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Beach Grit

Unbuttoned: Jon on John’s J-Bay Quiver

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

What sort of magical vessels will The Champ ride at J-Bay? Let's ask Jon Pyzel.

Mr Jon Pyzel is the forty-something shaper for the world surfing champion John John Florence. He is, therefore, old enough not to be stolen away by fads and unridable flights of fancy, but young enough that his mind is able to accept alien concepts. His North Shore-based factory means he builds boards that work, tested in the world’s best waves and so forth, and not to give you epilepsy when it’s two foot.

Pyzel made John John his first surfboard almost twenty years ago, when his mother Alex brought the boys to see him at his old bay at Sunset Beach and gave him two-hundred dollars for materials to build John a board. The yellow four-six with a halo of orange rails is “hideous to look at” but now exists as a memorial of sorts to a boy destined for greatness.

Earlier today, I asked what Jon made for John John for Jeffreys Bay, which may or may not a little later today.


BeachGrit: First, what the hell has he got in his bag for J-Bay? 

Pyzel: He took a bunch of different boards, a mixed bag of 6’0″ and 6’2” Ghosts, 5’10”  Stubbies, 6’0” and 6’1” rounded pin Radius’ (formerly Bastards, yes) and 6’0” Voyager 1 squashes and RPs. We usually regroup after each event and figure out what to do for the next one, but I was in Japan and Bali for five weeks, so I made all the J-bay boards right after I shaped his Fiji quiver this time.

How do his boards differ, if at all, for J-Bay compared to, say, Margaret River? Margs is a very specific wave; J-Bay will forgive many crimes.

Actually, this year WA was a few different waves, and even Main Break can have many different faces to it, so I always try to cover a lot of territory when building a WA quiver. J-Bay  doesn’t vary that much, except when it is really small and weak (not super common long term, but seems to happen at least one day out of every year there). I feel like J-Bay boards need to be designed to carry speed over long distances, yet turn on a dime when you need to. You need to make the high-line speed sections and then capitalise on the slower sections to throw all that speed into a huge manoeuvre while always maintaining down-the-line momentum.
Did your beautiful teamrider make any specific requests for J-Bay?
John John has really been fired up on the Ghost model I’ve been making, but mostly 6’2”s (Margaret’s winner, Bells super oop) so  he asked for a few 6’0”s and after Fiji he sounded like he was really starting to like the feel of those shorter ones too.  I made a few for Michel Bourez (through Firewire) as  well so I’m a little curious to see if MB likes the feel of them too.
What are the important elements of a board for J-Bay? 
Pretty much straight out of the WSL handbook – Speed. Power. Flow. Gotta be able to be pushed hard at top speed and not give. You want some thickness in the centre to keep up the speed, but I try to keep them thinner through the rails to give them bite without having to back off the gas. Fitting into the pocket while still providing high-line projection is also crucial.
That damn wind, oowee. You make ‘em a little heavier? 
Nothing out of the ordinary. It’s really windy where we live even if it doesn’t really appear that way in pictures so JJ is pretty used to that feeling. Plus he is a pretty solid kid so he can force his way through it alright.
How long’s it take you to shape one of them sonsofbitches?
Ever board is a little different, time-wise, just depending on how I’m feeling and how I like the feel and look of the pre-shape off the machine. I try not to overthink it, but I sometimes spend a long time on the little details. It doesn’t make the board better because I take a long time to shape it. Sometimes the best boards are the ones that I shape without stopping to over analyse.
Is the glassing process highly-scientific, blanks weighed and so forth like Kolohe, or do you just sling ’em through the glass shop?
I send all of John’s board to a wizard not a scientist! The guy who glasses all his boards is the biggest, over-analysing, all-time most classic, ex-Manhattan ad agency writer, horse-betting, ultra-neurotic, artistically gifted mad man, a Hawaiian-born haole and the actual guy they hired to train Turtle from the movie North Shore on how to talk pidgin. Brian King! His shop is called Bra Bra Resin and he can pick the best boards out of the batch when he gives them back to me. You could do an amazing piece on that fucker. Oh, yeah, he writes screenplays too.

Brian King, at left, with Turtle on the set of North Shore.

How many boards y’made for JJ this year?
I’m not positive, around fifty or sixty.  The first few events we usually build a bunch of different boards, but as the year progresses  JJ gets them narrowed down to the best of the batches and it turns more into just filling in the gaps or replacing broken boards here and there.
Do you worry your little champ will die in the jaws of a big fish, his blood a fatal stain in the Indian? 
I don’t.