Born and raised in San Diego, California, Bob Penuelas learned to draw at an early age from his father who was a technical illustrator. In his younger years he was heavily influenced by the satirical humor and art of MAD Magazine, especially Don Martin. Later in his early teens Bob learned to surf and soon combined his art with his love for surfing. At that time he was influenced by Rick Griffin whose artwork regularly appeared in Surfer Magazine. Bob was also influenced by other artists such as M.C. Escher.
Penuelas began his career as a comic strip artist with the creation of the “Maynard and the Rat” strip for Surfer Magazine in 1980. Between 1980 and 1985 he produced twenty-five, two-page episodes for Surfer.
In 1985, while working on a “Maynard” strip, Bob introduced a dorky little character named Wilbur into the strip. The laughable, little beginner surfer struck a chord with the surfing public and there was a tremendous positive response from the readers. By 1986, Wilbur had totally eclipsed the “Maynard” strip and the title was then changed to “Wilbur Kookmeyer”.
Bob’s proximity to the ocean encouraged him to become a part of the local surfing scene. His impressions of the southern California surf culture are a result of countless hours of surfing and diligently wasting time hanging out at the beach. Bob’s ongoing relationships with the surfing community have continuously given him fresh ideas for his art over the years. The driving force behind Bob's work is his ability to satirize the style and the people he knows so well.
Over the years Wilbur Kookmeyer has gained a strong underground following and has become the unofficial mascot for surfers the world over. In 2006, after twenty years and seventy-four episodes the editors at Surfer Magazine decided that it was time for Wilbur to finally walk the plank.
After a few years of silence, Bob's creative juices started flowing again and he decided that Wilbur still had more to say...a lot more to say. Bob's new Wilbur Kookmeyer art can now be found online with entirely new full color adventures on this website and daily humor on Wilbur's popular Facebook Fan page. With the internet's global reach, the legend of Wilbur definitely continues on.
Bob still goes surfing regularly and is still inspired by surfing to create new ideas, new characters and to expand his art into new avenues. “Art is a lot like surfing a wave, looking for that perfect feeling where you’re in the zone and all maneuvers seem to come instinctively- not over thinking it, just letting it flow.”