Seapoodles: Local surfer publishes first book about quirky sea creatures

Inspired by those around him, Shaun Donovan drives his creativity to the author.

The former La Jolla resident who recently relocated to Pacific Beach wrote, illustrated and self-published his first book, Seapoodles, a collection of drawings and poetry inspired by his community.

Seapoodles, which was released in May, features 50 sea creatures that Donovan has doodled over the past eight to 12 months.

Each creature comes with a poem designed to teach children about the creature and promote ocean conservation.

The book begins with Bob the Poodle (based on Donovan’s own dog, a Sharpei Boxer mix, also named Bob) noticing a lot of beach debris and dreaming of a “sea poodle” – a curly-haired dolphin.

Bob learns about other sea creatures – all with poodle-like hair – and how he can help clean up the beach. He relays the information to readers with poems such as “Anemones are the flower of the seas/With their spikes to get what they want.”

Donovan, a member of Windansea Surf Club, said he grew up surfing and has been competing since he was young.

Donovan and his father would ride daily from their home in Rancho Bernardo to the best waves, he said. Both of his parents would “always be very hard on me about picking up trash” on the beach, he said.

Shaun Donovan received help from his girlfriend Gayla Berkefelt and was inspired by his dog Bob for his book.

(Courtesy of Shaun Donovan)

This served as the impetus for the theme of Donovan’s book, as exemplified in one of the last few pages: “Surfers have a radical thing they say: ‘Leave the beach better than you found it that day!'”

The book grew out of Donovan’s drawings for his friends. For much of the COVID-19 pandemic, Donovan lived in La Jolla and became friends with Windansea neighbors Cliff Brinser, Matt Donoghue, Mikko Fleming, Jake Luther and Ryan Miller, who formed a band.

They named the band Seapoodle, a nickname for Fleming, who wraps a T-shirt around his head after surf sessions with sleeves “flapping like ears,” Donovan said.

The band asked Donovan, who also creates commissioned artworks, to be Seapoodle’s mascot.

Donovan, who said he enjoys “drawing quirky, weird looking characters,” drew a dolphin with poodle hair.

“I always knew Shaun made really amazing art; he’s so talented,” said Donoghue. “He manifested this [seapoodle] out of his head. It’s so whimsical.”

The sea poodle became the band’s emblem, printed on posters and merchandise and advertised when the band played at places like Beaumont’s or Nautilus Tavern in La Jolla.

Donovan then created sea creature doodles for everyone in the band.

Donaghue, who is great, became a walrus; Miller, the drummer, turned into an octopus; Luther became a hammerhead with his penchant for fitness; and Brinser, “a gentle, cool person,” became a turtle, Donovan said.

Donovan then came up with landscapes and a world for the characters to live in and added them to band posters, Donoghue said.

“There’s so much joy and humility to the characters,” Donaghue said. “They all look inviting and the color palette is sensational.”

Donovan turned the doodles into a book with the support and help of his girlfriend, Windansea Surf Club member Gayla Berkefelt, as well as friends and family members.

The book grew to 50 creatures with the poems Donovan said derived from the work of Dr. Seuss – the late Theodor Geisel, who lived in La Jolla.

He taught himself how to turn the drawings and rhymes into a book format using graphic design, and he watched YouTube videos to learn the self-publishing process.

Donaghue said the Seapoodles book was “remarkable, funny and clever. I think it will go really well.”

Seapoodles is available at Mitch’s Surf Shop at 631 Pearl St., La Jolla or through Amazon at amzn.to/3aWS55g.

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