- Dave Shoemaker got his first tattoo when he was 16, and was soon learning how to make them.
- Shoemaker worked in multiple shops to hone a variety of skills.
- He opened Ninth Wave Tattoos in 2017 with “a very clear notion of how I wanted to run the business.”
ASBURY PARK – What made Dave Shoemaker good at running Ninth Wave Tattoo, his tattoo shop on Bangs Avenue? Working with his father in commercial crabbing certainly helped.
“During the summer, I worked with my dad doing that type of work,” Shoemaker said. “We would go out to the beach and use a string of crab pots. We would catch the crabs and I ended up doing that for 12 years.
“It was a little tricky at times, but I learned how to work hard,” Shoemaker said. “It taught me the essence of running your own business, dealing with clients and meeting your deadlines. It taught me what hard work is and how to persevere. That was what was instilled in us from a young age.”
Shoemaker got into surfing at a young age, and that propelled him into an appreciation for the art of tattoos.
‘Surfing is more than just a hobby’:Gordon’s Surf Shop depends on its reputation
“I grew up on the beach and it was something I had always enjoyed,” Shoemaker said. “It was a creative outlet to be expressive and creative. I just loved everything about it.
“I never thought much about why I got into it,” Shoemaker said. “I had a natural engagement with the water and I was always psyched to get out there and ride the waves. After a while, I got into repairing surf boards, which I really enjoyed as well. I eventually worked in a factory putting fiberglass on surfboards and I worked out on the bay. I just loved the connection I had with the water.”
Drawn to the counterculture
But putting fiberglass on surfboards is a pretty thankless job, Shoemaker said. He would get out of that trade after he got his first tattoo at 16 and he loved it so much that he was instantly drawn to tattooing.
“I grew up seeing punk rock bands as a young person and it was part of that whole scene,” Shoemaker said. “I was influenced by what I was seeing around me and that was what drove me to pursue it.
“The counterculture aspect made sense to me,” Shoemaker said. “Rather than going with a traditional career, I saw my life going in a different direction and that led me to where I am now. Even though the age requirement for tattooing was 18, I started at 17 because I loved it so much. I told my employers that I was 18 and they did not question it.”
Tattoo shop:How rocker Bret Michaels helped an Atlantic Highlands tattoo artist turn his life around
Shoemaker was living in California and bought some tattoo equipment, but soon realized that he did not know what he was doing. He decided to come home to New Jersey and do an apprenticeship with David Cross, the man who was tattooing him from the get-go.
“Now, there is a little bit of schooling for tattooing, but back then, you had to get into it through another tattoo artist,” Shoemaker said. “He taught me what he had learned and showed me how to make needles, mix pigments and apply the designs. He was a mentor to me and he taught me everything he knew.
“After meeting him through getting tattoos done, we really hit it off and developed a friendship,” Shoemaker said. “I started tattooing with him and he took me under his wing. He gave me everything I needed to get going and showed me all the right ways to hone my craft. It was a great experience.”
After working for his mentor for a year and a half, Shoemaker was prepared to go out into the world of tattooing and tried his hand at some different jobs over the years.
“Even though I learned a lot from my mentor, he was somewhat limited in his abilities as a tattoo artist,” Shoemaker said. “I learned things to do and things not to do as I went along. It’s hard to get into tattooing in the beginning because there is just a lot you need to know. Although the experience was not without its flaws, I loved the learning process. That’s was really enabled me to go out on my own and get my feet wet.
Art in metal:‘Punk rock’ welding drives Netflix ‘Metal Shop Masters’ judge at her Lacey business
“After leaving my mentor, I took a little bit of a break from tattooing,” Shoemaker said. “At one point, I got recharged after seeing where the art form was going and was just generally excited about the trade going in a positive direction. I decided to pursue tattooing fulltime.
“I decided to get my name out there,” Shoemaker said. “I hit the pavement and started working different tattoo shops. I tried to keep every few years getting a job at a different shop, so I had a little bit more experience. I wanted to grow my skills and work with the most talented artists. I would switch it up every two to three years and I ended up working at least five or six businesses total.”
‘I knew what I was doing’
Eventually Shoemaker decided to open his own tattoo shop.
“I think it had to do with me being stubborn and set in my ways,” Shoemaker said. “I had an idea of what I wanted for myself in tattooing for a long time. By the time I opened in 2017, in Asbury Park, I had a very clear notion of how I wanted to run the business. He chose the name from a book about surfing he had enjoyed.
Life in Asbury:Asbury Park Football Club doesn’t have a team or a stadium, but its fans are very real
“I knew what I was doing,” Shoemaker said. “I had already had clients and for me, it was just about finding the right people that I felt matched the idea of what I was trying to offer in a tattoo shop. I started out with one employee and graduated to three now.”
“At this shop, we specialize in our own style of tattooing,” Shoemaker said. “I’m mainly interested in early tribal work with large black patterns. I do whole arms and legs. Every tattoo artist here brings something different to the table.
“These days, customers choose the tattoo artist according to the style they are looking for,” Shoemaker said. “People really know what they want when they come in.”
As Shoemaker looks towards his future, he says he just wants to give customers the best tattoos he can.
“We have come a long way and we plan to continue to grow the business,” Shoemaker said. “We love what we do and we couldn’t ask for better clientele. People know us and are happy to come and let us tattoo them to their hearts content.”
Ninth Wave Tattoo
Owner: Dave Shoemaker
Location: 729 Bangs Ave., Asbury Park
Hours: 1 to 8 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; noon to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays