Brothers in arms or master and slave? | Photo: Shawnee SPeeding

Interview: Jon Pyzel on why volume ain’t the magic number you think it is!

Wanna know what the most important number in your next custom is?

A few weeks back I ordered a custom small-waver, a reboot of a model I’d gotten involved with ten years earlier.

The design had changed with the prevailing winds of fashion, it was thicker, flatter and wider, but I knew it would be a fast and stable board and draw, roughly, the same hieroglyphics on a wave.

Great shaper, good local construction. The sorcery hadn’t changed. How could you lose?

For the first time in my life and following the route of common belief, I chose a board via the magical volume number and not my usual mix of length, width, thickness.


As I unpacked a board that my ballerina legs would never turn, I was shown the folly of ordering a surfboard via how much foam is contained within its boundaries and not by specifics.

Everything else, the curve, the outline, the foil, was perfect.

But two sizes too big.

I was the skinny kid ordering a pair of 34″ jeans.

I had to call Jon Pyzel, who has shaped for the two-time world champ John John Florence since he was five, ’cause I know surfers swinging in and saying, ‘Gimme a thirty’ is a pet peeve.

Jon is also one of the most accessible shapers in the world.

Walk into his factory in Waialua on the North Shore or hit him up on his Instagram account, which he operates, and you’re going to talk, message, with Jon himself.

He’s like Gabriel’s shaper Johnny Cabianca. The pair are in the game to make beautiful surfboards, not to wind up sitting behind a desk commanding an apparel and hardware biz.

So I call Jon.

I told him what I did.

And that it made me think, why the volume thing anyway? Ain’t it about trying to get a board that’s stable and paddles well.

Think: doesn’t rocker, for instance, affect stability and the ability to paddle more than the amount of foam in a board?

And width?

Therefore, could a 27-litre board be more stable and paddle better than a 30-litre board?

Talk to me Jonny.

“I hear it every day. I want this many litres in a board,” says Jon. “What people don’t understand is that volume is simply the amount of foam in a board. You can have a narrow and thick board that is 30 litres and a thin, wide board that is 30 litres. And the only reason we even know the volume is because of the computer programs. No hand-shaper can tell you what the volume of a board is unless they have a float tank. 

Jon says he tries to educate people on the importance of knowing that volume isn’t the final say in the game.

“Rocker is one of the biggest factors in board paddling,” says Jon. “And one huge thing that nobody thinks about with volume is that it only has an effect on a board before it hits planing speed. It’s like a big heavy boat going through water. Once it hits its planing speed and the hull is on top of the water it frees up. It’s no longer going through the water, it’s on top of the water. A surfboard does the same thing.”

So when someone comes in to order a board, a Shadow, say, his newest model, and they want a six-o, what Jon does is he asks ’em the width.

“It has a huge role in how a board performs,” he says. “They know they want a six-o and they know how much foam they want in it, but I ask ’em what width they prefer. You don’t just want to make a board thicker and wider until you hit their ‘number.’ When someone come to me, if I have their width and their length I can manoeuvre from there.”

Jon points out the obvious, that a board you ride in crummy waves is probably going to need more volume than a board you launch in good surf.

“Sometime a step-up board might have less volume than a normal shortboard,” he says, adding once you get to a certain size, it becomes the opposite and you overcompensate with volume in rhino chaser.

And, he says, adding an eighth of an inch to thickness is going to have a bigger effect, volume-wise, than a similar increase in width.

He tells people to think about a litre bottle of soda. Imagine it’s foam. If you want to increase or decrease your volume by 200mls, or twenty percent of that bottle, well, it ain’t much at all. You ain’t gonna feel it. John John might, but not you, not me.

But, he says, tell ’em to get one of those gallon American soda drink mega cups and you can appreciate what three or four litres will do to your board.

Got it? 

Know your width and length, have a rough idea of your volume but don’t be afraid to swing a little, tell your shaper where you’re gonna ride the thing and let ’em create their magic.

And it is magic.

“The joy in making surfboards comes from the people riding them more than the award or the content win,” says Jon. “You have a kid walk in and it’s the happiest thing you’ve ever seen. I like that connection. I like to be a part of it. That never get old.”

Buy: Trouble the Lisa Andersen Story!

American woman!

I spent a good chunk of the last two years working shoulder to shoulder with the talented editor Jesse Schluntz on a documentary about Lisa Andersen. Here’s a li’l synopsis…

Lisa Andersen is one of surfing’s few transcendent stars. She is grace and beauty coupled with tenacity and fearlessness. She is as punk as she is elegant.

Her accomplishments are undeniable. Four time world champ, first woman on the cover of Surfer, six time Surfer of the Year, face of the brand Roxy. Outside Magazine wrote, “She was the first woman to cross over into surfing celebrityhood.”

Born in New York, her father moved the family to Florida when she was thirteen. It was there she discovered surfing, though it was not what her parents wanted her to do. They felt the beach was dangerous, home to drug addicts and bums. Lisa did nothing to ease their concerns and eventually wound up in juvenile hall, staring at five years of house arrest and no surf.

Her father smashed her surfboard, for good measure, and Lisa hatched an escape plan. She decided to run away to Huntington Beach, leaving only a note behind that read, “Going to California to become world surfing champion.”

She lived on the beach and in her car before being taken in by an abusive local surfboard shaper. She was, in fact, often abused in relationships, running away time and again when things got too bad. Or when she felt trapped. Or when the system threw up barriers.

In the water, she was something else entirely, raging and fighting and surfing like a gorgeous disaster but could never quite put it all together, competitively, until career suicide presented itself in the form of an unexpected pregnancy. Over objections and common sense, she decided to have the child and in so doing magically broke through and achieved her dream of becoming a champ.

Trouble follows Lisa on her all too human journey. Surf is a beautiful backdrop but the real story is the epic poem of her life. It is the struggles, abuse, pain and joy. It is the story of a modern, self-made American woman.

It is a story of today.

The film is finally available on iTunes. Would you like to pre-order? You can, right here!

gabriel medina
Gabriel, Filipe, Italo own the CT; Jadson has snatched the keys to the Qualifiers. All Brazil, and it's the way it's gonna stay. | Photo: WSL

Longtom: Is the white-bread era in Pro Surfing over?

A full-scale, and permanent, transition is underway as Brazilian surfers dominate the Tour…

Kolohe Andino, Brother to us, once the great white hope for America’s competitive surfing’s prospects in the post-Dane era, has released a home movie shot in the waves of his home state California.

The film opens with an extended credit sequence, which is a nod to MTV’s 2004 hit Napoleon Dynamite, featuring mostly versions of white-bread sandwiches, 

White bread.

Meanwhile, after an extended QS campaign which has blown my mind for a whole host of reasons, Jadson Andre sits atop the Q’ey rankings before even firing a shot at Snapper.

Every time I tuned into the QS I saw two things: garbage waves and the brown man, mostly from Brazil, dancing all over the white man, mostly from America and Australia.

And this is before Indonesia really gets started or Costa Rica or Peru. Polynesians, Melanesians, Micronesians.

Is the white bread era in Pro Surfing over?

Brother surfed pretty sharp in Home-ish but five years behind the top Brazilian cohort. For speed, repertoire, innovation Kolohe and pals look in their dotage compared to Italo, Filipe. Shaded by power and the brutality of baroque turns by Gabriel.

Only in style and variety of grabs does Kolohe have an edge, but will judges be capable of discerning? Kolohe is, after all, the most torched surfer on Tour.

Whats your sport? I mean outside surfing.

Mine’s Rugby League. A full-scale transition is underway as bigger, stronger, more athletic Polynesian and Melanesian players dominate player rosters. It’s possible the Brazilian storm domination may be a permanent replacement amongst pro surfing ranks. Hardened by a culture of machismo and escaping poverty, a work-ethic that sends pampered white bread Antipodeans and Californians still in thrall to a Dora-esque vision of surfing back to the softer, safer options of stacking clips as a free surfer.

These are dangerous thoughts. But the numbers don’t lie.

Craig Anderson and Dion Agius will shift more product until the crack of doom than Matt Banting ever will.

The last Californian male winner of a CT event, Bobby Martinez, famously quipped it was a joke how white and wealthy pro surfing (in America) was. That ain’t gunna change in Australia or United States; coastal real estate is increasingly the preserve of inter-generational wealth, entry to the world of wave sliding is evolving to the dynastic and the pampered. Those shifts are now embedded. No amount of high-performance coaching can instil hunger in a kid who has options a plenty.

Much to discuss.

But can someone help me – we need the best minds on the job – understand the QS?

There’s been an Aussie leg happening. It’s been going for weeks, months!

Each comp has three million people and takes weeks to run. It’s not really possible to follow it as a sport in any real sense.

Oh, I’ve tried. But it’s huge. Burgeoning. QS events popping up like mushrooms after rain.

Wait, I did some research. Shut up Nick Carroll. If not a sport, then what?

The QS is like a casino, a device to generate income where the House always wins. Contestants pay a yearly fee, which is $US250, then a fee per event. Another $250 USD for a 6000, plus tax. Plus insurance. Nice earn.

And the surf-mad VAL suits stacked in the marketing departments of Australian Tourism bodies are dishing out money like candy bars to set up the Casino at the beach. Plus a bit extra to pay Kelly some appearance money (totally worth it).

Genius. Seriously.

Meanwhile out to sea, four dreamers, possibly all Brazilian, were stridulating furiously in onshore one-foot surf with a city skyline behind them.

Jaddy took the Aussie leg of the Q’ey put it in a bag with a brick and drowned it like an unwanted litter of kittens.

Lots of collusion: Surfing and our glorious surfing lifestyle newly popular in Russia!

Viva the Revolution!

Were you very sad when the Robert Mueller was turned in last Friday to basically crickets? No fireworks. No lopped off heads. Just another day in Washington all dull and grey.

Well, there may be no collusion between Donald J. Trump and Vlad Putin but there is all sorts of collusion between surfing, including our glorious surfing lifestyle, and Russian folk and let’s read about them in the mouthpiece of the state also called Russia Today or RT.

The exotic sport of winter surfing has become a new attraction in Russia with more and more athletes attempting to conquer the stormy waves of the few seas and lakes which remain unfrozen during the winter.

VALS do Russia!

In St. Petersburg, surfers defy subzero temperatures and stormy winds to glide on the waves across Lake Ladoga and the Gulf of Finland, which are not iced over in February.

“Whether it’s winter or summer… it doesn’t matter, we go surfing,” says Nikita Kononovich, 29, who commits himself to surfing all year round.

The surfers paddle into the ice-cold water without fear of being frozen as their wetsuits provide thermal insulation, protecting them from injury.

The waves at this time of the year are no higher than 1.5 meters. However, stormy winds combined with snow and ice plates which drift on the water make surfing even more dangerous.

Taking all precautionary measures, the surfing sessions don’t last more than two hours, as temperatures below zero make hands and feet go numb and cover the athletes’ faces with ice.

“The worst moment is when you get out of the water and go to get changed,” said another extreme surfing lover, Danila Novozhilov.

“Surfing in winter isn’t particularly hard. You need to respect a few rules like watching how long you spend in the water to protect yourself from the cold.”

So, first, this is my favorite surf piece of the year. It as all the great elements including fabulous characters and wonderful use of verbs. I don’t care what the politicians think, but gimme this sort of collusion all day long.

Viva the Revolution!

Walk around, touch, feel…imagine…

From the dare-to-dream department: Santa Cruz surfer wants to build life-sized replica of Mavericks!

Wanna get close to a Mav's set without losing your head?

A Santa Cruz surfer and skate park builder wants to promote “ocean awareness” by building a life-sized replica of dirty ol Mavs and sticking it on the benchlands above Half Moon Bay airport.

Zach Wormhoudt, who is 49 and finished fifteenth on the WSL’s Pretty Big Wave Tour in 2013, taking a ninth in that year’s Mavericks Invitational, knows the joint.

“Constructed of concrete panels this interactive sculpture will include portals that can be accessed deep in the wave to provide a first-hand view of what it’s like to ride a wave at Mavs,” writes Wormhoudt, who has been building skate parks for twenty years and, therefore, has the skill and tools to realise his fantastic dream.

“These are some quick sketch ideas for this. Most people will laugh and say why this is not possible, but for anyone who is interested, hit me up.”

Wild, yes?

Tell me you wouldn’t get a kick from walking around and examining a frozen twenty-five foot wave without the spectre of getting your head blown from your shoulders or your air bags filled with Pacific Ocean.