Monday, July 11, 2016

Interview with Shane Jones of JONESEA Wetsuits

(All Photos By Cory Gehr)

There are perhaps a million and two different ways in which one could go on about in tired clichéd terms about how surfing is a sport unlike any other- how it transcends the convention and traditional rules that often define other sports and activities, and blah blah blah. And such statements are indeed all tired clichés... except of course if you were to direct that particular line of conversation towards the uniquely D.I.Y. nature that envelops all of surfing (and you can take our word on that because we here at Foam E-Z would never compromise our journalistic integrity by presenting exaggeration as fact merely to make a colorful point).  

Yes, it is true that there is a real do-it-yourself spirit when it comes to most aspects of surfing. From watching your favorite surfers do the moves you want to do to going out and doing them with your own personal flair to learning how to shape/glass your own boards because you can't bear to shell out another seven-hundred of your hard earned dollars on a high-profile brand board. There's something about surfing that inspires people to get out there and just go for it. 

In the case of local Orange County surfer Shane Jones, the D.I.Y. spark struck in a different way than it does for most other surfers. For him the inspiration was to begin making high-quality, handmade, custom wetsuits under his brand Jonesea Wetsuits. In the midst of a bout of unusually warm spring water temperatures, I recently decided that the oppression of a 3/2 fullsuit in 70 degree waters had become all but unbearable and so I decided to give Shane a call to have a custom summer jacket made.

 Stopping by his shop one afternoon to have my measurements taken, I had the chance to peak in on Shane's wetsuit operation and pick his brain a bit about the 'how's' and 'why's' of it all to learn just what it was that went into making the most comfortable damn piece neoprene I've ever owned.


FeZ:  When did you first decide you to start creating the first Jonesea Wetsuits and what was the motivation to do so?

Shane: The year was 2013, and I had just quit my job that I loved because the boss was a kook. I decided to go up north for a few months on a retreat to work on a few ranches as a ranch hand.  I worked my ass off and learned a lot. I was also hired by two guys to help tend their land and work outside. The pay was good. The only thing I was missing was the surf, fam, friends and my pup Barnacles.

I worked my ass off building/ fences/decks/painting and tending his land.  I worked so well, 2 of his friends asked if they could use me/services. My boss said OK and now I worked for 3 people helping out doing labor work. That being said I have great work ethic.

FeZ:  You seem to place a lot of emphasis on the fact that these wetsuits are “100% surfer made.” Can you talk a bit about what that means and why it’s important to you?          

Shane: At first I had no idea what I wanted to do. Then it hit me; I want to make 100% surfer made wetsuits because nobody makes them.  I made up my mind and decided to spend all the money I had made up north to create JONESEA.  I sketched a logo up, had it digitized, and this is the logo you see today.

I had been building wetsuits since 2004, so I knew how to build them. I just didn’t know how to sew them. Let me tell ya, sewing is really hard!!! I was breaking my machines and needles on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. I would put in countless hours trying this and then trying that idea on sewing. Sometimes my ideas were good; sometimes they were not so good.   I knew what I wanted my stitch to look like, so I just had to figure out how to make it. There is no YouTube or someone to ask questions about controlling the depth of a stitch, how much tension to use, or which thread was the best. I taught myself how to tailor wetsuits and patterns. I thought, "How hard can it be? I just have to put in time." My sewing machine mechanic would come by so much that he stopped charging me, which was rad.  My sewing had to be 100% in order to compete with the OG’s of the wetty game.  I got my suits in a few shops starting with Katin Surf shop, Hansen’s and Surf ride.

I think 100% surfer made is huge. I wouldn’t go buy a surfboard from someone who sells rollerblades; would you? I didn’t think so. Since I was 7 years old, all my boards have always been custom hand-shaped. I have a lot of respect for craftsmanship. As a surfer I look back to the guys who started this rebellious lifestyle and honor them by keeping the “Surfer Made” motto alive. My job in America does not exist; the majority of all wetsuits are made over in Asia. I take huge pride in building wetsuits in America, and 90% of all the materials I use to construct a wetsuit are made in the United States.

FeZ:  You’re obviously a very busy person being that these wetsuits are all made start to finish completely by your own hands, what’s a typical day look like for you? How often do you find time to get in the water?                     

Shane: My typical day is at least 15 hours, 7 days a week. I start at 5am with some coffee, while going through e-mails, FB messages, phone calls, and DM’s.   I knock them out and then check the surf.  If we have waves, I’m out there, and if not, I start my day cranking out orders.

I try to cut as many orders as I can and stage them for the next process, which is silk screening my logo on all suits. Only 3 logos go on a JONESEA! Less is more. I see other brands that put their logo all over the suit. I’ve counted up to 11 logos on other brands. I didn’t know NASCAR was in the surf game…tasteless if you ask me.


 FeZ: Who are some of the surfers/team riders that you work with regularly and how have they affected the way you approach your craft?            

Shane: I have a surf team of about 13 riders. I work with all of them all regularly to produce top quality wetsuits.

For instance, Lindsay Engle (World Champion of women’s Long boarding in 2011) and I always have a good time designing new wetsuits with different lines, colors, closures, and any other ideas we can incorporate.
Mike Siorida and I like to get weird when we design his suits. It’s bitchin’ because people are always like, "WTF is that material?" “Oh, it’s just the Aquatic Acid,” says Mike as he walks through the parking lot of Malibu. For a more retro look, Makala Smith likes the all black smoovy.


Billy Harris, an SD lifeguard, prefers fully custom suits with the “Knights Templar” cross on the front of his suits.  

Zoe McDouglas, because she lives in Hawaii, Zoe likes lightweight, 1.5-2m for sun/wind blockage.   

Bryce, who lives in Santa Cruz, likes to chill in the hood of his 4/4M.

Kyle Brown from Manhattan helped me with a few little quirks with my zipper less.

To include my riders' ideas, we collaborate drawing new lines and changing it up to stay fresh and innovative in the copy-cat world of ours.  All my riders give me input, and want something different out of the wetsuits I build them.  Some surf Hawaii year round, and some surf Santa Cruz ,so the variety of suits I make is endless.

The material I use is made exclusively for JONESEA; I design all my material from 2mm-7mm. A fun part of this process is that I can create new colors or patterns on my top jerseys of the material and also pick how dense or how soft and buttery/stretchy the Neoprene (inside rubber) is.  I always try to make a color I haven’t seen, so I’m not the same (as who?). I’m constantly changing up patterns and designs.

 FeZ:  If you are able to say, generally what is the process when it comes to conceiving, creating, and testing out new wetsuit concepts/designs?

  Shane: Wetsuit building process: Fist what kind of wetsuit?  Lets say a 3mm full. 

                        1. Measure person
                        2. Pull pattern
                        3. Compare measurement’s on the pattern and make the custom adjustments
                        4. Chalk out the pattern on the neoprene
                        5. Cut out the wetsuit
                        6. Silk screen JONESEA logo, 3 pieces only!
                        7. Glue wetsuit
                        8. Tape seams
                        9. Sew entire wetsuit
                        10. Sew in Zipper
                        11. Deliver with a smile and a hardy handshake.
                        12. See the stoke, and that folks makes my job the best: the stokage

FeZ: How much time on average, do you spend on any given suit?           

Shane: A full 3mm wetsuits take me 6-7 hours start to finish; I do every step of the process myself.

FeZ: There is obviously a huge demand for wetsuits in the surfing world but it seems as though the majority of surfers out there buy and wear off-the-rack wetsuits that come in generalized sizes, in what ways can wearing a custom fitted suit benefit a person out in the water?            

Shane: From what I hear, a basic, stock suit off the rack will fit most people, but some people just can’t fit a basic wetsuit. I just made a suit for a customer, and he told me, "Yeah the other blaketyblankblank suit was okay, but a little tight here and pulled here and it broke down in a few months."  That means less waves, more struggle paddling, and loss of warmth. In in my mind that is nonsense. I measured this customer, made him a suit, and fit him in it.  He said it was the most amazing fitting wetty he had ever put on: it didn’t pull in the torso and it fit his arm length. So that being said, when a suit fits you properly, you stay warmer, you surf longer, and catch more waves.


FeZ:  You seem to have a strong DIY ethos in the work you’ve done, from starting your own company, to building your own workshop, and even shaping your own surfboards occasionally. Did you just sit down one day and learn how to do all of these things on your own or did you have any sort of mentors along the way that inspired you to create your own surf goods/lifestyle?            

Shane: Well, I was a salesman my entire life, and one day my old boss came to me and said, “Hey, the tailor quit. You're the tailor now." I said, “I’ve have never made a suit before." He said, "Figure it out!" So, I did.  The first suit I made was a triathlon suit for a gal, and she got 1st place!  After that, I knew I was on to something.  Fast forward to last week, I just made a wetsuit -suit for Thom Browne runway show in Paris. When I was asked if would be able to help create this idea, I said no problem. When I sent the first prototype over the design developer was blown away on how meticulous I was when building the product.  When I made the full and sent it over he was blown away and couldn’t believe how perfect it was and I finished it a day earlier than my due date.

I didn’t go to school to be a designer. I was told to figure it out, so I taught myself how to be a tailor.  The whole shaping thing was a weird one. This guy I know said, "You can’t shape it’s too hard." I was like, F-U! I work with line contours all day, so how hard could it be. I went to foam EZ bought a 9’8 Y from Brad, and he showed me to the bay and said have fun.  I had no idea how to shape, but I got down anyways! The depth of the planer was a little tricky for me, so I just knocked the skin off and mostly used my hands to couture. 
I have a very strong work sense and business model. I’ve made a nitch for myself building 100% hand made wetsuits in California; no other surfer I know of is doing this.

 I had help from my bro Gabe building my table 8’X5’ and it stores about 80 sheets.  My “Creation Station” was a 2-car garage.  As of Mid July I will be moving into a new 1,200 Sq. ft. creative space with a showroom in Costa Mesa, 2940 Grace Lane, unit C 92626. 

FeZ: What kinds of boards do you like to shape/ride?           

Shane: I’m a single fin kind of guy. For the past six years I've been riding a 9’6” Pig made by my good pal Jimmie Hines; best board ever. I also ride my 9’5 Cooperfish, “Nose Devil” and 7’6” Nation-single fin. Those are my go-to's.


FeZ: What can you tell us about the future of Jonesea and what we can expect to see from you in the future?             

Shane: The future is bright, I have a lot of new ideas and some other stuff I can’t really talk about just yet, but stay tuned.

I just did a collaboration with Thom Browne; he wanted me to make a wetsuit-suit. I designed the suit, and it was on the runway in Paris for fashion week. It was up on VOGUE and that was kind of a big deal.  When the senior designer tells you your work is AMAZING, it feels pretty good for being a self taught tailor.


 FeZ: What’s the best way to get into contact with you regarding ordering wetsuits?          



                        1-714-722-1163 Text preferred
                        Facebook:: Jonesea Wetsuits
                        Instagram @jonesea

Custom Summer Jacket
Photo: Joey Estrada

Check Out this Rad Clip Of Shane Surfing!

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