Nouvelle Vague – Artist Editions: Jonas Claesson


This interview was originally published on NouvelleVague on 15 November, 2017.

Jonas Claesson has the vibe of a cold water surfer from a city where surfing is neither mainstream nor outstanding—a vibe of gratitude. Scandinavian surfers never seem to take anything for granted.

He also has the kind of career that many surf artists and illustrators dream of. You may know him best from his Instagram account, where he has over 77,000 followers, but he’s also the creator of a children’s surfing alphabet book and a new clothing range.

While he’s been based in Australia for a while now, Jonas hails from Stockholm, Sweden. He caught the surf bug around 15 and began spending a lot of time at Torö Rock Beach, just south of Stockholm. From there on out, it was basically the surfer’s dream as he and a friend bought a VW bus (of course) to go surfing in France and Portugal throughout high school. It was the start of a journey that’s taken him around the world and fuelled a creative career in illustration and design.


Jonas notably spends a lot of time surfing in Japan in Hyuga, Miyazaki. According to Jonas, Japanese surf culture draws a lot of parallels with Swedish surf culture. “It’s fanatical—similar to Swedes in their love of surfing all kinds of waves.” Though it must be said that the surf is much better in Japan than in Sweden, that vibe of gratitude is omnipresent. It’s for fun, not performance, which is a great environment to foster creativity and expression in.

After a huge surfing boom in Japan in the 1970s, with California culture sweeping the region, it fell out of flavour thereafter, but is undeniably starting to swell again. One need only to look at Japan’s Greenroom Festival, which Jonas has attended the last two years with friend and fellow artist, Matt Allen, to see that the creative side of the surf culture is alive and well in Japan.

Spelling out the ABCs of Surfing

Perhaps Jonas’ most well-known creative project is his children’s book, published late in 2015. Out surfing one day, Jonas understandably got a chuckle from the idea of seeing an animal surfing. That same night he drew the anteater, posted it on Instagram and asked what he should do for the letter “b.’

What started out as an Instagram community-engaging collection turned into an alphabet book for children. After years of encouragement to do a kid book from his mother and partner, the Surfing Animals Alphabet Book was a successful project on Kickstarter.

Dressing the Part

Lately, Jonas has been expanding beyond his books with a clothing range based in Japan that is spreading across the oceans to the US and the UK. Like most of his projects, this was largely unplanned. However, when the opportunity arose, he stepped up and took advantage.

What’s Next for Jonas Claesson

If there’s anything for certain, it’s that nothing is certain. With another book in the works, and his clothing range in a growth phase, the closest thing Jonas Claesson has to a long-term goal is to “keep having fun with it.”

The inspiration source? “Surfing as much as possible.”