John Tesoriero [ aka Papa Nui on the internet ] lives and breathes our fundamental values about living the funnest life possible, and creating things that speak to quality, functionality, and heritage. His carefully thought out blog “Papa Nui Says …” is dedicated to research into military, surfing, form and function, a great resource for people like us who have a passion for greatness through history.

Earlier in his career, John found himself as senior menswear designer at Levi Strauss & Co in Japan, and through his career he’s done some great design collaborations with great names like our pals The Real McCoys, who are also super laid back surfers themselves (great pack). In more recent years, you’ll find him doing his own Papa Nui line – with some pieces made in Japan by good folks at John Lofgren & Co. What I enjoy about the Papa Nui empire is it’s playful spirit and romantic roots in the past. At the end of the day, life is a delicate dance between work and play.


Above / The Avenger Cap from the Papa Nui 2015 line up /

John’s father’s WWII service in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands is a huge source of inspiration to his work, and you’ll see great attention to detail in the Papa Nui military inspired outerwear. He curates some wonderful war era imagery on his blog, and there you’ll see him shaping his own mini simmons-style boards with shaper pal Grant Newby [ aka Mr Fish Fry ]. The beauty about this fun shape, apart from the fact that it looks super fun to ride on smaller waves, is its backstory. Again, like everything John produces, it’s inspired by greatness in innovation. The Simmons shape was one of the first building blocks to the modern surfboard, born post World War II, so these elements all become tasty layers to the delicious grilled cheese sandwich.

So we can thank people like John for his playfulness, his dedication to research, field work, and reminding us of our roots. So, in light of goodness, we asked the papa a few questions about how this all came about.

Below / The Beachmaster in Herringbone Twill from the Papa Nui 2015 line up /


Papa Nui Says …

Describe what you do as if you were talking to a five year old.
I make hats for big people who like war movies

Tell us how you came about vintage.
Vintage clothing has always spoken to me, the quality of the fabrics and the superior attentiveness to detail seemed to always fly in the face of contemporary fashion. I found myself becoming a serious collector of Military, Denim, and Hawaiiana and this culminated in a move to Tokyo to work for Levis for three years during the mid 90’s. After returning to Australia I began the very slow process of conceiving Papa Nui which ultimately brings to life a thousand surplus store visits.


Below / Papa Nui Convoy Caps /


What did you have for breakfast this morning?
I did a pretty full-on Met Con class this morning so breakfast afterwards was Two cups of black coffee, two fried eggs, sweet potato, plus a handful of almonds and a banana.

What does the word ‘goodness’ mean to you?
Being true to myself and the ones I love, to find a common unity in others and to lend a hand and support solidarity in likemindedness no matter where I find it. To connect with the natural world through my love of the ocean, to eat clean, be healthy and to live a long and productive life.


Send us a snap of your favourite vintage piece.
My fathers WWII kit bag which went on campaign with him up to New Guinea and through the Solomon Islands. My father was a commercial artist who painted movie posters and murals for MGM, he hand cut the stencil for this bag and then applied too much paint causing the letters to bleed, he was always disappointed with the results, but I was was stoked when I found it discarded in the garage some years ago. I took it to a friend and had it made into a tote bag so I could use it every day and keep his memory close. I also have my Grand Fathers WW1 Italian Navy uniform but hey thats another story!


You surf right? What’s your perfect kind of wave and favourite board for that?
Surfing? I love it! It’s the ultimate feeling of being in the moment and being apart of something so much bigger than yourself, part of the miracle of nature. Its when Im most dialled in and lucid and eternally grateful.My favourite waves are the right hand point breaks here on the Gold Coast and my fave set up for these peelers is a 9’4” single fin log with a big ol’ squaretail.

I also enjoy the many beach breaks here as well and for those I ride a series of mini-Simmons style boards shaped by Grant Newby. These boards are inspired by legendary 1940’s surfer Bob Simmons who applied US Navy Hydrodynamic principals to surfboard design. Grant Newby’s interpretation provides for a very short, very fast little slider with a a hull entry and wide planning surface suited for speed down the line and top to bottom carving and full rail turns.


What’s always in your pocket?

I-Phone plus, Kapital bandana, my Opinel pen knife and a Parker pen and notebook

What was the last thing you googled?
Colour. Im researching USN safety yellow in images for a design piece Im working on for WINTER 15/16


Talk to us about how your father inspires your work.
My father served in the South Pacific during WWII in New Guinea and the Solomon islands. As a boy I listened to his stories a thousand times over and together we watched every Saturday matinee War movie. I’ve seen them all, hundreds of them! Somewhere those scenes, those images, those characters, are locked away in my subconscious and then one day many years later when I was struggling to find my place it dawned on me that I was truly my father’s son. In accepting my father as my muse I somehow tapped into everything and now the ideas flood through in torrents, every product idea, every storyline is somehow linked to something remembered or imagined, each one playing into and creating the Papa Nui brand. In viewing everything I do through the design-filter of the military I stay true to the source of the inspiration


/ Papa Nui’s inspiration imagery courtesy of Papa Nui Says blog /

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