The Shapers Interview Series
How has shaping boards for the world's most popular surfer helped?
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 15 May, 2016 - Those boards of John John Florence’s - seen worldwide in video clips, on magazine covers and contest podiums - are the result of a long-term relationship. They are hand-delivered to him, not by some stoned team manager who got the glassing weight all wrong, but from the hard-working honest-to-foam-dust shaper who made them, Jon Pyzel.
And now that dedicated shaper is famous.
How has that kind of attention affected a humble, low-key dude on the North Shore? Well for starters, he now has the means to expand his team-roster and business which increases the quality and number of designs he’s able to offer the public. By doing this Jon’s able to get his boards under more feet of “average surfers.”
This last point is key as Pyzel says his whole job, his whole reason for shaping, is to help people surf as well as they can and to make sure they are having a good time.
We got to interview the man who has been lucky enough to be tasked with making something that brings stoke into each and every surfer’s life.
How long have you been shaping and how did you get your start?
I have been shaping since around 1996, so 20 years now. I would say that my "start" with shaping was really just a long time interest in surfboards and how they worked. I had a really good shaper making my boards when I was young (Matt Moore) and I made a point of always being wit him when he shaped my boards, and I asked a lot of questions and watched what was going on. He started to let me help draw my outlines and always explained how different curves effected how the boards work. I actually started shaping in Hawaii after working in a the Country Surfboards factory at Sunset Beach fixing dings and glassing on fins. My first board was not that bad (and actually worked), so I kept at it.
How has the advent of specific surfboard models changed the business and do you feel pressured to come up with more new models each year?
In the past I was hand-shaping all my boards, and no one called boards by model names. People just ordered a shortboard for good waves, crappy waves, hollow waves, etc. Then the Japanese kind of brought back the model naming thing in order to sell surfboards a little bit easier.
Now it's become the standard thing worldwide and it honestly makes it kind of more simple to run your shaping business since you can kind of give people a menu of surfboards to order from, and they know what they want, or what they like and try the different models. I don't feel any pressure to come up with new models because I am already constantly making new boards and trying new designs out, so if anything I would say it's hard to narrow it down to releasing just a few new models and not overwhelming the surfers with too many choices.
How much of your job is being a good diplomat - I mean, what do you do if someone wants a board that goes fast in mushy waves, but they insist on a thin, super-rockered chip?
It seems like most surfers are pretty good about knowing what they want these days, but I always try to steer people away from ordering s board that I feel like might hurt their surfing. My whole job is to help people surf as well as they can, and to make sure they are having a good time, so I just do my best to get them on the best design for what they want to do.
Are there any new material builds that you are excited about at the moment?
Yes. We are working on a new project called Electralite Epoxy Tech which uses a stringerless EPS blank and carbon reinforcement to create a light, springy, responsive board that feels really alive in smaller, weaker surf (and looks great too). It is a new approach to building small wave, high-performance surfboards and we think people are going to be really stoked on it.
How has shaping boards for John John helped you as a shaper?
JJ is obviously a great surfer, and having someone that good give you feedback on boards is really a gift. We have been working together for a long time and he has been instrumental in refining and improving my designs. I can take one of ideas, make a board for him and instantly get feedback. I actually brought him one of my boards to try the other day, and saw that he was surfing just in front of his house.
I walked down on the beach, called him in and gave him the board right there. He paddled back out, rode 4 or 5 waves, came in and told me he loved it, just wanted a slightly bigger version and that was that. I got to watch him surf it and could see how it worked well and knew he was right and we were on to a new model (it's called the Stubby Bastard, by the way)
How has shaping boards for John John helped your business?
In my eyes he's the best surfer in the world, and he's also one of the most universally liked surfers. He has helped bring my boards to the covers of every magazine, into a ton of amazing surf films and onto the podium of surf contests around the world. With JJ on my boards I have been able to bring my brand into surf shops around the globe and have people be confidant that they are getting a good board when they buy one.
What advice would you give to aspiring shapers?
I would say that it's going to take a lot of hard work, great creative ideas, never ending faith, and some really good luck to have a chance to make a living shaping surfboards, but if you do get into it, it can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things you can do. I love my job and I feel grateful to get up everyday and get to make something that brings stoke into somebody's life. And don't get into it for the money, because there isn't much. One of the guys who helped me the most with my shaping, Jeff Bushman, once told me "if you want to make 1 million dollars shaping, start with 3 million "