Taking a stand for something you believe in can sometimes take you down a path of sacrifice with a great deal of commitment, and discipline. John Wesley, a young shaper out of Dana Point, has taken a stand for hand shaping each and every board that he makes. In today’s surfboard climate with technology and demand for things to happen quick, that path has become less and less. But John has been fortunate enough to work under the tutelage of some of the world’s best, including the late Terry Martin, who has instilled an ethos of building functional equipment that work really well. Find out how this youngster is ‘Making It’ doing what he loves…
It seems like you are always hearing about how there is no money in surfboards and that so many shapers are hurting. However, with the overall influx of surfers in general, there seem to be more and more people making boards. What is the reality of being a young surfboard shaper in California?
Being one of the younger guys in the industry is definitely tough in a lot of ways. You really have to deliver in the shaping room more than anything. Being from Southern California, we literally have the greatest resources at our finger tips if you are willing to work for it and that greatly outweighs the negatives in my eyes. This is definitely something you have to have an absolute passion for to get into and those are the people you see truly succeeding who have their hearts in it and and willing are to put in any amount of work to keep pushing forward. I’m lucky to call some of those people my friends and they help me out in so many ways.
I read in another interview where you said shaping chose you. It seems like not everyone gets that lucky. How were you able to realize this and then go out and make it happen for yourself?
Pretty much the feeling of seeing someone get stoked, or get a really good wave on a board you put hours into making is incomparable. Basically I’m not shaping cause I couldn’t make it through school or I couldn’t cut in anywhere else. It is because I love it and so I think that just pushed me to make the best decisions and sacrifices so I can keep doing this. Also a huge part of this is the people i have chosen to surround myself with who are capable of amazing things and a great group of customers who have gotten me here.
You seem to have taken a step back and looked at how some of the more classic guys were doing it by making a select number of boards and doing it from A to Z by hand. Has that method provided you with a sustainable future?
From the start pretty much, I’ve been fortunate enough where people have seen the boards I’ve made for my own personal surfing and are interested enough where they became models. So everyday I get to shape boards. I love to shape and ride. I stand behind every one of my models and I’m not trying to make every board under the sun like some bigger label companies. In the same aspect, I’m not saying everything I’m dong is completely original and innovative. A lot of my inspiration comes from all over so what you see in my work is a fusion of all my muses to a point where its functional. And I think people respond to that.
Tell us a little bit about your relationship with Terry Martin. Is there something specific that you took away from your time with him that has stuck with you?
I ordered my first custom longboard from terry when I was 14. When I started shaping I would stop by with my friend Dodge, talk story and ask him all sorts of questions on how to figure this shaping thing out. But the biggest thing I think I took away from terry was how much better life is when you treat people and customers with respect and how much more you love what you do, in turn making everyday that much better for you.
Things have changed a bit in the past few years for surfboards. Minds have been opened to what is possible to ride. Where do you see yourself pushing your shapes? And what do you think is the future for surfboards?
Definitely for the alternative scene, things are really expanding and that’s really cool to see. Also, the overall quality of surfboards available in the top notch shops is really high so the general public really benefits by how competitive the industry is and how unacceptable bad boards are. But for me, I’m continually pushing for the most accurate and functional hand shaping, wanting my boards to have a unique feel but at the same time limitless and very functional. I’m not trying to make boards that look cool or fashionable but surf like a conventional shortboard to be accepted. My goal is to make boards that look amazing and draw lines that put the pilot in places on waves that really turn heads. I hope that anyone who hops on one feels that.