California Bear
Logo

Ventura-Based Boat Maker Jeff Hull Proves There’s Never a Bad Time to Seek out a More Meaningful Direction with Your Work

Have you ever taken notice of conversations around your office? I mean the kind of conversation over by the watercooler or break room. You know, the places where employees go to have a little space and exhale from whatever it is they were doing back at their desks. 

If you listen closely enough and long enough, you will notice some recurring themes and phrases. You’ll hear things like, “Oh, you know, just tryin’ to get by,” “Another day another dollar,” “It’s Wednesday … halfway there,” “Thank God it’s Friday.” Or this is my favorite: “You know, just livin’ the dream,” accompanied by a long, drawn-out sigh as they fill their Styrofoam cup with burnt black stuff that no longer resembles coffee. 

I recently read a survey asking employed Americans what the most important thing was pertaining to their career. It was separated into five categories. They were: pay, opportunity, contribution, autonomy and meaning. Which do you think employees voted as the highest and most important element to have in the workplace? Pay? Wrong. Guess again. Meaning. Yes. Employees want to know that their work matters and has meaning. 

Meet Jeff Hull. Jeff makes things. From a very young age, he has always possessed an inner drive to build, make and create. Growing up, Jeff kept finding himself in his dad’s garage. There he would find walls and shelves full of every kind of tool you could imagine. His dad raised Jeff under the premise of “what is mine is yours,” with of course the exception of the table saw and skill saw. The rest of it … all yours … run with it. 

“I don’t really know when I am on work and off work, to be honest. It just doesn’t feel like work when we are doing this stuff because it is such a part of who I am and what I want to do.” 

The other rule was if you are going to make something, make it the right way using care, time and adherence to the proper precision things require when being built. Before long Jeff found himself as the kid who all the other neighborhood kids within a half-mile radius would come to if they needed a killer go-kart or a skateboard ramp. 

Fast-forward to adulthood. Resin and fiberglass replaced go-karts and skate ramps. From about 2004 to 2017, Jeff built quite a substantial business for himself: glassing surfboards for about 33 highly respected shapers and surfers throughout the surf industry. Jeff was churning. He had steam. And then, a shift. He felt a pull. A pull into more. More ingenuity. More opportunity. More meaning

Boats.

Today Jeff owns and operates Jeff Hull Custom Boats in Ventura. He makes boats that do not adhere to the simple copy-and-paste production regurgitation of mass-market brands. Rather, each serves its own unique purpose and user-specific function, yet all are just extensions of the wave-riding toys he had previously made in surfboards. 

He starts each project leading with care, precision and attention to detail—just as his dad taught him in the garage. It frees him up to become far more creative with his designs. New hydrodynamics. New functionality. New ways to offer a portal into a life way out on the horizon that otherwise is inaccessible by board alone.

The ocean provides an escape for Jeff. Not necessarily an escape in that he is running away from something; rather, the necessary unplugging from what we construct for ourselves day to day. There is something very true about the ocean and its restorative capability. It gives us permission to ease into and commune with something far larger than ourselves and whatever shiny resume we’ve built on land. 

For Jeff and many others it is a reminder of what is true, and that truth has spilled over throughout his life. He and his wife dive together. They venture out to the Channel Islands together. They do life at sea, together, and that subsequently spills over into the three children they are raising, who each have a front-row seat for how life and vocation can be one and the same. 

“I don’t really know when I am on work and off work, to be honest,” says Jeff. “It just doesn’t feel like work when we are doing this stuff because it is such a part of who I am and what I want to do.” 

Who says you must permanently grit your teeth in order to find success? Of course, hard work is essential. But the difference between hard work and the grind is: One you relish, and the other you loathe. Jeff relishes his work. He’s doubled down on the fact that if you do what you love, the rest will follow. 

And guess what … it has. He has a family, they have a home, they own a boatyard, they have a core team of friends who collectively have a very, very long list of custom boat orders in the queue. 

Newer, larger momentum has blessed Jeff, yet building and capitalizing on that momentum is not his primary concern. Seems rather counterintuitive in an age of tips, techniques and shortcuts to becoming some life-hacked version of a modern-day “entrepreneur.” If not that, then what? 

According to Jeff, it’s time that he’s chasing. More specifically, carving out time to be on the water. Time with family. Time with good friends. Once those boxes are checked, then yes, he and his team will build you a one-of-a-kind, tried-and-true, seaworthy vessel made specifically for your waters. Made to surf. Made with precision. Made with meaning. 

Will he ever stop making things? Probably not. Will he ever lose his love affair with the ocean? Highly unlikely. So if that is the case, why not forever blur the lines between where work starts and ends and where life starts and ends?

Enjoying the work you do is actually an option. It may take some peripheral thinking and hard work, but how many of you would like to wake up every day with a new sense of meaning and invigoration for what’s to come? My suspicion … a lot of you, because no one wants to just make it to Friday their entire life. Mondays can be pretty great too. 

Just ask Jeff. But you can’t … because he’s out on the water, with his family.

Check out our Out of Office film on Jeff HERE.


Share Story


Related Articles