My friends and I were really into Donovan and Rob Machado from watching the “Drive Thru’s” because that style was epic as well as both Phil Edwards and Mike Hynson in all the Bruce Brown classics.

Who/What inspired you to begin shaping?
I was always amped on how surfboards were made, and thought it was some kind of mystical thing (laughs). My good friend Dodge Weirath started shaping a few boards in his garage and I said that I didn’t think I would ever be able to shape but that I’d be willing to learn to glass just so we can keep making boards for ourselves. I then went over to Terry Martin’s house once a week to learn how to shape better, more consistent boards. From Terry, I started shaping for Robbie Kegel for a few years and had the opportunity to travel to Japan, Australia, the East Coast, and Hawaii. And that’s when I realized where I wanted to take my shapes.

Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
That’s really tough because I have great memories and experiences from all over. I would have to narrow it down to Japan and Europe. Japan, because it was an absolute culture shock. It truly amazed me everyday, the food was spectacular, the hospitality was unbelievable, it was like a whole new world to me, and running around Roppongi club central all night blows any spot in the US away! Also Europe in the early summer really is one of my favorite parts of the world. Specifically the Basque Country, the bigger open waves really suit my style of surfing, the food and style of living and moving around really attracts me as well as how rad all the towns look and history behind them.

Who/what inspires you?
The list of people and things that inspire me is endless. As far as surfing goes, pretty much my total inspiration is Bob McTavish, Nat Young, Wayne Lynch, and Ted Spencer. The way they changed surfing and board design forever. Mark Andreini and Kirk Putnam because we got to talk boards in my booth at Sacred Craft. Michael Peterson and currently Joel Tudor because without him going for it and pushing long boarding, I wouldn’t be shaping boards today. Outside of surfing, a few key individuals who have an open mind and have worked really hard to make something out of nothing.

What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
Tough question. I would have to say that most important thing I’ve learned is that you can truly be and do anything you want in your life, as long as you’re really willing to work your hardest and be pushed to your limit of almost failure.

Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
(laughs) Yeah, I have some things in my personal life and situations I wish that I would’ve handled differently but I wouldn’t change them, because my mistakes have made me into the person I am today and I’m proud of what kind of person I’m becoming.

What are you most proud of?
Coming from just another kid out in the water to be able to break out and continue to carve a niche for myself.

What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing holds complete relief and enjoyment for me. I’m thankful I’m so close to surfing but at the same time there’s no pressure on me – its not my job, there’s no people to impress or photographers I need to show off for. I only need to paddle out and to have fun and wash the day off. Surfing has also changed my life in almost every way, right down to the core. Without surfing, I guess I would be living in a dorm, going to college, worrying about what I’m going to do when I get to the real world, like so many of my peers. I’m thankful for everything I’ve been able to experience due to surfing and all the places across the world I’ve seen.

What brings you the most happiness in the world?
It’s pretty simple: shaping, surfing, and the community within it.

Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Jeff McCallum, Joel Tudor, Matt Chojnaki, and Dave Allee.

What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
My favorite board right now is this 9’0” Cali 66 pintail. It’s really foiled, the vee just right, and it trims out and hits the lip just right. My favorite spot is California on a nice summer day with all my friends and a good south swell going left at Four Doors (San O). I also really love Lowers, Cotes de Basques Biarritz, and the Pass Byron Bay is just magical.

What’s your favorite meal?
I really like poke or pad Thai and a good drink.

What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
(Laughs) Wiz Khalifa , Big Sean, any Kanye West, Meek Mill , Wale, and Drake. They get me amped and motivated cause they’re about being positive and working hard and being close with their family and team.

What are you most grateful for?
First, I’m most grateful for my family and everything I’ve been able to experience in the last few years. All the insane places surfing has gotten me, and all the people who have picked up my boards. Those are the people I work for and keep pushing forward trying to always deliver the best boards I can possibly make. So thanks! And of course my small group of friends, Alex Swanson and Erica Burtrum at Ten Piggies Over, Greg Swanson, Jake Zylstra, Mitch Hill, Shaun Peterson and all the guys at Waterman’s, Beamer Wilkins, Mitchiaki of Amsterdam wetsuits and many other people who have continued helping me along the way.

What’s next for John Wesley?
Some collaborations I’m working on are with some rad companies, working on putting together a JW showroom/store, and hopefully a trip to Europe in the summer to shape out there. As long as my friends and I keep checking off goals, 2012 is going to be a great year.

Find out more about John Wesley and his surfboard designs here. John Wesley surfboards can be custom ordered or purchased at Mollusk Surf Shop. Photography by Alex Swanson.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

dan March 18, 2012 at 6:17 am

since he pretty much is shaping gato boards, with a JW logo, shouldn’t he have mentioned robin kegal as an inspiration?


Alex March 18, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Robin was a huge inspiration when John was younger, however John’s boards are designed for his surfing style, and to be as functional as possible in any surf, not just for the best surfer on the best day. He really respects Robin, but left Gato because he felt as though they were drifting away from the traditional handshapes from start to finish. John wants to progress with his own ideas; boards with wide-point back and more volume, with the original inspiration coming from the ‘Evolution’ days.


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