Editor’s Note: This episode of CREATORS is presented by our friends at RAEN.
JJ Wessels describes himself as a contractor. He’s aware that the term is a catch-all. More specifically, he’s a merchant of surf-inspired creativity. A quick tour of his home in Orange County reveals as much.
The new RAEN ambassador builds Murph-inspired surf action figures on a 3D printer on his deck, designing them on a sophisticated program on a tablet he brings to the beach to maximize inspiration. Then, he prints, and paints. Initially, he just wanted to create a toy for his one-and-a-half-year-old baby boy, but other kids might like the figures, too. So why not? He’s also working on a small-batch t-shirt brand called Surftoons featuring throwback surfy sketches. He’s got a collection of surf photos and lightboxes downstairs and a shaping bay in the basement. He moves from project to project quickly, and his pride in each is palpable. I can see how each of his creations inevitably inspires a new one. The man radiates creativity.
“Surfing and art are two things that I really care a ton about,” says Wessels. “They’re part of who I am. Depending on where my inspiration is and what I’m doing at that current time, it lends to what I offer to whoever it is that I’m working with.”
“It’s 60/40,” he says. “I’d say I surf more than I shoot. But 40 percent of the time, I’m engaged in trying to create something that I can bring home. When you start understanding the process, you really have a respect for what the product is.”
On a late spring morning, we met up with Wessels to sneak two sessions in before 9 a.m.: one at sunrise at Wessel’s beloved Doheny in Dana Point followed by a wiggle at San Onofre. As swell filled in, we got a clearer view of Wessel’s unique style.
“Style is so contagious,” says Wessels. “It’s really cool to be around someone who really is comfortable with what they’re into. It influences you in a way that makes you want to create something.”
Recently, Wessels officially joined the team at RAEN, and he’s optimistic that his creative energy is an excellent fit.
“With the RAEN crew, it’s rad to be amongst a group that’s so creative,” says Wessels. “For me, working with my hands is a huge part of my life. I look forward to seeing what we can do together.”
And when it comes to his art, Wessels wants to impress upon viewers his deep appreciation for his life built around the ocean.
“There’s freedom in this,” says Wessels. “There’s a cultural freedom in what we do. A lot of this world doesn’t get to experience that. We’re really fortunate.”