James Jones, Man of Mystery

James Jones is a mystery. To me, to you, to the rest of surfing. Always has been. Fantastic surfer, incredibly solid on his feet, courage and style to burn, two-time Duke winner, switchfoot ace, so at home in the tube he could redecorate the place, and of course the first great Waimea tuberider. Handsome, too. Looked like Bobby Sherman’s tough little bro.

Yet Jones is rarely mentioned in the same breath as all the Rushmore-sized North Shore surfers of the early- and mid-’70s: Hakman, Lopez, BK, Reno, Aikau, Hawk, Russell. Is it because Jones was a bit aloof? Kinda above it all? Maybe. Then again, Lopez put out the same vibe, and it did nothing but expand his legend. What else? Sense of humor a little undeveloped? Moustache not full-on enough? Bit of a drop-in artist? The nickname, perhaps? No, “Booby” was an affront, but not a reputation-buster. Hell, Gordon Clark commanded a surfing empire, and answered to the name “Grubby.”

I’m grasping here. Baffled. In a just world, James Jones’ star would be a good few degrees higher than it is. But he got Midget’ed somehow, somewhere, and there it is. Jones turned 62 last week. Do him the service of watching the clip above. If the first and third waves don’t fill your heart to bursting with surf-caste pride and honor, rip the epaulettes from your jacket, break your sword, and weep tears of shame.

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