Reflections on a Canadian Surfing Legend
By Aaron Jackson
"Nobody charges harder than Jesse, nobody .. and no-one ever will"
- Sepp Bruhwhiler
Most considered Jesse Oke the strongest surfer in Canada. From the early days of surfing in a wool sweater in 43ºF water, Jesse surfed everything from body boards to longboards to a 5'10 fish. In his most recent years as a sponsored rider for Da'hui, Ocean Kids, DHD and Oakley, Jesse's powerful surfing style, positive attitude and beach-shack life style, stirred the imaginations of every Canadian surfer lucky enough to know of him.
Jesse Oke - photo by Aaron Jackson
Jesse grew up with his rather large family on a remote beach in a northern rainforest on Vancouver Island. His family, including his mother, Barbara, surrogate father, Steve Johnson and his many brothers and sisters, lived in small cedar shacks that they built with the love of where they lived by the ocean evident in every corner of each cabin wall.
Despite having no running water or power in his cabin, Jesse said his bed had the best location in Canada that a bed could have. How could anyone argue with a 4 meter 17 sec ground swell lighting up 4 perfect breaks all in view from his makeshift platform.
Two years ago was the last year this family would enjoy their remote beach dwelling all together. Since then, turmoil over ownership and use of their land forced them to leave to a nearby logging and fishing community called Port Renfrew. Then a string of bad luck saw Jesse's brother Clearlight, his sister Dawn and finally Jesse himself die in a series of unrelated car accidents all within six months.
Unbelievably, less than one week after Jesse's death, as "5mm Canada" (a surf video he starred in) premiered in Tofino, Jesse's sister, Leah Oke, qualified for the World Amateur Surf contest in Brazil. This is just one example of how much power he and his family members have within.
Although he charged hard at everything he did, Jesse was a positive and reflective being with tons of patience and a huge toothless grin for everyone all the time no matter who or what surfing ability.
"Jesse carried his love in front of him all the time."
- Steve Johnson
"When you saw Jesse paddle out, two things were certain, the level of surfing was about to go way up and your wave count was about to go way down."
- Chuck Dillon