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Blowing Up: The Ascent of Shaper Jon Pyzel

If you ever want to know what a shaper is really all about, try taking a look at some of the guys who are riding his boards. What are the common traits in the group? Why is it that these particular surfers choose to ride the boards produced by the hands of whomever the particular shaper may be? Case in point: Matt Archbold, Mark Healey, Dave Wassel, Chris Ward, Jon Jon Florence…..All radical, fast, aggressive surfers, each with a unique style of their own. Which also happens to be exactly how Jon Pyzel shapes surfboards.

matt archbold on pyzel surfboard

I’ve personally never felt a board react and accelerate quite like the Pyzel boards that I’ve had the pleasure of riding. I realize that may come across as a homer statement when I’m doing a story about the guy, but oh well. The simple truth is that Jon Pyzel is making some of the top custom surfboards not only on the North Shore, but in the entire surfboard industry in general.

In a bar at a North Shore hotel that we will leave unnamed due to it’s cruel intentions, Jon Pyzel was recently kind enough to give up some of his time and offer up some of his thoughts on shaping, surfing, and just living the dream:

What are some of your favorite aspects of shaping surfboards?

The thing that I have the most fun with is shortboards, cause they’re kind of like the little race cars of surfing. They’re what you see people doing the most crazy things on so there’s so many little different refinements you can make on them that make a huge difference in performance. But then making boards for Pipe and other waves that are really heavy is pretty rewarding too. You see someone get a pretty crazy wave on one of your boards and your like “right on, that thing worked alright.” That’s pretty rewarding, I love it.

What else do you have cooking up right now?

Another thing I really am stoked on right now is towboards. I making one with 4-fins and I kind of hit on a pretty sick refine (as Mark Healey interjects: “that last one was the best one I’ve ever ridden!”) The first 4-fin I ever even made was a tow-board and it was just one of my own boards, and since riding that I thought, “these things work great.” So that kind of evolved into making regular boards with 4-fins, and actually even some Pipe boards, Mark’s got some quads that are working pretty good (Healey: “Yuuuuup”). They kind of lend themselves to bigger waves really well, they’re just really fast and really solid and don’t have a lot of drawbacks. They might not be as good as a super high performance shortboard, but they have some characteristics that lend themselves more to speed, drawn out lines…a different type of surfing and that works really well for big waves. You see a lot of guys now riding quad guns out at Waimea and different big wave spots.

Pyzel living the life of a shaper-

To me, I just really love surfing. And shaping boards is all a part of that. So my job is I go surf, then I go to work, and I’m still doing something involving surfing. And it just all works together. I’m not a world-class surfer, but I can still get an idea of what’s working or how boards feel, and just learn different shit about the boards I make.

Pyzel on one of the drawbacks of making great surfboards-

I have boards I make and guys will take ‘em from me. I had a board I made for myself a few months ago and I went surfing with Matt Archbold and he’s all “that thing looks pretty sick, let me try that.” So we ended up trading and he says, “Can I keep this?” And of course I said alright, better you than me, I’d rather have you go ride it. A board might not be an epic board for you, but it’s an epic board for someone.

Custom surfboards vs. shop surfboards-

There’s no strict formula, there’s no graph. I look at a lot of the bigger surfboard manufacturers and they have certain models in certain sizes. But who fits exactly those sizes? I know that some people do, I just think it’s kind of sad if they’re buying like that. Seems like you should get your board made for you if you can. There’s something about having someone make a board for you that’s pretty special. Surfing is such an individual thing, and to have it be a big, mass-marketed thing with some guy from the middle of nowhere, who’s never seen a wave, making you a surfboard just seems kind of wrong.

How the economy is affecting the surfboard industry?

Surfboards have gone in the way of mass-marketing for so long, but now there’s a backlash because people have way less money to spend right now, so guys who were going out saying “Oh I’ll pay $900 for that Firewire, I hope it works, looked bitchin’ when I saw it in an ad,” all of the sudden those guys are calling me and asking for something that’s exactly what they want. They end up paying less money and getting exactly what they want, knowing that it’s gonna work.

Pyzel’s thoughts on the direction shaping is heading-

6 months ago you would have thought the surfboard industry was revolutionized and everything’s different, and we’re all gonna be riding spaceships by now. And it’s funny how it all comes back. Surfers have ridden the same kind of feeling surfboard for so long, different shapes and all sorts of different stuff, but the feeling of the flex and the weight and how it responds has been the same for so long. We love that, it’s almost in our blood or something.

Jon Pyzel on pro-surfers who don’t like surfing-

It’s pretty funny how pro-surfers in general are not into surfing. I kind of get bummed out about that stuff. Or I hear about certain unnamed individuals who don’t ever surf, just hate surfing. And I’m thinking, are you fucking kidding me? I don’t want to work! I just want to kick it all day and go surf too. And some of those guys don’t want to go surfing, that just bums me out. And then there’s people like Mark and Jamie Sterling. The kind of guys that if they didn’t get paid, they would be racking up a credit card bill or playing poker or whatever they had to do, groveling to go surfing. I’m stoked, I love seeing good surfers and I’m glad everyone’s getting paid to go do it, but don’t fucking complain about it. That’s unreal.

The Stats
Name- Jon Pyzel
Hometown: Santa Barbara, Ca.
Family: Wife, 2 girls: ages 10 & 5
First Wave: Hammonds in Santa Barbara
Years Shaping: 10
Shaping Influences: Jeff Bushman, Eric Arakawa, Matt Moore

jon pyzel

Posted by Shaun on Monday, February 16th, 2009 in Surfing.

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6 Responses to “Blowing Up: The Ascent of Shaper Jon Pyzel”

  • Don Says:

    I think there will always be a market for really good products in the surfing industry. Good boards included. Anyone who is remotely serious about surfing won’t buy a junky board.

  • Chris Says:

    With he cost of bringing boards on a plane getting up to insane levels, have you got any ideas on how to get your favorite custom boards to a break where it costs more than the cost of another flight. My friends (the ones that don’t surf) always tell me, “Why can’t you just buy or rent a board?” They don’t understand that I need my boards to surf well. Not some board off the rack or a big morey rental funboard. I am heading to Peru next month and while I got a good deal on the flight, I have to pay $300 per board on Delta, Continental wouldn’t even allow a board down there. I was going to bring 3 boards. What would you do?

  • Mike Says:

    It’s still not worth bringing a board unless you’re going for an extended period of time. Even then…the airlines WILL ding/break your board, forcing you to get it fixed. I also think it’s good practice to use all sorts of different boards – and there are decent thrusters all over the place, you don’t necessarily need to be on a NSP tanker! Make friends, save coin.

  • Cameron Says:

    @Chris – that’s a tough one. Normally I would suggest not flying the airlines that charge such ridiculous fees for boards. I would also write them a letter saying why I am not flying them. Makes it difficult when you only have a couple of choices on airlines though.

    If it were me– I’d either just buy a used board in Peru and sell it when I leave. Or even get in contact with some of the local shapers and have them make a custom board. Then just sell it when you leave or donate to the local kids. Better than paying $900 each way to get your boards down there.

  • Chris Says:

    Thanks everyone for your advice,
    I have a shaper in North Carolina who has been making boards for me for about 4-5 years. He has surfed with me and we talk about the way boards ride all the time. It is a great relationship. He just made me two new boards and I am dying to try them out. I almost think it is worth the money to just bring them, just to get a crack at some Pacific power with boards I had made just for that reason. I’ve never been to Peru so maybe I’ll find a shaper for next time after I check the place out, next trip, where ever I go, I’ll be flying a different airline, and possibly bring just one board, my fav, and then get something there when I need more size.
    Traditional shapers are the best. If you’ve found one, you know what I mean.

  • Jeff Says:

    If you are going to Peru, check out Klimax. The guy is an amazing shaper and new boards start around $400.

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