In the 1970s, surf wear brand Ocean Pacific’s clothing – specifically OP’s super-short corduroy shorts – was worn by just about every Southern California surfer or skater; the unofficial uniform of the counterculture then seeped out to the rest of the world.

The apparel brand’s co-founder, Jim Jenks, who started the clothing line after recognizing the need for a better performance surf short while catching waves, died on Sunday, March 19, in his San Diego home. He was 84.

Huntington Beach surfer Timmy Reyes speaks to OP founder Jim Jenks while both were being inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame on Aug. 3, 2017. Photo: Ginsberg/DriftwoodFoto

Ocean Pacific was known for its iconic corduroy shorts, pictured here, worn by surfers and skaters in the 70s and 80s.(Photo courtesy of Surfing Walk of Fame)

Jim Jenks, co-founder of Ocean Pacific apparel company, was an innovative in marketing and helped shape not just the surf culture, but professional surfing. (Photo courtesy of Surfing Walk of Fame)

Huntington Beach surfer Timmy Reyes shakes hands with fellow Surfing Walk of Fame inductee Jeff Hakman, Jim Jenks, between the two, was honored in the “Surf Culture” catagory in 2017. Photo: Ginsberg/DriftwoodFoto

An original surfboard signed by Tom Curran is part of The International Surfing Museum’s new OP Pro exhibit in Huntington Beach, CA, on Tuesday, November 22, 2022. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)



“OP invented the big marketing and broad distribution of surfing and apparel,” said Ian Cairns, an early-era championship surfer. “OP just took that surf marketing thing and made it big. Ocean Pacific was all about California, surf, beach lifestyle. It’s pretty incredible.”

Ocean Pacific was started as a surfboard brand in the ’60s by John Smith, it was later sold to Don Hansen of Hansen’s Surf Shop. Jenks, who worked as a shop rep, wanted to launch a clothing line in the ’70s for surfers and with Hansen created the Ocean Pacific apparel brand.

OP was a dominant brand in the 1970s and 1980s, “fusing sports, music, art and fashion with beach culture,” the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach said in its recognition of Jenks as the “Surf Culture” inductee in 2017.

Jenks, at the Walk of Fame induction, said if it wasn’t for retailers, the business never would have been successful.

“Our brand literally exploded, our business was building every single year. Things were going big fast. There was really no one out there doing this stuff,” Jenks later recalled. “All of a sudden, there were surf movies, surf music. We were lucky we were on that wave.”


Surf brand Hang Ten was already making apparel, said Peter “PT” Townend, executive director of the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, but few others were catering to surfer’s styles in the early ’70s. He sat down to interview Jenks a couple of months ago at the launch of a 40th anniversary exhibit on the OP Pro surf contest the company later sponsored.

“O.P. was already established, then came Quiksilver and Billabong in the middle and late ’70s,” said Townend, also a championship surfer. “There wasn’t a surf shop in America that wasn’t carrying OP. They were the standard. Every key retailer in America had OP, and like all these companies, they started putting it in the mainstream distribution. OP was, without question, one of the legendary brands.”

Back then, brands like O’Neill and Rip Curl were focused on wetsuits, not what surfers were wearing outside of the water, he said. “It was a different time. Eventually, all the big brands made everything.”

The most iconic OP staple was the corduroy shorts with a big pocket in the front.

“Everyone had them. Not just surfers,” Townend said.

The brand was so successful, Jenks retired after his first eight years in business to sail the world on a 90-foot yacht. But when OP president Larry Ornitz died in 1988, Jenks returned to run the company.

The brand isn’t just known for its apparel. OP was instrumental in bringing pro surfing to California in 1982, with the inaugural OP Pro contest in Huntington Beach.

Cairns and Townend, who at the time ran the marketing company Sports & Media Services, met with Jenks with the idea of funding a big Huntington Beach surf contest. Back then, sponsoring surf events and the athletes was a new concept.

Cairns called Jenks the “marketing genius” for OP, bringing powerhouse surfers Tom Curren and Kim Mearig onto the surf team.

“He was really a big American promoter kind of guy, the positive aspects of American business,” Cairns said.

OP, under Jenks’ direction, also contributed $250,000 a year for three years to help fund the creation of the Association of Surfing Professionals in 1982. It later morphed into today’s World Surf League.

“Back in 1982, that was big dollars,” Cairns said.

The OP Pro was the first world championship tour event in California, setting the stage for the state’s and the city’s place in pro surfing and paving a path for Huntington Beach to later stake its claim as “Surf City.”

In pro surfing, those contests were the first to implement the “priority rule,” which designates which surfer has the first dibs on waves, as well as instant computer scoring, systems still intact today.

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The OP Pro’s festival atmosphere laid the groundwork for surfing contests to be more than just about the competitors in the water – it was the granddaddy of what today is the multi-day festival known as the U.S. Open of Surfing.

The OP Pro surf contest quickly became the hot ticket for the summer, arguably the biggest surf contest in the world.

“The OP Pro was a massive hit,” Cairns said.

But it was a beach riot that many people remember, when an estimated 100,000 people in 1986 showed up for the mega party at the shore that got out of control.

The OP Pro continued for the next few years, with highlights such as the 1989 addition of the OP Junior, a stage that would help launch a young Kelly Slater. The last OP Pro was held in 1998, won by a young Andy Irons, who would eventually become three-time world champion.

In the mid 2000s, OP would be sold to Warnaco Group Inc., then to Iconix Brand Group Inc., which still owns the brand today.

Ocean Pacific last year celebrated its 50th anniversary and relaunched OP footwear and brought back first-edition designs. On its website, the parent company paid homage to Jenks’ influence.

“Ocean Pacific, previously a surfboard brand, became the first company to translate the West Coast surf culture into a lifestyle brand. The founder, Jim Jenks, created a clothing brand that met the demands of surfers in and out of the water,” it said. “The brand fuses sports, music, art and fashion with an optimistic echo of the sand and streets of Southern California’s surf and skate culture.”

Details for a celebration of life are pending. The exhibit on the 40th anniversary of the OP Pro is still on display at the International Huntington Beach Surf Museum.