The forever fabulous Jon Zawada and his graphic for Lost Atlas.

Meet: Ozzie Wright’s Dazzling Bro-in-Law!

Jonathan Zawada's grahic design changed surf forever… 

In the summer of 2003, I launched a surfing magazine with a friend. Beyond a desire to swim in the rivers of advertising revenue that flowed at the time, we had little idea of how the magazine should present.

Would it be the Vanity Fair of surf? Would it seek the tone of National Enquirer (actually, that’d come a dozen years later with BeachGrit)?

Our direction, ultimately, was decided not by focus group or editor, but by our choice of art director, a twenty-two-year-artist called Jon Zawada. Riding on his fantastic distortionist design, the magazine became the darling of the burgeoning hipster movement and advertising meetings were generally concluded with the line, “We’re moving all our ad-spend to you and Monster Children.”

Glory days, as they say.

Jon, meanwhile, became an in-demand artist with worldwide reach, commercially and exhibiting. German motor cars (BMW), high-end fashion labels (Bassike), surf filmmakers (Kai Neville’s Lost Atlas) and music labels (Modular) all begged for his touch.

Jon’s graphics for Lost Atlas.
Jon’s album cover design for The Presets.

Note: Inspect Jon’s hat for New Era. Free Dumb. Perhaps Jon should’ve repurposed for the Trump campaign?

Four years go, the Los Angeles art gallery Prism sponsored Jon, who is thirty-five years old, and his wife Annie, the sister of Ozzie Wright, to live and create in LA. One of Jon’s first assignments was to visit a Malibu billionaire to discuss, and then design, a tattoo.”Once I have this on my skin you and I will be linked forever,” the billionaire told Jon.

Recently, Jon, and his wife Annie, released a furniture collection. “I’ve made a lot of furniture for giant mansions in the hills,” he says. Side tables cost three-thousand dollars, coffee tables, nine-thousand dollars and rugs six thousand dollars. (Available at Just One Eye, a “luxury boutique” on Romaine St, Los Angeles.)

“A lot of money for us, but not a lot of money for them. Everybody’s happy,” says Jon.

Why you should you care about Jon’s art?

Because his work immerses us in substance, originality and is dazzlingly charismatic. Like the artist himself.

BeachGrit: First, let’s play on a little of your surf experience. One of your first jobs was building websites.

Jon: I actually went to Tavarua to set up one of the early live streams for the Quiksilver Pro. I had to try and get satellite video streaming from the little tower out on a reef. At times it was harrowing. I went for swim off the back of the boat at Cloudbreak, got swept in the lineup and was repeatedly annihilated. I was completely out of my depth. Totally fine for doing the task but not for being on an island with a bunch of surfers.

How would you describe that year of designing Stab? It propelled us, straight away, into a realm of hipness that, perhaps, we didn’t deserve.

Jon: What I liked the most, and it’s what attracted me to music jobs even though I can’t play an instrument, and I can’t surf, is I find everything inherently interesting. The mystery about it all meant I could be a little more objective and have a different view on it. I didn’t carry any baggage on the way things should be over the way things should look. My magazine context was imported fashion magazine and I bounced that out into Stab. If I was a surfer, and had been reading surf mags since I was a kid, I’d be in that little funnel.

And, oh, how you smashed the rules of readability, sensible use of typography etc.

Jon: Yes! I tried! I tried to! Obviously there were times when I had so much to learn, you guys telling me what the interesting part of a photo was. I have no idea looking a wave what you think is interesting. I can tell what I think compositional, although actually cropping out the most important part of the photo to the surfer. What I found challenging was, how do I get something that I find rewarding too?

How does being an artist in LA differ to Sydney?

Jon: Everybody is really excited to do things here. There’s not that competitive nature that there is in Australia where people are wary of working with everybody else. Because there are so few opportunities in Australia you have to hold it with two hands and not share it. Here, everybody’s doing something, everybody wants to work with you and work together on stuff. It’s that awesome American optimism. It’s a good offset to my innate extreme pessimism. It takes me to a nice happy point. What also helps is we haven’t slid into the cultural echo chamber that we were probably in in Sydney. Our friends are more varied and what they do is widespread.

From what well does your inspiration spring from?

Jon: Looking back, the natural aspects of mathematics and science and physics, the things that I gravitate towards. If I’ve got any downtime or if I’m reading, that’s what I focus on and absorb. It’s a constant push-and-pull, the maths, and being pulled towards stuff that’s a natural beauty, finding what’s amazing in stones and plants and water and landscapes. Stuff that’s very outside me. Two extremes, one super internal, maths, the other super external, the natural world.

Album covers were your thing years back, but you stepped away from music until recently. Why?

Jon: I didn’t really like the whole system, the way it operated ethically. I liked talking to musicians and bouncing ideas back and forth with interesting and nice people. The stuff I didn’t like were musicians being signed really young, having their egos blown up and if the album didn’t do so good, or the second album, all the people that hd been around them and inflated them and changed the way they viewed the world… drastically… well, they suddenly disappeared. Kids came out of school, got a record deal, didn’t learn how to operate in the world or how to make compromises, were told everything they did was brilliant and as soon as something didn’t work out for the record label, everybody would turn their backs. If they had personal problems or trouble that couldn’t be solved by placating their egos, nobody was there to help them. Even though that same group of people pulled them away from their friends and family when they blew up.
And, now, in the interim, the music industry has collapsed. A lot of the bad stuff has gone, musicians have to do a lot more for themselves and it facilitates a nicer, more interesting work arrangement.

Do you examine what is called surf art?

Jon: Not heaps, but there is one guy I follow. Thomas Lynch III does amazing airbrushed psychedelic space waves and sunsets with multiple plants over a perfect tube. I love that stuff, outside of that, I don’t seek much of it out. Annie’s brother, being a professional surfer, whenever we introduce ourselves and they say, I’m a surfer, we mention Annie’s brother and they all know who he is. It’s always a good ice breaker.

And you branded the Kai Neville film Lost Atlas, a collaboration I believe that caught Mr Neville at the apex of his game.

Jon: For Lost Atlas, I was completely unaware of who any of the people were in it and was able to treat it with a level of distance which, for me, was super beneficial. If I’m too close to something, or I know too much, I can get quite nervous about taking chances or not trying to dig into some aspect that I think is interesting. I was keen on a bunch of other stuff at the time, graphic poster stuff. As a result, when I did all the art work I did what I wanted to do. It was the same with Stab. In retrospect, and deep, deep down, at the time I wished I was doing some art-film poster in the seventies instead of DVD package for surf film in the two-thousands. It all becomes more interesting as a result. Digging for how I can get what I want out of it and ending up in a unique space.

Visit or contact Jon here. 

(Note: this story appeared in an issue of The Surfer’s Journal.)

Michelob Ultra: What do the people think?

The official beer of the WSL gets reviewed!

There is finnnnnnnnally surf in southern California and it has basically been 876 days since the last swell. Panic is in the air as grown men stumble over their children and grown women accidentally kick their dogs as they rush out the door shouting, “Wait! Do I use warm water or cool water wax?”

I didn’t know either so I logged on to Surfline to check water temperature but got distracted by the website being wrapped, top to bottom, with Michelob Ultra branding. The beer of the bourgeoisie.


And many videos feat. Seabass Zietz all with less than 500 views. Would you like to watch one?

A bald-faced attempt to appeal to The People™ if I’ve ever seen one. Parents not making enough money, boy orphaned, getting kicked while down, getting shouted at, whilst in tube, by a beyond ecstatic Pete Mel… etc.

A tough looking life but let’s be honest. Let’s be real honest. The Garden Isle is a land of endless bounty and Seabass Zietz lives a life of eternal privilege.

But maybe I’ve been too hard on Michelob Ultra. Maybe it really is a beer of the people too. So let’s watch the people drink and review.

I guess I’ve been too hard.

Gabriel Medina? Made the final in France four times in six years. Worst result, a fifth. John is second in average event placings in France, and is near the top of what Surf-Stats man Balyn McDonald calls "relevant categories", average heat score, peaks, etc.

Moneyball: Gabriel or John to Win France!

Gabriel, almost unbeatable at Hossegor. John John in outrageous form.

I love a little Moneyball. Throw the stats into the machine, spit out a winner. Forget reputations. Forget who’s got the big-money stickers wrapped around their beaks.

Do you remember last month when the thirty-something school teacher Balyn McDonald predicted the outcome of Trestles via the cold machinery of statistics. Filipe and Mick all day, he said.  

One out of two ain’t bad.

Tomoz, or maybe later today, the Quiksilver Pro is going to light up on Hossegor’s always difficult to predict sandbars. Who’s going to win?

Let’s roll some of Bal’s numbers.


Gabriel Medina has entered the contest six times for four finals, two wins. His worst result is a fifth. In 2010, he won the King of the Groms there with a perfect heat score. “It’s his contest,” says Balyn.

John John Florence is on top, or close to top, of all the relevant categories: average event heat score, best results in peaks and over the last two contests he’s been averaging better than sixteen points per heat, the best on tour.

Filipe Toledo. Balyn ran the numbers of what he calls his “form column”, how each surfers last three events compare to their career heat average. Jordy swings in at ninth, but is averaging a full-point better than his career heat score. Mick is slightly lower than usual. But Filipe. He’s hitting 15.61 over a career average of 12.92. Two wins out of the last three events.

Who to avoid

Joel Parkinson averages a paltry 9.82 over the past three years. “And his form lately has been pretty awful,” says Bal. “He’s averaging 11.38, one-and-a-half points below his career average. He’s in a slump. They reckon he’s going to run again next year but the numbers tell a different story. He doesn’t seem psyched.”

Bede Durbidge. Two finals out of eleven events but also three last-place 33rds and two 25ths. Five events without a heat win. Too hot to touch.

Wiggolly Dantas. “Hasn’t won a heat here in his two years on tour. Has the second-worst average heat score or the event over his four heats (9.57).”

Dark Horse

Kolohe Andino. Has the equal second-best average event placing in France. Gabriel wins, averaging second, but John and Kolohe both average a (non-existent) seventh placing. Keanu Asing is in there too, but with only two events there, and his average is skewed by last year’s win.

And really don’t touch 

The beautiful, but sadly can’t-win-a-damn-thing, Miguel Pupo. One heat win out of six and the lowest average heat score from the last three events.

Visit Balyn’s website Surf-Stats here. 

And watch last year’s highlights here.

Was Jeremy Flores complicit in shark attacks on Reunion Island? Sea Shep's Paul Watson said yep! Jez sued and lost. | Photo: Maassen/South Park

Blood Feud: Jeremy Flores vs Paul Watson!

Jeremy Flores' defamation suit against Sea Shep's Paul Watson thrown out by French court…

On Monday, the Reunion Island born-surfer Jeremy Flores lost a defamation suit he’d brought against Sea Shep’s Paul Watson. The sixty-six-year-old environmental activist had published a screed that accused Jeremy and the French government of being partly responsible for the spike in shark attacks there.

Let’s back track a little.

You sure as hell don’t need me to remind you of Reunion Island’s sudden, disastrous relationship with the anything-but-rare bull shark.

Like nearby Madagascar, sharks had always been a bit of a thing. If you surfed there, you played your cards straight: no surfing after rain or in dirty water or river mouths, avoid the east coast, dusk, dawn. Hardly the science of rocketry.

In 2007 a marine park was created, shark fishing was banned, and…boom…Reunion suddenly become the worst place in the world to jump into the ocean. Eighteen attacks in five years. Eight fatals. A little island of 970 square miles responsible for almost a fifth of the world’s attacks.

Jeremy Flores, who regularly visits Reunion Island, stopped surfing there.

“It’s not worth the risk,” he said.

Jeremy also advocated a return to the fishing of bull sharks in the reserve.

Kelly Slater agreed.

“There is a clear imbalance in the ocean there,” he said.

Paul Watson, a founder of Greenpeace but famous for its offshoot Sea Shepherd whose photogenic attacks on Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean made it the darling of animal lovers, stepped in, convinced Kelly to change his mind and wrote the accusatory piece (Kelly Slater is not an enemy of the sharks) that included:

From our point of view the cause of these frequent attacks is the culling itself and thus Flores and the government of France are very much complicit in the circumstances that have seen 20 attacks since 2011 of which 8 attacks were fatal.

Pretty fucken wild, no?

In an Australian court Watson would’ve been hung out to dry. The French court, however, ruled that “there is no direct responsibility between Jeremy Flores and the shark attacks but merely a debate between the association and the surfer about the causes of these attacks.”

Jeremy had to pay a thousand euros in legal costs to Sea Shepherd who responded to the judgement by saying, “Justice seems to support scientific advice rather than controversial advice.”

Jeremy’s response was eloquent.

I have read a lot of things over the last few days following the judgment of the dax court, which considered that the words against me by Paul Watson and sea shepherd were not defamatory.

No media has asked me about the subject while the other party has spoken, and I would like to take the floor here to clarify and respond to all those who criticize me without knowing the reality of the facts.

This is the first and last time I speak on this subject.

Those who want it can continue to mock and attack me.

Let them know, however, that what Paul Watson and sea shepherd say about me is completely wrong.
I’m not a shark killer.
I’ve never spoken for a shark slaughter.
I grew up in the ocean.
I’m an ocean lover.

Although I do not approve of their methods, I have never publicly accused Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd of anything and I have never held words that can be considered personal attacks against them.

Why did I file a libel suit against Sea Shepherd?

Because I could not continue to suffer very serious false accusations, completely contrary to what I am and what I believe in. I would point out that I did not press charges to condemn the actions of Sea Shepherd. But good for his leaders to stop calomnier me and spread lies about my person.

In February, I posted on social networks a message of support to the family of Alexander Naussac, after his death as a result of his attack on a spot of the meeting.
Kelly Slater stands by commenting on my message. He writes for shark regulation at the meeting. Which is controversial.

Paul Watson says in his editorial that I was the one who inspired Kelly Slater to write this post and take a stand for shark slaughter. Frankly, Kelly didn’t need me to figure out what’s been going on at the meeting for years.

Contrary to what Paul Watson says, I’ve never touched a shark in my life and I’ve never raised money for shark slaughter. This is all wrong. In recent years, I have always said that a solution must be sought to find a balance between men and the marine world. Nothing else.

How could I stay without doing anything about such false accusations? Given that I am still beset by messages of insults and hatred by people who do not know me and who accuse me of the worst things.

So I decided to press charges against my person so I wouldn’t be tainted by these slanderous accusations.

I have asked for financial compensation with the sole objective of putting the funds in full to Marine Environmental Protection Associations at the meeting.

I didn’t get justice to make money, it’s obvious. I love my island. I lost friends, brothers.

As you know, I was rejected by the Dax court a few days ago, and sentenced to pay 1.000 € of justice to Sea Shepherd. I respect justice and I will therefore respect this decision. I have no regrets except for not being heard. I simply note that there are untouchable people.

Meanwhile, on Reunion, surfers cluster around a couple of small beaches with nets, surfing banned elsewhere.

State of Surf: “Let the weak die!”

A socially darwinian missile launched from surf conference!

Last night the President of the United States Donald J. Trump met with some of his generals etc. at the White House and told the gathered reporters that they were witnessing “the calm before the storm.” Oh this tease sent the news into overdrive. What could this provocative phrase be referring to? Iran? North Korea?

Who knows? And frankly I didn’t care because I was busy pondering a far more disturbing statement delivered at the Transworld Business 2017 State of Surf Q2 even from two nights ago by Nixon’s Vice President of Sales Americas Brian White.

He told the gathering:

Overall, there is an evolution happening, and some retailers who aren’t in the business to support and elevate the entire community are hurting the market for everyone, White said.

“We need to let the weak die, because if they can’t win by assortment or by the experience they are providing, then they win by lowering the price, and it needs to go away.”


Who are these weak that need to die? Like… who? Like… which surf shops? Does your local surf shop need to die? And what do you think in general about survival of the fittest as a concept? Are you Hitlerian or do your politics line up more with Gandhi?