Artist and surfer Jakey Pedro and Rodeo Cowboy art.
Artist-surfer Jakey Pedro fronts his Beach Cowboy works…

Jakey Pedro artist profile: “The Infallible Freshness of Surf”

Examine the finless wizard's wild trajectory from fundamentalist Christianity to sexy-as-all-hell art and surf.

“What does one prefer? An art that struggles to change the social contract, but fails? Or one that seeks to please and amuse, and succeeds?” Robert Hughes, The Shock of the New. 

The artist, brown-skinned and barefoot like everyone else in this neighbourhood, wears blue jeans and a matching shirt unbuttoned three deep as he pads through the beachfront apartment that serves as studio and living quarters, three commissions in various stages of completion leaning against the kitchen wall.

Readying for delivery are “Non Cheri”, four feet by five, white stars on a rose background, words in Marlboro’s familiar serif font, three thousand dollars; “As the Sun Sets”, six feet by two-and-a-half feet, palm trees, rodeo cowboy, ‘Au Coucher Du Soleil” in French, seven thousand dollars; “Cowboy Love”, three feet by two-and-a-half feet, torso and head outline of a cowboy, ‘L’amore Cow-Boy’ in French, three gees. 

Jacob Leigh Pedrana, artist handle Jakey Pedro has, in a perfect flurry of oil and canvas and red wine-fuelled inspiration, transmogrified from blue-collar plasterer to in-demand artist whose joyously coloured rodeo cowboy-themed works festooned with French idioms are the latest must-have for Australia’s culturally well-heeled set. 

 

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Thick worker’s hands that once gripped hammers and banged drywall on the dawn-to-dusk building site grind are now employed delicately wielding brushes and paint sticks. 

“It’s hard to explain how quickly it all happened,” says thirty-eight-year-old Jake, who reconnected with the art that consumed him as a kid during 2020’s pandemic. “It’s like I’ve been given this new life. It’s like being reborn.”

When the Big Scare hit and Australians dutifully locked their doors and shuttered their windows for the year, Jake bought a dozen bottles of red wine, rolls of paper, a box of pens and, after his then-three-year-old kid Ryka was asleep in bed, spent his nights painting whatever came to him,  posting the results on his Instagram story. 

People would ask him if the work was for sale and with his trade shuttered for the foreseeable future and down and out in a part of town where even a modest attached home sells for two million dollars, Jake was introduced to the concept of art as bullion. 

His first piece, a small abstract on paper sold for four-hundred dollars. 

A commission came from Hawaii via DM for a six-foot-by-six-foot “dinosaur moonscape” and Jake, who ain’t short of confidence, quoted the man eight-thousand dollars for the work. Within an hour his PayPal account was inflated to an hitherto unknown high. 

And that, as they say, was that. 

Jake used the eight gees to buy oil paints and oil sticks and tossed away his cheap chainstore tools, and the commissions haven’t stopped, the pace quickening week by week, myriad exhibitions sought by galleries, restaurants ordering murals. 

His surf clothing sponsor, The Critical Slide Society, even released a limited edition trunk, the pink fabric garlanded with his trademark rodeo cowboy. 

 

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Jake says his sudden ability to survive just from sales of his paintings, feels like a gift from God, but is quick to clarify he means kismet or providence, and not the the Christian concept of God which was belted out of him after being raised in a Pentecostal household.

“I saw some weird shit at Church when I was a kid,” he says. “Church attracts people who are really hurting and I didn’t know that. I thought Church was really kind. I saw a lot of dark things.” 

Dark? Yeah, like the time he and the pastor’s kid were hiding in the Church office and he watched as donations suckered from the flock for a flood in Samoa were divvied up between the Church officials, the men laughing at how much money they’d made. 

“I felt sick,” says Jake. 

**********

Above the six-feet-and-two-inch artist’s head, which pivots on a light heavyweight’s two-hundred pound frame dramatised by excessively broad shoulders, are two finless wooden alaia-style boards. 

Jake shaped ‘em using hand tools and carved from Paulownia tree blanks sent from Noosa by old friend and shaping mentor Tom Wegener.

Readers may remember Tom as the Joker from Phil Jarratt’s 2006 (Alex: can you check it’s issue 14:1) Journal profile of the Palos Verdes-raised former lawyer who threw in the cash-grab to live in blissful harmony shaping ancient surfboards at Noosa Heads.

Jake, a bodyboarder of renown whose drop-knee wizardry had taken him to the Australian Titles, was born in the hills out behind Noosa and on a trip home in 2007 became fascinated with Wegener’s alaias. 

This was a decade after bodyboarding’s spectacular nineties peak when Encinitas drop-knee king Paul Roach had turned Machado and his Momentum pals onto trailsides, a time when Tom Morey’s squared-off pieces of foam looked set to overtake trad fibreglass board surfing. 

By 2007, however, the magic had faded and bodyboarders had started turning to stand-up surfing and its alternatives. 

The trip home coincided with Wegener being filmed for a vignette in the Thomas Campbell film The Present, the smiling Californian with the mild, defenceless eyes of a lamb living the Country Soul dream of shaping wooden boards out the back of his little shack. And it was the shredding of one of Wegener’s team riders, Jacob Struth on these little wooden boards that just…hit…Jake. 

In short order, Jake struck up a conversation with Wegener at National Park during a swell, and after riding an alaia at the famous points, told him he wanted to shape and create his own versions. 

“I got up straight away, it felt natural and didn’t feel one bit weird. I wanted to be involved in it, heavy involved,” says Jake. “You gotta swim the alaias, they don’t float, you’re literally swimming the whole time. It’s like wakeboarding, you have to get ‘em up on the plane but once you’re going, you’re fucking…on.”

By 201o, the pair were collaborating on a mass-production alaia that was accessible to average surfers. 

“The ancient alaias, they’re great to ride but they’re physically demanding – only one in one thousand surfers can actually ride one,” says Wegener, who is now fifty-eight. “We thought, is there a way to take this really elegant, difficult type of surfing and bring it to the masses so other people can get turned onto the glide of ancient surfing? Ancient surfing is finless surfing and the ancients were very, very good at surfing.”

The pair worked to find a shape that kept the essential being of the alaia, the basic tombstone shape with a slight parabolic rail towards the tail, that didn’t require its operator to be superhuman. 

“I knew how a bodyboard flexed so we worked well together,” says Jake. 

The result was the Albacore, a finless board available as a 4’11” or a 5’6” and made from flexible foam that sold for two hundred dollars a piece via Global Surf Industries, at one point the biggest surfboard manufacturer in the world.

Marketed as “a simple finless board that is complimenting the craze of finless surfing, with a safe, user friendly way of getting a piece of this type of surfing”, the Albacore sold well enough but, says Wegener, “didn’t light the world on fire.” 

Wegener says GSI impressed him with their desire to “advance surfing by taking on different projects”. The project, he says, was stymied by distributors who needed surfboards that were a guaranteed sell. 

Which meant the wildly eccentric Albacore, even with its surf bonafides demonstrated to devastating effect by Jake at a Javanese slab and at Fiji’s Cloudbreak, wasn’t even visible to the average surfer. 

“The Albacore was very easy to surf for a snowboarder and so the few Albacores that went to Europe, the guys loved ‘em,” says Wegener. “They’re no different to a snowboard…it’s still a very relevant idea.”

GSI were so thrilled with Jake’s involvement in the project he became a team rider, the company viewing him as a surf unicorn, that rare shredder who can articulate feeling from a surf craft, whether it’s a bodyboard, a noserider or a lip-swatting five-six.

A dozen years after the fact, Wegener is still elevated when he describes sitting on the beach at Noosa on Christmas Day 2011 watching Jake impose his unique lines. 

“He’s the best backside finless surfer I’ve ever seen,” says Wegener. “He was going down the point doing off the lips but 360 off the lips, one after the other…backside… drifting across the lip 360s, engaging the rail, doing another 360. It was so breathtakingly beautiful. Of course, I didn’t have my camera that particular day. You’ve never see anything like it.” 

**********

If you want to talk about the influences that shaped Jake and his rodeo cowboys, think of those artists that emerged at various points in the twentieth century to storm the citadels of tradition – the Pop Art of Warhol, Picasso’s Cubism, Wassily Kandinsky and Abstraction, Matisse and Fauvism, Basquiat and Schnabel’s brute primitivism. 

Schnabel’s work produced outdoors in Mexico, his velvet canvasses spread out in the dirt, in particular, sung to Jake. 

“He’s a surfer as well and I loved that he used to paint huge scale paintings right on the beach. He’d go down to Mex, paint on the beach right there and do the coolest installations.” 

More than Schnabel or the obvious parallels to Basquiat’s brightly coloured and frenetic graffiti style, Jake says it’s surfing that inspires. 

“Even though I don’t surf much anymore, a few times a week, and as  corny as it sounds, surfing is an art form. I’ve taken that feeling of being the artist in the water and putting in on canvas. They both help each other. Surfing helps my art and art helps my surfing. Not just wine.” 

The cowboy motif reappears because of Jake’s upbringing a forty-five minute drive from the beach. 

“I was a surf cowboy,” he laughs. 

 

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Before he paints, Jake will buy a twenty-dollar bottle of Pinot Noir and mix the colours, combing an oil base through a dry pigment to create washed-out pastels and washed-out fluoro colours for what he describes as an early nineties feel.

“Soft pastel pinks and light blues because when you put a big black oil stick over the top of a bright colour it pops.” 

Jake wants pop because the feeling the artist wants you to experience is lightness. 

“I look at some art and it makes me feel heavy, which is the artist’s inner being brought onto the canvas. I don’t make confronting, in-your-face art. It’s not dark although painting is my therapy and me being creative forces and sharpens my focus which might, and does, deviate elsewhere.” 

When Jake separated from the mother of his son Ryka in 2018 when the kid was one it was an added motivations to aim his light at that fabled north star.

“I wanted to break that pattern of traditionalism that I was born into, the working class ideal where you’re forced to work for the man, the company, whatever. My gift to Ryka is to show him you can love what you do. I didn’t want him to see me miserable as a plasterer.”

Wegener says he finds it difficult to describe the happiness he feels seeing his protege killing it on the art scene. 

“The sheet-plasterer guy, doing that, it didn’t suit him. He’s a very, very special person. He’s so much more. He senses more, he has a heightened awareness. Him and his son Ryka, what a team they are. It’s a buzz to see him painting with the kid in between his legs doing his own painting. And that’s the great quality Jake has. It’s a super empathy that he feels with people. And it comes through in his surfing and his art.” 

(Editor’s note: This story first appeared in The Surfer’s Journal, Volume 32, issue 5. See Jake’s work here.)


Occy (left) no part of this beef with Lucy Small (right) other than being a notorious Billabong hound.
Occy (left) no part of this beef with Lucy Small (right) other than being a notorious Billabong hound.

Billabong head men’s designer scratches surf feminist hero Lucy Small in wild cat fight!

Get a life, mate.

The surf fan knows, and knows well, that the industry she once cherished has gone all the way to the birds. Iconic brands like Quiksilver, Billabong, RVCA, Roxy and DC rolled up into one mega label and publicly shamed with large Costco rollouts. Hurley turning to the robust beard oil market for growth strategies. Beard oil and pool toys.

Bleak and sad though, as happens in dark times, heroes rise and we, the beleaguered, have Lucy Small.

The diminutive Australian cross-stepper burst on to our scene decrying fair pay between regional male longboarders and regional female longboarders. Roasting the powers that be, she turned to other causes, though each sharing-ish certain qualities. The celebration of women, or men becoming women, etc.

So who could have predicted Billabong’s head designer (men’s), extending his claws and scratching the surf feminist hero deep?

The trouble, as it were, began when Small went on an academic journey and posted to her social media:

Things I have learnt about Billabong…

-Their swimwear and clothing is made in East Asian factories and they have no transparency or certification on the conditions of these factories (some pretty terrible, unregulated working conditions.)

-There is no evidence they are taking meaningful action to reduce their climate/environment/health impacts

-They pay their models more than their surfers.

-They have some diversity in their women’s surf team but this seems to lack in their men’s team and some people attribute this to racial stereotyping.

-They’re a legacy surf brand that has turned highly corporate and subsequently appear to have abandoned their surfcore base.

Hammer time.

A blow that the aforementioned head men’s designer did not take lightly. Jake Fissenden took directly to the direct messages and responded “Get a life mate!”

Meow!

Small, taking the high road, sarcastically told him that she liked his profile picture which suggested “wipe on sex appeal.”

She also asked if it was Billabong’s formal response.

No word, at time of writing, if it is.


Chaos as Snapper Rocks goes XXL

Watch the best compilation of the latest Snapper Rocks swell that got the world, including Kelly Slater, dizzy…

Over the course of twenty two years, Snapper Rocks, a little volcanic outcrop of rock at the tip of Point Danger on Queensland’s Gold Coast, has become the illustrious host of the world’s best righthand barrels.

Lefts? Yeah, Namibia, but for the normative stance majority, there ain’t a place on earth like Snapper Rocks. Kelly Slater, who blew off Portugal’s tour event to surf the joint, even modelled his Surf Ranch on the bank that runs from Snapper Rocks through Rainbow Bay called Little Marley.

And, real hard to believe, but until a council-funded sand bypass system starting pumping sand from around the corner at the mouth of the Tweed River, the joint was a lowly wave t for desperadoes when the southerlies tore hell out of D-Bah, just over the hill.

It took seven years for the sand to get just…so… and link that shitty last-resort point into the five-wave miracle it is today, waves barrelling through Snapper, Rainbow Bay, Greenmount, Coolangatta beach before expiring near the old sausage groyne at north Kirra.

It goes to hell just after winter, September through to the first cyclone swell, sometimes late January, sometimes never, when it blows a terrible small-fetch northerly. No waves, and the cold water – upwelling – often brown.

A wild joint, as you know, with a cosmopolitan crowd to mix, all simultaneously having the best and worst surfs of their lives.

Then there’s the three generations of locals, as graceful, precise and rounded as a sentence written by Evelyn Waugh, Occy, Parko, Mick, Mitch Parko etc etc and etc.

An epic, and I mean it…epic… short by Jesse Little.


St. Patrick’s Day miracle as surfers save family of four from certain death off Irish beach!

“They [the surfers] were very brave.”

One of the major themes of this year, as the northern hemisphere nears spring, is surfers saving people from drowning. Sometimes just one person, exhausted from swimming lightly too far. Sometimes who families, caught out in a rip tide, or some such, and ready to join Davey Jones on the ocean floor.

Brave heroes, the lot of them, with the latest batch coming to us from Ireland and on St. Patrick’s Day. For it was there, off Garrestown Beach in County Cork, that a father, mother and their two teenage daughters became swept far and away, and not in a gorgeous Tom Cruise x Nicole Kidman sort of way.

Multiple people on the beach called the emergency services number in Ireland, 999, but calling for help only does so much. Dire times require men, and women, of action and thankfully two surfers rose out of the mist, like banshees of Insherin, and saved all souls.

“It had potential to be a big incident,” a coast guard spokesperson said. “They [the surfers] were very brave.”

No doubt.

But over to you, dear reader. I assume that you saved no lives on St. Patrick’s Day but might have spent it drinking down pints of green beer and pretending Monday was never going to come. Well, it did come and how do you feel now? Happy with your decision or regretting, terribly?

Kiss Mick Fanning. He’s Irish.


Chris Cote, on location, in Cabo with Alana Blanchard and pals.
Chris Cote, on location, in Cabo with Alana Blanchard and pals.

Surf-lit: “Bombshell Chris Cote claims rock pro surfing establishment”

"The enormity of what he is asking dawns on me. So this is how it will all go down. History in the making."

It’s only my second day working with the WSL when Chris Cote summons me to his office.

It’s a sheer white studio, off to the side of the main communal working area. One of only three individually partitioned offices in the entire WSL Commentator’s Wing. A sign of his authority.

I may only be two days in at the Global Home of Surfing but Cote’s invitation couldn’t have come soon enough. Already I have:

seen three grown men openly crying at their desks

been offered the role of chief forecaster, chief of content, chief executive

broken up a fight between Kaipo and Pete Mel over who gets the last cinnabon box at the World Albino Dugong Day morning tea.

I’m ready to leave the joint. But the pay is good. Damn good. Plus, this invite from Cote is intriguing.

His assistant quickly briefs me before I enter. Always refer to him as sir. Avoid eye contact where possible. And never, ever, touch his guitar.

I take a deep breath and head in.

The desk in Chris Cote’s office is white. His chair is white. The laptop and monitor, all white. The expensive looking work lamp, one of those big long extendable ones that you can hold down into somebody’s face like a dentist’s lamp – or a CIA interrogator – is off-white. There’s a white work bag sitting next to the white filing cabinet. A white coffee cup sits half drunk next to the latest copy of Senior Guitar Enthusiast. Everything is so white, so bright, you eyes take a second to refocus after being in the more natural lighting of the office proper.

But Chris Cote is wearing black. Black vans. Black track pants. Black Wu Tang goretex jacket. Black rimmed glasses and a plain black, peaked baseball cap. The deliberate contrast has all the subtlety of a grade 9 art project.

Cote’s on a call and it takes some time for him to notice me. He’s yelling into an unseen speakerphone.

“You tell that motherfucker, my name is Chris motherfuckin’ Cote, and if he thinks he’s getting one over me on this, he’s got another fucking thing coming!”

He leans right down into his white desk, though I can’t see any noticeable speaker or aperture on its surface.

“I. Will. Finish. Him.”

I clear my throat. Chris Cote looks up from the desk and at me. Dark, narrow eyes seems to grow even closer together behind the black rims. I remember his assistant’s instructions and avert my gaze.

“You. Who’re you?” he spits in his deep Californian accent.

“Ah, sir, you called me into your office, sir.”

“I did what? Why the in the fucken’ hell would I do that? What are you doing here?”

“Chris, this is your 3pm,” comes the soft voice of his assistant from another unseen cavity. “His resume is in your top drawer.”

“Oh… right.” He rolls his shoulders, kinks his neck, takes a breath. “Riiiiight.” He opens the draw and pulls out a printed copy of my resume. Small yellow post it notes hang from the pages.

“So, you’re the young buck that’s moved over here from Australia. Fancy yourself a surf trivia buff?”

I straighten my back, almost involuntarily. “Yessir. Yes I do.”

“I see here you grew up on the Gold Coast. Married into the industry. Got pretty close with some of the major players.”

I nod.

“Good. That’s good.”

I stand there in silence. The invisible phone line starts ringing again but goes ignored. Chris Cote sucks the stale office air through his teeth.

“Forget about whatever shitkicking task you’ve been assigned. From today, your job will be to feed me surf facts during the live call of WSL contests. I need my call to be witty. Insightful. Seamless. It has to appear….”

He stops to emphasise the point. “Has. to. Appear. That this is all my own knowledge.”

Chris Cote looks at me expectantly.

“I’m sorry sir, I uh… don’t understand,” I say. “I thought you were the king of surf trivia?”

He claps his hands. The blinds come down. The room darkens. I wonder for a second if he is going to kill me.

“Take a seat, son.” He gestures to the white chair behind his desk.

“Now, take a look at me. Take a real good look. Do I look like a surfer to you?”

Surveying him there in his all black outfit, his pale skin and accountant’s affectation, I have to agree that he does not.

“You think I like this hair, man? You think I like these clothes? You think i like this jovial fucking attitude I have to put on for the camera. This…”

He searches for the right word

“This… positivity?”

Chris Cote exhales.

“Fuck, dude, I’m 56 years old. I like gardening. Making kombucha. Buying vinyl records based off Pitchfork best-of-the-naughties lists.”

He sits on the desk next to me, so that he is almost straddling me with his legs.

“Truth is, I gave up on the game years ago, and haven’t so much as stepped foot on a surfboard since 1995. All those clips you see of me surfing on Instagram are just mirrored clips of Megan Abubo wearing a wig. I certainly don’t keep up with any of the new school of surfing. I fucking hate this sport. What it has become.”

Outside the steady hum of the WSL office continues unabated. I’m lost for words. I look over anxiously towards the windows, wondering if anybody can see in. Wondering if I’m imagining the whole thing.

“But I need to stay,” he continues. “I’m deep state. Bringing these godless motherfuckers down from the inside. I might not care a lick about surfing nowadays, but that’s only because what they,” he motions his eyes to the office outside, “have done to it.”

I follow his hand to the window. The blinds are still closed. I wish somebody would come in.

“I gotta keep the appearance up. There’s a whole team of us working undercover, like them what you call its?”

“Secret agents, sir?” I offer.

“Yeah, that’s it. Secret agents. We got me and Strider here in the US. Ronald Blakey over there in Australia. And a whole network of staff just like you embedded deep within the halls of the WSL and other key institutions. Waiting for the signal.”

“Signal, sir? What signal? From who?”

Chris Cote doesn’t answer me. Instead he picks up his guitar and starts strumming. It sounds like the opening cords to Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the name of.’

For a moment, he is lost in his own reverie. Eyes closed, nodding his head along to the tinny, acoustic riff.

“We’re surfers just like the rest of you,” he says with his eyes still closed. “We see the lame ads. The greenwashing. The ass-backwards tour schedule. The final five at Trestles. The scandals swept under the carpet. And it kills us. Deep down it kills us.”

He thrashes a power cord and ends his riff.

“So we wait for the signal. But until that signal comes, I need to keep up the charade. And to do that, I need you to be my eyes and ears.”

He puts the guitar down. Hands it to me.

“Can you do that for me, boy?”

The enormity of what he is asking dawns on me. So this is how it will all go down. History in the making. But what is this signal? And who is it coming from?

All questions for later. For now, there’s more urgent tasks at hand.

“Yes sir, I think I can.”

“Well then, let’s get to work.”