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Interview with Jon H. Jones, September 28, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Jon H. Jones, September 28, 2002
September 28, 2002
Oak Island resident Jon Jones discusses his surfing career, as well as the changes in the sport he has observed since the '60s. Jones was a competetive surfer from 1978 to 1991, and placed first in the US Championships in 1989.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Jones, Jon Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul / Fritzler, Peter Date of Interview:  9/28/2002 Series:  SENC Surfing Length  120 minutes


Zarbock: Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock, a staff member with UNCW's Randall Library. Today is the 28th of September in the year of 2002. We're on Oak Island, North Carolina, in Brunswick County. We're going to be interviewing Mr. Jon Jones who lives here on Oak Island and is quite an experienced surfer. Um, Jon, how did you start surfing and why did you start surfing?

Jon Jones: I guess it was probably 1964, I was eleven years old. The first surfboard on the island was a...probably it was like a ten-foot lifeguard board. I saw that thing, and a friend of mine was out trying to ride it. It was hard to ride it, it was so big. But that was the first surfboard I had seen so that started it for me. I saw a board and I said "I think I've got to have one." And within the next year there were probably ten people around Oak Island area that was surfing. And ah, so I got me a big ole nine and a half footer and that was the beginning. I stood up on that surfboard and I had to have it. I loved it. And ever since, that's what I been doing, surfing. And as time went on the surfboards started getting smaller and smaller. I probably went through thirty surfboards in ten years, who knows. I lost count of surfboards.

Zarbock: Why were they getting smaller?

Jon Jones: It's just the evolution of surfing. It was...we were trying new things and the shapers were just getting smaller and trying different things. As the new boards came out we had to have something new, to try it. To see if that was gonna help us. And a lot of times it did.

Zarbock: What were the boards made of?

Jon Jones: Uh, they were made of foam core on the inside with a wooden stringer down the middle and then fiberglass cloth and fiberglass resin across the, you know, the top and bottom of the board, with one fin mostly. And then later came two fins. Then later came three fins. And...

Zarbock: And, again, what's the advantage of three fins over two fins over one fin?

Jon Jones: That was a...that was just another part of the evolution of the game of surfing. The ah, shapes changed and if certain people might of liked twin fins cause they were loose and they turned really easy. And then three fins probably are the better board because that's what everybody rides now days. And...

Zarbock: It gives you better control?

Jon Jones: Ah, yea. The single fins are basically for the long boards, the nine footers. We still ride single fins today. But ah...

Zarbock: What's the length of a board today, the average length?

Jon Jones: (laugh)

Zarbock: Or, what's the variance in lengths?

Jon Jones: The variance in lengths of surfboards would be five foot for children up to ten or twelve foot for grown...big people...long-boarders. When I was in Hawaii there were these big Samoan Hawaiian guys riding twelve foot boards that were four and a half inches thick. And they could really ride 'em. It was amazing.

Zarbock: What...while we're on that, where have you all surfed?

Jon Jones: Well, surfed up and down the east coast from Florida to the Outer Banks. The Outer Banks is a great place. And then probably as far north as Maryland. Then surfed California, that's a great place. And then I've surfed Hawaii twice. Now that is the place. Because anybody out there that wants to surf or does surf should save their money and go to Hawaii. That is the ultimate experience.

Zarbock: That's the platinum standard of surfing?

Jon Jones: That's it. Anything you want to know or anything about surfing is in Hawaii. The biggest waves...they'll humble you in about five minutes, believe me...found out!

Zarbock: Is there an association of surfers or what...what does a...and there's competition isn't there?

Jon Jones: Oh yes.

Zarbock: Tell me about the competition. Tell me about the associations or the organizations.

Jon Jones: In our area it's called the Eastern Surfing Association. Runs up and down the whole east coast and it's divided into districts. Each district competes against each other through the year for say X amount of tournaments. And they build up points to go to a regional tournament at the end of the year. So they have a regional tournament that everybody gets together and they surf these regions. All the good surfers...the winners from the regions are invited to the East Coast, which is always at Cape Hatteras. So then they have the East Coast Championship. And the winners from the East Coast, maybe first, second place people are invited to the US Championships, which are held in ah, they've been Oceanside California lately. It used to be they...they would go from place to place every year. They have 'em on the east coast, they'd have 'em in California, then they'd have 'em in Hawaii, even had 'em in Texas. And...but now they just have 'em in ah, California. Then they have a world amateur which varies. It's all over the world. After you do the US you're invited to the world championships. And I've competed in amateur for...from about 1978 through probably '91. And 1988 I placed in the East Coast Championships, I think I got a second. In '89 I placed in East Coast Championships, again I got a second. I was invited to the US that year. I got a first in the US! That was something!

Zarbock: You mean you were first place in the United States?

Jon Jones: Yes sir. First place in the United States Championships.

Zarbock: What...what year was that?

Jon Jones: 1989.

Zarbock: old were you in those days?

Jon Jones: Ah, oh...I was young, I was thirty six.

Zarbock: (sigh)

Jon Jones: So, in 1990, I think I won the...I won the East Coast Championships, went back to the US. I was runner up in the US. Then in '91 I won the East Coast again and I just...I'd had enough of ah, competition surfing. I'm just a old soul surfer like everybody else now. (laughing) It's's been a long road though.

Zarbock: How, in competition, who judges and what do they look for as a judge?

Jon Jones: Well generally there are five judges and they judge on a point system. Point systems are different in different associations. I'm not sure what it is now. Back when I did it, one time it was from one to twenty and then one time it was from one to ten. But they score you basically on ah, say if you get...the size of the wave has a little bit to do with it, the far you ride the wave, your own style and your maneuvers, the types of maneuvers you do on the wave. And generally each judge has an opinion. So they come up with a score. They may have different opinions on the same wave.

Zarbock: Um hum, um hum.

Jon Jones: But what they do at the end of the heat, they total all five judges, the throw out the high judge and they throw out the low judge. So it kind of equals out the differences. So that's basically how they do it.

Zarbock: They take away the extremes the scoring.

Jon Jones: Right. And the bigger contests, they pay the judges. These people are real...are better...they're really good judges, cause they know what they're looking for.

Zarbock: Jon, have you ever been a judge?

Jon Jones: Oh yea. In our districts, we're all supposed to judge to help the contest run smooth because they can last for two days. So experienced surfers try to help out by judging. So basically a lot of us judge.

Zarbock: Jon, this is such as...this is a question born of my innocence of the sport. Ah, if...if...what did you call it, a ah...what with the competition you called...did you say a heat?

Jon Jones: Ah, yea. The...say the men's division could be divided up into six heats of five people. So...

Zarbock: What if you don't have surf on the day that the...

Jon Jones: Oh, well that happens a lot. If you don't have enough surf to get out there and go for it, they have to call it off to maybe the next weekend or the next weekend.

Zarbock: So you just kinda hang around until the surf gets up again.

Jon Jones: Right. You just go back home and go back to work and come back about two weeks later. And then a lot of contests the waves'll be a foot and a half. And it's just enough waves to get out there and try to ride, so it becomes a luck thing. If a big wave comes through that person that happens to be sitting there where that big wave is, he's gonna be lucky. He gets that big wave and he's gonna get the higher score of the heat. So you know, there's a lot of luck involved in competition also. There's a lot of skill, but there's a lot of luck involved. Even in the pro runs, it doesn't matter. You gotta have the right waves to win.

Zarbock: What...what would be the height...the lowest height of a wave to permit a heat to go on?

Jon Jones: Ah, like I said, it could be as small as a foot and a half or two feet and the directors would decide that all these people have come, you know, some of us would drive a hour to the contest, they would decide well there's just enough waves to have it, let's just go ahead and do it. So, I mean, sometimes you gotta surf some junky waves but it makes you a better surfer. I think it does.

Zarbock: What's the...what's the lure of surfing? What...why did it get into your blood? How did it get into your blood? Why did it get into your blood?

Jon Jones: Well, living on the beach and just the first time you surf you get that...that urge, that feeling, that rush, or whatever it is. The love for it. I mean, that's what it is.

Zarbock: The first time you tried it, you liked it.

Jon Jones: First time I tried it I stood up and rode to the beach and I knew that I was gonna a child. And I had to drag that big old ten footer to the water. Put it under one arm and drag it to the water. Thing weighted fifty pounds. Now days I've got a ten footer that...that's so light I can carve that board. Carve a ten footer. In the old days you couldn't do that.

Zarbock: But you also mentioned, I...I think you mentioned, a style that you had when you were surfing. A...some of the points.

Jon Jones: Um hum.

Zarbock: Is this some sort of almost dance like maneuver, or some sort of...

Jon Jones: That's possible, yea, you could call it a dance. Every person...

Zarbock: Body movement is really what I should've used.

Jon Jones: Yea, but every surfer does have their own unique style.

Zarbock: Is that right?

Jon Jones: Yea. Very seldom do two people surf alike. And so some people's style may be a lot nicer than others, so in the judging system that's taken into consideration. If their style...if you look better surfing than the other guy then they're liable to give you more points, so...

Zarbock: What's your style? How would you describe it?

Jon Jones: I've called it the old school style. The old school is the, just the mellow, you know, we call it stylist. That's what I'd be probably. Now the younger kids are more, we call it rippers. Rippers and carvers. They wanna destroy the face of the wave where the old school, we're just kinda carving it up, we're not really...we don't really care about killing the wave that bad. But the kids are into a different thing. It's evolution, that's all it is. They're just doing it different.

Zarbock: What...what's on the horizon when it're talking about evolution...what...what might be next in style?

Jon Jones: I don't know. Right now they're doing things that I never thought possible. They're...

Zarbock: Like what?

Jon Jones: The aerials...that the kids build up the speed down the line, they hit the lip, they come up out of the water, grab the rail and they're like doing skateboard maneuvers on the surfboard. They're...they're turning one-eighties and three-sixties in the air, landing back in the face of the wave and getting it. And back in my day, you know, that was uncalled for. (laughing) That wasn't even thought of. An old three-sixty off the face was the best we could do. (laughing) Now they're doing 'em in the air. It's amazing.

Zarbock: Where do these...where do these new trends and new techniques come from...the era? Is there say aw, most of that starts in California, or most of that starts in the Outer Banks, or...?

Jon Jones: California is a big training ground for that. Hawaii especially. Hawaii is the place, cause they've got the speed. In Hawaii they're doing so many different things surfing now it's unreal. It's amazing.

Zarbock: Do you use a wetsuit when you...

Jon Jones: Oh yea.

Zarbock: ...when you surf?

Jon Jones: Soon as the water gets under sixty-two...sixty, you have to start wearing a suit. It gets cold. The water temperature gener...generally around here gets in the low forties in January. Then you have to have the boots and the gloves and a hood but we still charge it all winter long. Always have. All these surf...all real surfers surf all year round.

Zarbock: What about the really cold climate?

Jon Jones: Well, up north, like in ah, Maryland and Maine and places, yea they surf too. They've got heavier suits. I don't think they surf as much as we do but if the waves get good, they'll go out. That's just...(laugh) it's in their blood! We're a strange breed.

Zarbock: Who's a better surfer, men or women?

Jon Jones: Ah...

Zarbock: Or are they different?

Jon Jones: Now days I would say they're pretty equal. When I was in Hawaii the last time I saw women tearing the waves up as good as I could. And it was...I would say they're equal. Unless you get somebody like the world champion status people like a Kelly Slater, I don't think I've seen a women that could surf like him yet, but...

Zarbock: Where is he?

Jon Jones: Right now, I believe he's back in competition again. He lives in Florida, but he's a...they basically travel the world when they're in the international tour during the year, so. But he...his home place is like maybe, I think its in Cocoa Beach Florida. But like I said, he travels so much.

Zarbock: Let me chase that international stuff down a little bit. What...what countries sort of...give me a list of countries. Most populars, kind of popular, just begin.

Jon Jones: Of course the Australians are real big, got a lot of good surfers because they have good waves. The Brazilians have come a long way. They have got some unreal surfers now. Of course US has always got good ones. We've got Hawaii and California. But other than those three right off the top of my head that would be the international group right there.

Zarbock: What about the Mediterranean Ocean...ah, Mediterranean Sea? Italy and North Africa...

Jon Jones: I'm not sure. I know France has good waves but as far as, you know, putting out international surfers, I'm not real sure on that one.

Zarbock: And England?

Jon Jones: England has good waves. I've read about it, but, you know, as far as the international stage, I'm not sure on that either.

Zarbock: So it's United States, Brazil...

Jon Jones: Australia.

Zarbock: Australia.

Jon Jones: South Africans too. South Africans have put out some good surfers. But...

Zarbock: And there is international competition?

Jon Jones: Um hum.

Zarbock: And where...where is it held? Or does it move from place...

Jon Jones: It moves from place to place. I couldn't tell you where they all are, but they...I believe they have one in Japan, one in France, couple in Australia, on in South Africa, of course California they've got a couple.

Zarbock: Have you ever surfed inter...ah, international competition?

Jon Jones: No. I've surfed in a professional contest I surfed professional when I was probably thirty seven and I had to surf against all these young hot kids that were in their twenties and I...I kept my amateur status. There a write...a signature you can sign surf professional, but you stay amateur, that way you can't receive money, if you by chance win. But I didn't by chance win. Those kids were a lot better surfers than me.

Zarbock: So the difference between a profession and amateur, the professional can be paid.

Jon Jones: Right.

Zarbock: If the amateur receives money, what happens?

Jon Jones: Oh, they can be...well it's changed in...since I quit competition. Now days the amateurs can receive money and they can put it in an account for travel. And they can use winnings for travel, if that...if I'm right on this. I think I am. But back in my day of competition, you couldn't receive anything. So I believe today the amateurs are traveling a lot more, the ones that are really good, and um, so the amateur system decided to let 'em, if they can win money, to let 'em use it for travel and boarding. So, I think that's a good thing.

Zarbock: By the way, what's a board cost?

Jon Jones: Ooooh no!

Zarbock: I...I'm sure they're...there's a range of...

Jon Jones: Right.

Zarbock: ...costs.

Jon Jones: ah, boards now days run from...and say from the six foot to seven foot range, they're probably four hundred to five hundred dollars, depending on if you get coloring or if you get, you know, there's things...extra things you can get on 'em. Then the long boards, they can range from five hundred to seven hundred dollars because there's just different things you can get on 'em. You can get three stringers in 'em, you can get wooden nose blocks, wooden tail blocks, you can get all kinds of things.

Zarbock: What's the advantage of a wooden tail...tail block and nose block?

Jon Jones: Well, it...the only advantage to that would be if...if you bump the board while're hauling it around in your truck or something. It's not fiberglass so it won't crunch it. But basically they're...they're nice to look at. They're kinda pretty. But they probably do help the board keep from beat up. But that's be about it.

Zarbock: Where do the...where are they manufact...where's the Cadillac manufacturer of surfboards?

Jon Jones: Well, California has got umpteen thousand shapers there. We have shapers right...we have a shaper right here on Oak Island, a young...younger guy. Wayne Grime, he's a good shaper. He's been shaping ten or fifteen years, he's really good.

Zarbock: Why do you call it shaping, by the way?

Jon Jones: Well they...they take a...that blank, they call it a blank, it's the foam and they...they shape it into the surfboard. That's why they're called shapers. The people that shape 'em are called shapers. And there's...

Zarbock: So each one could be subtly different?

Jon Jones: That's exactly right. There's also a great shaper from Wrightsville Beach, Will Allison. I've been riding his surfboards since probably '78. I won just about all my championships on his surfboards. He is the man. I never even wanted to learn to shape, because I didn't need to. I had him to shape 'em for me. And ah, he shapes the most beautiful long boards you ever seen. And he's a really great surfer himself. He...he's a traveler too. He goes to Hawaii about every year. So he learns...he learns all kinds of new things every year from Hawaii when he goes there, on the shaping. He brings it back here and adds it into his stuff. So he keeps up with...with all the new stuff and he does really well.

Zarbock: And you say this board fits you specifically and comfortably?

Jon Jones: Well, yea, you get with your shaper and you tell him how long you want it and you know about how wide, how thick, and so you custom order the board through the shaper. basically tell them what you want and they do it for you.

Zarbock: What would you order?

Jon Jones: Me?

Zarbock: You. Jon Jones.

Jon Jones: I...on my long boards I like, ah, the Ultra Light nine footers that are say twenty-two and a half, twenty-three inches wide. And I like the three fin long boards with the thick single fin and the two small side fins. Short boards, I like six-six, six-eights.

(tape change)

Zarbock: Cameo number two, 28 September in the year of 2002. Um...we're back with Jon Jones on the right and we've been joined by Peter Fritzler, another staff member at UNCW. Peter, take it away! What...what's happening in surfing?

Fritzler: Um, so you were talking about surf mats and how they kind of were the precursors to the actual surfboards?

Jon Jones: Right and in Yaupon the a...a rental area for surf mats, old canvas ones. A lot of us kids would go down there and rent 'em. And we go out there and see who could stand up on 'em.

Fritzler: Um hum.

Jon Jones: And I was one of these little skinny dudes, so I could...I could stand up on the mats. So actually that was probably the first think I ever stood on was a surf mat. Then I guess it was a year or two later, the first surf board showed up. It was a big old ten foot lifeguard board.

Fritzler: Um hm. Were the lifeguards using that?

Jon Jones: No it was a, ah, one of my friends got a hold of it from somewhere.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Jon Jones: And that started the surfing here, basically.

Fritzler: About how old were you then?

Jon Jones: I was, ah, eleven when I got my first board.

Fritzler: Okay. So you...and you were born here locally?

Jon Jones: Yep. I was born in Southport and I spent all my summers here on the beach.

Fritzler: Wow. And when were you born?

Jon Jones: Ah, 1953.

Fritzler: Okay, 1953. Um, now did they have a lifeguard service here as well?

Jon Jones: Not that long ago they didn't, no. I have no clue where that guy got that board from.

Fritzler: Okay.

Jon Jones: And the...all the long boards we first got in that era were all California boards.

Fritzler: Um hum.

Jon Jones: There wasn't...there were surfboards of Hawaii...Kahn, Jacobs, you know, the old...old California style. There wasn't any east coast boards around.

Fritzler: Um hum. So you were actually riding the surf in maybe '62, '63?

Jon Jones: Um hum.

Fritzler: And they your first actual surfboard was when you were eleven?

Jon Jones: Yea. Probably' 64. Yea.

Fritzler: And were you one of the...the few down there?

Jon Jones: Oh yea. There were...there were probably ten people that probably started all about the same year.

Fritzler: I've heard a mentioning of a fellow named Bert it Bert Lee?

Jon Jones: Um hum.

Fritzler: Perhaps?

Jon Jones: Yea.

Fritzler: One of the original...they call them the original six? Is that...?

Jon Jones: I remember a Bert Lee. I think Bert Lee was a, I'm not sure if he lived here, but he was a week, like a summer type guy that came and stayed the summers. The...the guys you're talking about probably were two years older than me. I hung out with those older guys. They got me in a lot of trouble, but...

Fritzler: They did?

Jon Jones: Yea.

Fritzler: Do you remember any of their names?

Jon Jones: Ah, there was Mike Williams, Mike Coleman, Terry Ferrell, ah, the Shannon twins, they were about my age, and then there was...what was Mikes name...Mike Helms. Those are basically the ones that I remember.

Zarbock: Well Jon, when you said they got you into trouble, what kind of trouble'd they get you into?

Jon Jones: Ah, I can't be telling that on a guy! (laughing) You know how it is, when you're a lot younger than the guys.

Zarbock: You've got to prove yourself?

Jon Jones: Yea. Yea, you know how it is. I'm not going there. (laughing)

Fritzler: Now was there much communication between the Southport surfers and the Carolina Beach surfers, the Wrightsville Beach surfers...?

Jon Jones: There was a little bit.

Fritzler: Um hum.

Jon Jones: Um, in in the beginning there, there wasn't really.

Fritzler: Um hum.

Jon Jones: We basically just stayed over here on our beach. We didn't travel a lot because it was hard to get the boards around.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: Back then, I had, like three of my friends had second row houses and we could keep our boards at their house. Cause we were so young we didn't have our license, we couldn't get there.

Fritzler: Um hum.

Jon Jones: And if our parents wouldn't take us to the beach...

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: You know, couldn't haul those big boards around.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: So we would usually meet at their houses and we could...we'd surf right out front there.

Fritzler: Oh, okay. Um, now did the ferry exist back in...

Jon Jones: Oh yea.

Fritzler: ...those it did.

Jon Jones: I can remember way before I had my drivers license. I...I lived near the ferry in Southport, so I could walk, pay twenty-five cents, with my surfboard, go across and go to the cove. The cove was my favorite spot.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: Cause I'm a [inaudible].

Fritzler: Yea a lot of guys have mentioned the cove.

Jon Jones: So, you know, until I got my drivers license, I spent a lot of time surfing the cove.

Fritzler: Um hum.

Jon Jones: And that was before power cords. And you know what the cove is like.

Fritzler: Yea, it's like...

Jon Jones: I had a few of my board laying on those rocks a few times. It was a trip!

Fritzler: Now did you...the reason I asked you about the...the interaction between the Carolina Beach guys, they had the East Coast Surfboards surf shop there. They were actually...

Jon Jones: Paul?

Fritzler: ...manufacturing their boards.

Jon Jones: Was his name Paul?

Fritzler: Ah, it was actually Harold Petty and Lank Lancaster. And this would've been...

Jon Jones: Were they called East Coast Surfboards?

Fritzler: Yes, this would've been late '64.

Jon Jones: I...I remember those.

Fritzler: Through maybe the spring of '67.

Jon Jones: But I...I don't remember meeting those guys.

Fritzler: Um hum. Now Paul Pearce came...

Jon Jones: Paul Pearce...

Fritzler: ...along later.

Jon Jones: ...that's who I'm thinking of.

Fritzler: Sonny Danner was after those guys and he opened up Dan-Pri with Herman Pritchard.

Jon Jones: Right.

Fritzler: And then Paul Pearce and his wife opened up America Surfboards.

Jon Jones: America Surfboards, that's right.

Fritzler: But, the reason I asked you about, you know, that...that whole '64 through '66 period seemed to be a really, kind of a foundational period for you know, the bedrock of actual surfing here.

Jon Jones: Um hum.

Fritzler: I spoke with Tommy Morrow in Atlantic Beach and he was saying at the time that he and the East Coast guys were the...actually the only guys that had shops in North Carolina. And that East Coast was actually...they were the only ones to be making their own boards. So I was wondering...

Jon Jones: That's probably very true.

Fritzler: ...if there was any kind of migration southward. Did they try to tap this market?

Jon Jones: Nah.

Fritzler: No?

Jon Jones: Now I do remember of the East Coast surfboards, one of my friends had, so he must have got it from Carolina Beach.

Fritzler: Um.

Jon Jones: I never really knew that's where they came from.

Fritzler: Oh really?

Jon Jones: I didn't know that.

Fritzler: So there wasn't, again, there probably wasn't the...the communication of "ah, you need to..."

Jon Jones: I was probably younger than those guys too.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: And I didn't have the...the car...over there to associate with 'em. It was a little later when I...I started getting around.

Fritzler: Now, obviously during this whole period, there's a lot of social change and political action going on. You're eleven years old, '64, '66 you're thirteen, '68 you're fifteen if I'm counting right.

Jon Jones: Um hum.

Fritzler: So there's civil rights, there's Vietnam, did surfing or you know, surfing particularly, or life on the coast have any kind of effect on your outlook towards those types of events going on in the history? Did being a surfer, you know, or your peers in the surfing community have any kind of influence on how you looked at say the war, or did...

Jon Jones: Well, surfers were...we were always supposed to be rebellious people. That's what everybody thought we were.

Fritzler: Um hum.

Jon Jones: I never looked at myself as being that way, but I...I definitely did not believe in that war.

Fritzler: Um hum.

Jon Jones: And I probably would've not gone if I had been asked to.

Fritzler: Did you find that surfing offered an escape from all of the turmoil?

Jon Jones: Oh it still always does that, you know that, cause you go out surfing early in the morning and its peaceful, and all your worries are gone. So, yea, it did that, sure.

Fritzler: Yea I remember talking with Will and he said that they had gone to a contest, um, in April of '68, um in Folly Beach and had been on their way back, and this was right in the wake of the Martin Luther King assassination and he remember them having the truckload...the vanload of surfboards and their all, you know, celebrating cause they had done well, they got trophies. Coming over the Cape Fear bridge there were tanks on the bridge that the National Guard had come out, and it just really put, kind of an eerie feeling into him. So I was, you know, its something that is, you know, people often find a natural escape from, you know the real...the realism that goes on within our country...our world, you know, that surfing has been an outlet for that.

Jon Jones: And speaking of that, September 11th last year, a good friend of mine and I were surfing at the cove.

Fritzler: Um.

Jon Jones: And we come out the water and we turned the radio on and what do we hear.

Fritzler: Um.

Jon Jones: I mean, it was terrible.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: But...

Fritzler: You feel like you're...over the years surfing has...if you had not been a surfer, let's say you had not had the relationship that you've had with the water, do you feel like your worldly outlook might be different?

Jon Jones: Oh sure.

Fritzler: Yea. Could you elaborate, like talk a little bit about how you think, you know, living on the water and surfing in particular may have...has helped develop you socially?

Jon Jones: Um...

Fritzler: Over your lifespan, how has it...?

Jon Jones: Yea, well...well living here,'s a small area, it was small back then. Of course, it's not now, it's grown. And staying on the beach all the time, surfing all the time, you get to think a lot. So you probably tend to think more than the average person does about any of your problems or any of the worlds problems, so I think that you know, being out there in the ocean does make you're brain work a lot cleaner and smoother.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: Ah, I can't imagine not surfing.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: I couldn't imagine that.

Fritzler: Surfing is very...I've only been surfing a short period of time, but I've found it to be very individualistic and free spirited. And you're not really competing against others. You're competing against yourself and against nature. You're trying to better your ability to, in a sense, move on the wave and become more a part of the wave and feel the wave. And has...does that ring true with you?

Jon Jones: Right.

Fritzler: A lot of guys talk about, you know, that...that juice that they get out of the ocean, that...that feeling of empowerment or freedom and just the ability to express themselves a little bit.

Jon Jones: It's the, like when you're dropping in, it's that first little bit of rush and then as you go on down the line and building up speed, it's becoming more of a rush and adrenalin and it's just...and then in the end, you duck and get in a barrel and I mean, that is the cleanest feeling there...

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: ...I mean, getting inside and come shooting out the end and you're just like whew, man that was great!

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: There isn't...there isn't a drug or anything that can make you feel what you just felt from what I was explaining, going through that one wave.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: I mean, it didn't last but 45 seconds if you're lucky.

Fritzler: If you're lucky!

Jon Jones: If you're in Hawaii!

Fritzler: Yea. But...on this coast it's like we have, you know, the periods between waves and no waves can, you know, be very long, drawn out, and...

Jon Jones: And that tends to make your rushes better, when you do get good waves.

Fritzler: Yea, I've definitely felt that. And um, know, I've heard some of the old timers talk about how they...they brag about how they've never had a job, and they don't have an address, and they kind of have this, ah, you know the antithesis of what mainstream American society is, you know, working and responsibilities, and children and having, you know, material things, building, you know, building a nice home. Building a, you know, substantial wealth. Do you feel that, you know, a surfer, someone that has perhaps, you know committed to everything about surfing, do you think that is a little bit harder for them to attain? Or do you feel like surfer values of surfing, catching the waves when they're good, do you feel that kind of is the antithesis or goes counter to those other mainstream...?

Jon Jones: Well, all my life, being a surfer, I've had people look down on me because they think that we're all a bunch of surf bums. And I know a lot of people that surf and these people have got...they've got it wrong because we all work harder and just as hard as anybody else the country. And you know I get tired of being put down by all these people that slash say we're a bunch of beach bums...ya'll don't work, but...and when the waves are up you take off. But you know, if I'm working and there's a hurricane swell coming and I've got some work that I have to get done, I tend to stay at work and go ahead and get it done. Cause I'll be fifty this year and I've got three children and I can't just, you know, take off and go surf.

Fritzler: Um hum.

Jon Jones: As bad as I would love to.

Fritzler: So there's that desire to.

Jon Jones: The desire is always there.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: But you know, the older you get, ah, you got to do what's right first.

Fritzler: Um hum.

Jon Jones: And then go surfing second.

Fritzler: Right. So think if you didn't have the responsibilities that it would be...the freedom would be a lot...

Jon Jones: Oh yea, the freedom would be there. I would...would surf every swell.

Fritzler: Right. So it's, you're kind of at one level, you''re operating within the system, you know, you are taking care of your responsibilities.

Jon Jones: Right.

Fritzler: But you're not letting that control your life to a degree where you aren't enjoying the other things.

Jon Jones: No, I still surf and I have my children into it and that's helped a lot because you now, I can say "alright girls lets go to the beach", and grab all the surfboards and mom will come to. And then after I play with them, let them surf a while, then I get to surf. And it works, you know. So I get to surf a lot more now because the kids are into it and I love it. I'm not gonna quit till my old body tells me I can't.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: And I think I still got a ways yet.

Fritzler: Do you think there's been a warming of relations between the mainstream and the surfers over time as surfing has progressed and more people have gotten into it?

Jon Jones: I believe it has because the old people like myself and Will, and so on and so on, are showing a better example of what surfers are all about.

Fritzler: Um hum.

Jon Jones: And of course we have the younger guys that are younger guys. Just like when we were young, they're always gonna rub somebody wrong.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: But overall I think the surfers have come a long way.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: I think we're good people.

Fritzler: Do you think that's...a lot of its because the guys that, like yourself, that were the...the originals, the...the pioneers that have, you know, have moved...over time and with age, have moved into the positions of leadership and, ah, you know, figure heads in society where you are actually setting the tone for the younger generations and so in a sense you've kind of cleared the path and made it easier for these younger kids to come up and enjoy surfing without feeling that pressure?

Jon Jones: I hopefully have. That's what we're...we're trying to do. That's what it's all about, everybody getting out there and having fun. And if somebody's out there, you know, doing something wrong, it's up to the older people to try to be nice to 'em and say "listen guys, ya'll please get away from the pier."

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: "Cause if you don't the John Law's gonna come down here and arrest you. It's bad for us. So why don't you just move over and let the guys have the pier." There's no need in arguing in the water, that's not gonna...that's not gonna help. Just try to be brothers.

Fritzler: Yea, why do you think there is that sense of...

Jon Jones: Aggression?

Fritzler: Aggression and territorialism. You know a lot of other sports have more of a written, kind of code of ethics and a rule in a more, you know, more traditional sports, mainstream sports. They have, you know, their rules, their regulations...

Jon Jones: Right.

Fritzler: ...and surfing doesn't have a written rule of law.

Jon Jones: That...that confuses me why there isn't, you know, territorialism about surfing.'s like that everywhere. Like on Oahu, you don't want to go to the west side over there. Those guys do not like you!

Fritzler: Um hum. It' you find it hard to understand...

Jon Jones: I just find it...

Fritzler: ...logic to it?

Jon Jones: ...yea, because if I'm surfing here at Oak Island, and my brothers from Carolina Beach or South Carolina come over and surf on a hurricane swell with me, hey, come on! It''s no problem.

Fritzler: Um hum. Do you find as more people enter the water though that there should be more of a educational standpoint to talk about, you know, valuing and respecting your peers in the water.

Jon Jones: Yea, that would be a good thing.

Fritzler: Cause it seems like, you know, with...when there were less people in the water, the communication of the surfer rule was...

Jon Jones: Yea.

Fritzler: ...easier. But with more people, different types of people...

Jon Jones: Exactly.

Fritzler: ...that knowledge...

Jon Jones: Different types of people.

Fritzler: Right. It's not shared.

Jon Jones: Different ages and it's...the big kids...a lot of the kids just don't respect, you know, the older guys like they should.

Fritzler: Um hum.

Jon Jones: But, if it gets that bad when I'm out surfing, I just paddle on down and get out of it, cause I'm not into hassles anymore. I'm into the freedom of surfing and, you know, being mellow and riding waves and feeling good, not arguing with people.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: I just turn and paddle off and go down the beach.

Fritzler: Yea. Historically do have you seen surfing develop here? Do you remember when the first surf shop opened, or we've talked about the first surfboard being that...

Jon Jones: Right.

Fritzler: board coming in and then with that the introduction of long boards from other people, but, how has it developed as a...not only as a business, how has have you seen the presence of surfing become more?

Jon Jones: I...I saw the first surf shop, which was probably 20 X 20. The sold Hansen longboards from, you know, Cali. They ordered 'em and shipped 'em here. That was at Yaupon Pier. That probably lasted a couple years. And that was in the late sixties. That was the first surf shop here.

Fritzler: Um hum. Do you remember the name?

Jon Jones: I sure can't. I remember the guy that owned it, his name was Frank Barbee.

Fritzler: Um hum.

Jon Jones: And he was, ah, he was a good surfer himself. He was...he could've probably been in that original six too. He was...he's an older guy, older than me, probably three or four years.

Fritzler: So would I guess those Hansens were actually shorter boards than the actually long boards, that this was the late sixties, or was the longboarding presence still pretty significant here?

Jon Jones: They were, ah, yea they were coming down into the eight foot and seven-eight was like a shortboard then, I believe, if I'm not wrong.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: And, which a seven-eight to us seemed like a short board.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: Cause they were still thick, you know.

Fritzler: Um.

Jon Jones: But, ah, yea that was when the boards were starting to go through a lot of change.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: California was doing some strange things.

Fritzler: Um hum. Did you...were there any surf shops here throughout the seventies?

Jon Jones: Ah, another friend of mine opened a small shop down at Long Beach for maybe a couple of summers. But until, you know, the late eighties and early nineties when the big shops came in, all the local shops'd never make it. They just, you know, they didn't have enough business and didn't keep enough boards in. We'd still go to Wrightsville Beach to buy boards cause they had a lot better selection, you know.

Fritzler: Um. So were you going to Sweetwater, or Surf City, or...?

Jon Jones: No, this was even before that. Um there was one over...ah, Sproul. Did you ever hear of...

Fritzler: Yea, Frank...

Jon Jones: ...Frank Sproul...

Fritzler: Ocean Surf Shop.

Jon Jones: Ocean Surf Shop.

Fritzler: So you'd go up there to see Frankie then?

Jon Jones: Yea. I knew Frank Sproul pretty well.

Fritzler: Uh huh. Did you know Norman Apple?

Jon Jones: Yea.

Fritzler: Remember Norman?

Jon Jones: I remember him.

Fritzler: Norman worked with him.

Jon Jones: Yea.

Fritzler: Yea, that's neat.

Jon Jones: Now, was he the first shop on Wrightsville down there?

Fritzler: On Wrightsville, yea.

Jon Jones: Yea, okay. I was thinking he was.

Fritzler: That was '65 when he opened.

Jon Jones: But basically, if you had the money to get a new board, that's were you'd go, to Frank.

Fritzler: Oh wow, so you guys were up for a commute when you wanted to get a new board? You'd go way up there.

Jon Jones: Um hum.

Fritzler: Now why do you think it was that the local shops didn't make it as opposed to these bigger shops? Was it that they just sold surfboards and they didn't have the apparel?

Jon Jones: Exactly.

Fritzler: Cause that seems to be a big part of the surf shop life.

Jon Jones: That is the way they make their money. We know that. Selling clothes and the accessories. The surfboard part, I don't think they make that much off of the boards themselves.

Fritzler: No.

Jon Jones: Maybe 50 to 100 dollars if they're lucky.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: I would think...from my, you know, from what I've seen in the shops. And then, you know later on, after I hooked up with Will, I would just go over to his house and it was order my board and I'd sit in the shaping room with him and watch him shape my boards. I was lucky, I thought...he'd always say, "Well if you want to stay, come on."

Fritzler: Yea, I do that too.

Jon Jones: And I loved that!

Fritzler: Watch.

Jon Jones: I don't get to do it much anymore. Um, my board's sitting in the factory right now [inaudible] I can't wait to get my paws on it so I can go out! (laughing)

Fritzler: How long is that one?

Jon Jones: It's a nine-0.

Fritzler: Nine-0. Is that a Mini Nose-rider?

Jon Jones: Yea. He just got back from Maui...the last time...he brought a new template back. He claims that he loves that thing, so...

Fritzler: Does it have a pintail on it?

Jon Jones: A rounded pin?

Fritzler: Yea, I think it's the Mini Nose-rider.

Jon Jones: So I looked at his the last time I was up there and picked it up and gave it the run around and I'm like, "Yep, I think you're right, Allison." We're both about the same size. We've always ridden similar boards. We've got different styles of course, but we ride similar boards. And I can't wait to get it.

Fritzler: Do you remember how you met Will?

Jon Jones: Yep, I was surfing Long Beach pier in the early '70's. I can't tell you exactly the date. He's better at dates than I am.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: He's real good. I don't...he kills me. But we were surfing Long Beach pier and this little skinny guy like me was out there killing it.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: He has looong blond hair...I paddle over and introduce myself, and he tells me who he is. And then, of course, the contest scene...he was really good in contests. And then...then he started moving around, so...he went and moved to Hawaii and Louisiana and then ended up back here. That's when in met him, early '70's.

Fritzler: Speaking of the contest scene, you know, there's this whole...there's a lot of turmoil within surfing. You know, the soul surfer, the competitive surfer, the guy that is only out to make money off of it, but as far as competitive surfing goes, how...what would you say are some of your best times or your worst times about the contest scene?

Jon Jones: When I was in my mid thirties I got a second wind in surfing, or something. It's like I got better or something. I don't know how or why. And I started doing really well in contests and so that was from '87 through '91, I just was...did real good. I don't know why. I put a lot of time and effort in practice I guess. Like the year I won the US, for three months before I went to the US, I worked out, I paddled, I hardly drank a beer, and I just, you know, I was serious about it. So when I got out there I was in good shape. And those guys in my division were wondering who this kid is from Long Beach, North Carolina. (laughing)

Fritzler: North Carolina.

Jon Jones: "Where are you...?" In Hawaii, they'd say, "where you from...North Carolina?" (laughing) They'd look at you like, oh, where is that in California? They don't even know where North Carolina is. (laughing)

Fritzler: This little speck on the map. What were you remember some of your, the more you know, negative points of the competitive scene, that you're like, "well, I hate this", you know, "Why do I want to even be competing...I just want to go back to surfing"

Jon Jones: Ah, yea, you have those days. Um, the most negative things I can remember are other competitors. There's say, four or five of you out there, and you know if you've got the wave, you've got the wave. There's nothing you can do. If I've got the peak, I'm gonna get the wave. You can wait for the next one. I mean, that's the way it is. You've got to deal with it. But some of the competitors, they'll get out there and they'll see you riding a good wave, they'll get mad with their self cause they're not catching waves. And then they'll start showing their behind. I just couldn't see that grown men got to act like little children. And that was too negative. I...I couldn't stand it. And when people have to start fighting and bumping each other trying to get a wave, you know, I just soon not be there. That's one...that's the reason the last Hot Wax I was in...I got out there in a contest and had some of that going on with me, and just said that's it. You know, I'm a soul surfer from now on.

Fritzler: Yea...yea. Um...

Jon Jones: And that's it.

Fritzler: Do you think that, again, and this is the second time that aggressive nature of the...the male has come out, do you think that has to do with some cases with the...the inconsistency of the wave that, you know...

Jon Jones: Oh yea.

Fritzler: ...guys wait so long for waves to come, or you know, finally when there's waves there's this mentality...gotta get as many as I can.

Jon Jones: That's exactly the problem. We go to a contest. The directors are standing out there. The waves are two feet. All these people come from an hour away or less, or more. The directors have to decide do we have...let's hold it. We've got all these people here, we got to hold the contest. So we have to get out there in conditions that make you that way, you know.

Fritzler: Yea...yea.

Jon Jones: That has a little bit to do with it. But as grown men I would think they could control their selves a little bit better, you know.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: But conditions do have a lot to do with it, especially on the east coast. You know that.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: And they have seven or eight contests on the USA that they have to run a year before the regional so they've got to try to get 'em in.

Fritzler: Yea. Um...

Jon Jones: Makes it tough.

Fritzler: Yea...yea, I've noticed that a lot from local kids that find it frustrating. Cause, you know, you see some of these kids that are really good surfers when...when the bigger swells come along.

Jon Jones: That's right.

Fritzler: The smaller wave conditions really don't, because the contest is structured, waves aren't, you know, you can't dictated when waves are gonna occur, but you can dictate when you set a contest.

Jon Jones: I believe that they can learn to ride these little crappy waves when they get somewhere in California where there in a real contest, they'll do so much better.

Fritzler: Um hum...I'm sorry.

Jon Jones: Because you know how hard it is to ride these little waves. Takes everything you got. Then when you get on a real wall you can really surf.

Fritzler: Um. Do you think that has something to do with the preponderance of east cost surfers that seem to continuously win? If they won the world level...we had the Kelly Slaters' and the Hobgoods'?

Jon Jones: I believe it. I believe that from fighting and learning how to ride these little crappy waves all your life, that it really helps you.

Fritzler: Do you...there's a certain element of fear when you're in the water. You know, no only from the natural elements of the...the species that live underneath the water, um, but also, you know, I've experienced, you know, when the waves, they start to really steepen, and there's a big...there's a giant wall and maybe you've caught it late, and you have to drop in, or you're paddling out and you see this wall just jacking up in front of you. How do does that, you know, as a young surfer, did you find that you were more afraid and over time became less afraid because of your comfort zone and your relationship with the water, or do you find that that fear is still there. Or is it...

Jon Jones: I believe I was the opposite. When I was younger and I was less afraid because I was stupid. I didn't care.

Fritzler: Uh huh.

Jon Jones: I wasn't scared of it. Now that I've gotten older, you know, I seem to have more respect for it and I know when to do something and not to do something. Like in Hawaii I thought I was gonna get killed one day. A mere ten foot holly eagle wave is a twenty foot face.

Fritzler: Yea.

Jon Jones: You get about three of those pound you on top of your head in a row, you'd be glad to see the beach. It's a humbling experience, believe me. And especially knowing what's on the bottom.

Fritzler: Right, yea, all the coral.

Jon Jones: But the fear...I guess when you're younger, the fear factor part of that rush. I remember that when I was younger, that that rush, I liked it. But now as I'm older, I'm not so sure I like know.

Fritzler: We talked a lit...I know we have to wrap it up shortly, um, but we talked a little bit about surfing and you family and going to the beach. Um, you know, seems that...or individuals within families that surf, it seems like surfing has affected the others within the family and I think I've seen, you know, actually reverse generational things where the kids surf and influence their parents. How do you find that surfing is great for family relationships? How does it...what's it's presence in the family?

Jon Jones: I think it's great for the family because it helps keep 'em together more as a group. Like on your days off, Saturdays and Sundays, living at the beach you tend...I want to go to the beach anyway, but if I can get the whole family at the beach it''s a better thing. And then we all have a better time, than splitting everybody go here, you go there. But, you know, if the family is together it's gonna be a better thing for everybody. In Hawaii you can see it.

Fritzler: Really?

Jon Jones: That the surfing...a man my age would take his two kids right out in the four foot swell with him.

Fritzler: Hum...hum. And um, do you think that also you find it easier to educate your children about the value of the coast and what lives within the water, and you know, the fish that are there, the turtles that are there, and other types of sea life. Or you know, to respect our environment and care for it?

Jon Jones: Oh yea. My kids respect the ocean and the beach. They ah, they've been drug to the beach since they were crawling. They all swim great. Even my five year old can swim. And they'll all let me take 'em out the ten footer anytime. Tandem surf. I love to do that with 'em.

Fritzler: Do you?

Jon Jones: Yea. They...they do good on the beach. They respect the ocean.

Fritzler: Sounds like it's a nice bonding experience...

Jon Jones: It is a good bonding.

Fritzler: ...with your children.

Jon Jones: It is. I just wish one of 'em would become a, a real surfer. Cause they've got it in their blood that's for sure!

Fritzler: Well, I think we're running short on time, but um, definitely if you're interested, we'd like to sit down with you in the future again.

Jon Jones: Okay.

Fritzler: ...kind of review and...

Jon Jones: Okay.

Fritzler: about what things are going on. And with asking questions with other people, we might be able to tie things back from them to you...

Jon Jones: Um hum.

Fritzler: ...and perhaps develop a larger picture too...

Jon Jones: Okay.

Fritzler: ...of your experiences, or talking with other local people it might also help to bring back some memories for you as well, um, which we definitely would like to explore.

Jon Jones: Okay. If I see...if I can get up with a couple of these friends of mine from...

Fritzler: Okay.

Jon Jones: ...old school, I'll ask 'em about the East Coast Surf Shop.

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