Competition for the Rip Curl Cup begins long before any heats actually hit the water. That’s because designing the event artwork – the iconic imagery seen each year during the contest – is perhaps more competitive than the actual contest out at Padang Padang. Each year Rip Curl considers design proposals from dozens of respected artists from around the world, all vying to have their unique creation featured on the official event poster, merchandise, billboards and in windows all over Asia.
This year that honor goes to Jimbo Phillips. The celebrated action sports artist from Santa Cruz, CA has been creating eye-assaulting designs on everything from skate decks to rock posters for over 20 years. Some of the biggest names in skateboarding, including Natas, Hosoi, Roskopp, Guzman and Borden, have all had their signature decks and logos designed by Phillips. He’s worked on the art for Tony Hawk video games; done surfboard art for legends like Christian Fletcher, Matt Archibald and Ratboy; and created album covers and poster art for bands like No Use For A Name, Blink 182, Strung Out, NOFX, Fu Manchu and Mac Miller. And now, Phillips is the Artist of the Cup in 2017.
That excitement fuels me to immerse myself into the art. I really enjoy big projects like this one for the Rip Curl Cup that I can really sink my teeth into.
“Surfing and skating are lifelong passions of mine,” Phillips says. “So when I get to work for a great event like the Rip Curl Cup, it’s a real honor. It’s projects like this that got me stoked to be an artist in the first place.”
When asked about the prospect of having his design featured in windows, billboards and t-shirts all over Asia, Phillips said it only provides more motivation to create.
“I don’t get nervous, I get excited,” says Phillips. “That excitement fuels me to immerse myself into the art. I really enjoy big projects like this one for the Rip Curl Cup that I can really sink my teeth into.”
When Phillips sketches one of his trademark skate-punk monsters with eyes bulging and tongue dangling, he’s actually carrying on the family business. His father, Jim, designed all the classic artwork for Santa Cruz Skateboards in the 70s and 80s, including the now iconic screaming hand logo. Phillips was bitten by the art bug from an early age, and after graduating from high school, while attending art classes in college, his father hired him to help create graphics for Santa Cruz Skateboards.
“We would design graphics for skateboards, t-shirts, decals, wheels, ads – all of it,” Phillips says. “A couple years later I started my own graphic art business and have been doing it ever since.”
A surfer since the age of 12, Phillips has been studying the art of surfing – from the lines of Tom Curren’s cutback to the curve of a Padang Padang cavern – for decades, so creating a fun but accurate depiction of Padang Padang came naturally.
“I’ve known about the wave at Padang Padang for many years through magazines and surf movies,” Phillips says, “I studied a lot of pictures and video of the waves, rocks, people, animals and all the other amazing aspects of this beautiful surf spot and the surrounding area. To say it’s inspiring would be an understatement.”
Phillips’ artwork for the 2017 Rip Curl Cup only confirms what the action sports world has long known: he is a winner in his field. And if it’s true that it takes a winner to pick a winner, who does Phillips think will be hoisting the trophy on the podium in front of his artwork in 2017?
“I really like Mason Ho and his approach to surfing, so he would be my first pick,” says Phillips. “I have been a fan of Tom Curren’s surfing for year, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take the day either. But it would be cool to see a Bali local win like Rizal Tandjung or one of the younger rippers. Now the real competition begins.”
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