Shane Jones makes wetsuits out of a big, bright, Costa Mesa office he calls his “badass creation station.” Actually, saying he “makes wetsuits” even feels like an understatement because there really isn’t anybody else who gets as creative with neoprene as the self-taught tailor. Nonetheless, it’s certainly a step up from the old 10-by-30-foot space he used to work out of in Garden Grove, California. But more than just a change of scenery, the differences between the old Jonesea Wetsuits headquarters and the current one were in a very literal sense life-changing.
When his wetsuits were made out of that small 10 by 30, Shane had barely enough room to work and was living out of an old ’68 Chevy van. He was homeless but he was doing something he loved. He would make his custom suits by hand just like he’s been doing now for over 15 years, and every few months he’d get an idea and an itch to do something a little out of the ordinary. He’s surfed as Shreddy Krueger for Halloween, Buddy the Elf and Santa Claus for Christmas, a Leprechaun, and he’s tossed on a mullet wig to match his Stars and Stripes fullsuit on the 4th of July — all to challenge his wetsuit-making skills and show off why he’s the best wetsuit tailor out there. And it was that combination of creativity and talent that eventually turned tough times around.
When his friend, South Bay shaper Tyler Hatzikian, teamed up with world-famous fashion designer Thom Browne for a surf-inspired concept, Jones was the first person Hatzikian could think of to pull off a handmade suit and tie wetsuit. His first sample for the designer was a vest, thinking he was just making a novelty piece for the runway. Instead, Shane Jones is now probably the only custom wetsuit tailor to ever see his suits stroll across a Paris runway and land in Vogue Magazine. The project was profitable enough for Jones to get out of both the 10 by 30 and his ’68 Chevy.
The black wetsuit, white surfboard paint-between-the-lines audience of core surfers might roll their eyes at the thought of wetsuits and high fashion being talked about in the same conversation, but the story’s an ode to why and how Jonesea’s work is so special. He’s an artist, and wearing a piece of art in the lineup isn’t something we normally associate with surfing. Thinking of our wetsuits as a fashionable article of clothing certainly isn’t the norm either.
I’m not sure if that was his conscious intention from the beginning or just how things worked out. Either way, business is good now. The Orange County creation station is filled with more rolls of neoprene than you can imagine and in just about every pattern possible. Jones is doing business worldwide, shipping out orders to Europe, Chile, and Japan, often for people who came across his wetsuits on social media and wanted something unique of their own. If you can dream it up, he’s the guy with enough talent and knowledge to turn it into a functional wetsuit. He has a stable of over a dozen team riders, three of which will be competing in this year’s inaugural Relik Longboard Tour and two top-10 WSL female competitors. It all keeps him busy enough now that he can put in 100 hours of work in a normal week.
“There’s always something to be done when you’re an entrepreneur,” Jones says.
Then again, we always say it never feels like work when you’re doing something you love, right?
Editor’s Note: This INSPIRED feature was done with the help of our good friends at Cobian, reminding us that Every Step Matters, and of course, the very awesome and very inspiring Shane Jones. This series looks at compelling moments, people, and places that inspire athletes to do what they do, that in turn inspire us.