James de Leon started his career as an illustrator at the age of 17 creating the art for book covers, posters, magazine covers advertising and editorials. At 19, he bought his first house in Santa Cruz on Pleasure Point where he pursued his passion for surfing, music, building chopppers and painting.
In 1982, he was commissioned by O'Neill, to create an illustration for a poster to launch the new O'123 wetsuit design. Not long after, he accepted a position at O'Neill in the art department creating ads, graphics, logo, packaging and tradeshow design. After 8 years in the art department, he moved in the position of Senior Designer in the Product Development wing of O'Neill, designing all of the wetsuits, vests, hats, backpacks, duffles, wallets, watches, sunglasses and apparel along with the entire range of accessories throughout the 90's.
After 16 years at O'Neill, and looking for a new challenge, he accepted the position as Creative Director for GreyZone Incorporated, a web development company, overseeing a team of 8 designers and 4 project managers. The digital world opened up a whole new creative medium and he designed the web sites for clients like Visa, Terayon, Brocade and BMW.
In 2000 he founded his own creative agency, 57design, producing branding, websites, print ads and product design for companies like Nike, Santa Cruz Harley-Davidson, Freebord, Central Coast Choppers, Light Touch Entertainment, Brylise Tahitian Pearls, Legend Theatrical, Santa Cruz Blues Festival, Dell and many other clients. The 57design team also provides complete agency services to Surftech. They create the international ad campaigns for publication in Surfer, Surfing, TransWorld Surf and many other magazines each month, create their website, product design, and source and produce all branded apparel and headwear.
Throughout the past 30 years, whether creating wetsuits, ads or websites, the one constant has been painting. JD still lives on Pleasure Point with his wife, Melinda and their 9 and 11 year old daughters Dominique and Sevahna, who took first and second place in the annual GromFest Surf Contest. They spend a lot of time on the island of Kauai which is the inspiration for many of these paintings. Whether painting, building crazy choppers or lead sleds, it's always good to break away and charge the surf.