Concerning the important matter of your next surfboard…
Today is the birthday of Jon Pyzel, whom you now know as the stud who gives world champ John John Florence wings.
Just as Matt Biolos has handled Kolohe Andino’s surfboard requirements for twenty years, Pyzel has been making John John’s boards since the kid was five.
With that sorta team rider, and his own skills in the green, you know Pyzel is probably worth listening to in the matter of surfboard design. I wanted to hear what sorta advice he has for an average-to-pretty good surfer who might be a little lost in the wilderness for boards.
This interview took place between Bondi Beach, Sydney, and Pyzel’s factory in Waialua on Oahu.
BeachGrit: What’s the absolute best advice you could give someone who might be little lost, a little stuck between boards?
Jon Pyzel: I’d say take a look at what you’ve been riding and make a departure from that towards something a little different, branch out. Wherever I am I notice what boards people are riding and I’ll see a guy just struggling to catch waves on some old high-performance shortboard and I always feel like I want to tell them that surfing could be so much more fun if they would just try something different, a little stubbier, more volume, flatter. I feel bad for those guys ’cause they are missing out and they don’t even know it.
What questions should a surfer ask his shaper?
The first and most important thing you should ask anyone willing to make you a good surfboard is “What kind of beer do you like”? Beyond that I’d say you shouldn’t have to ask much, but rather supply your shaper with information that can help him help you:
Your actual weight (not what you want to weigh, or what you are planning to weigh in a few months).
Your actual ability (no one wants to say they kind of suck, but if you make me think you rip I’m gonna make you a more refined board).
What type of waves you will be surfing this particular board in. Fat, slow waves require a completely different design than fast, hollow waves.
What characteristics you want the board to have (drive, speed, easy turning, hold, glide, snappiness). Shaping a surfboard is a balance of give and take that can be tailored to fit anyone’s needs.
And you wanna ask, “Do you take credit cards?” You know you want two boards and you probably don’t have the cash, so you’ll want to throw down the plastic.
How about this: I always think a stable platform and a flat entry rocker are essentials for the average guy. What are your thoughts?
I agree completely, but like I said before, I am shocked at how many average surfers try to ride boards designed for high-performance. The boards you are talking about do not necessarily limit performance if you can surf pretty good, and they will help get you surfing better by allowing you to catch more waves, and ride them with ease. If you surf well you can ride those type of boards pretty short and rip on them, but if you are less experienced you can go a bit longer, wider, thicker and it will be beneficial.
Speaking of that, as much as literage is important, the ease of riding a low-rockered board must play into the equation, I think. Do you?
”Literage” is something that people tend to give too much importance too when considering what they need in a surfboard. “I like 27.5 liters” doesn’t mean much unless I know what sort of design you are talking about. I will use that info to help decide how thick and wide your boards should be, but it’s not a magic number that you can use across the board when thinking about different designs. Low rockers are faster and often more stable, which plays well with a lower surfing ability or just shitty surf. I’d say you could go so far as to match rocker to ability (not accounting for wave type). Lower ability equals lower rocker, high ability equals high rocker.
Unless you’re a real odd body, are customs necessary any more?
I feel like you can get a really good board right off the rack and that a lot of people love being able to pick up a board and decide if it’s gonna be the one for them. You can go straight to the beach and get that instant gratification we all love. On the other side, I know that there is something really special about figuring out what you want, maybe talking it through with someone who knows about boards and putting in that custom order. You have to wait, usually just a little longer then we tell you, and you have that excitement of knowing someone is making exactly what you dreamed up! I know that I can grab boards straight off the the racks at our factory and love them but I would definitely be ordering customs if I didn’t make them for myself. I just love that wait, that time when you know someone is making you a new board. It’s better than Christmas for me.
I know I’m a better husband, a better dad, and just a better person in general if I go for a surf every day. Surfers are tapped into something magical, something that can be a really positive force, so I’m stoked to be a part of that in other peoples’ lives.
How does age difference play into board design. A guy in his thirties has a different approach to a kid who’s fifteen. Given an equal ability and size, how would you make each guy’s board?
Probably has more to do with how often the guy is surfing than how old he is. A 15 year old is usually gonna get in the water more than a 30 year old, so he’s gonna need a little less board. It’s more about fitness and froth than it would be about age.
What has been the most profound thing you’ve learned about surfboards as a shaper?
This may sound cheesy, but I think just knowing how much joy a surfboard can bring to people individually, and how that can actually spread to all the people around them. I know I’m a better husband, a better dad, and just a better person in general if I go for a surf every day. Surfers are tapped into something magical, something that can be a really positive force, so I’m just stoked to be a part of that in other peoples’ lives.
(Now let’s watch Jon and John shaped together!)