John John Florence (HAW) has been on fire through the recent leg of the World Championship Tour (WCT), taking on conditions from high-performance peaks at Trestles to the dredging barrels of Europe -- and all on the same board. The Bastard model from Pyzel Surfboards has carried him through and, with his win at the Quiksilver Pro France, has officially become Magic.
Jon Pyzel has been shaping boards for Florence since the Hawaiian phenom was 5 years old. The master shaper opened about his longtime working relationship with John John and his approach to shaping.
SHAPER: Pyzel Surfboards
MODEL: The Bastard
DIMENSIONS: 6'1" x 18.65" x 2.31"
FINS: JJ Future Fins
MATERIALS: Arctic foam
SURF LIKE JOHN JOHN: Standard dimensions at PyzelSurfboards
What is the strategy or philosophy behind Florence's uniform board choice in distinct conditions?
There is no exact strategy -- he has many board options to choose from, and just tries out different boards before each event and goes with what feels best to him there. I do know that once he finds a board he loves, he tends to stick to that design in a variety of conditions. The particular board that he started riding at Trestles was actually a board I had made for him for the Rio event back in May. He didn't ride it there, but pulled it out at Trestles and found that it felt really good.
How long have you two worked together, and what is your approach to working with him?
I have been shaping his boards since he was 5 years old, almost 17 years now. For a long time it was just my ideas and input, because even the best little kid doesn't know how to explain exactly what his board is doing, so I would just watch him surf and try to figure out how to improve his boards for him. Now it is different, John John has become really good at feeling out his boards and watches how they look in footage. He knows where they might be catching through a turn, or how one board differs from another even though they are almost exact replicas of the same design. It's a pretty organic process for us, since he is right down the street from me at home. Sometimes when we surf together we will trade boards during the session so he can compare and let me know what they are feeling like.
How many shapes or boards do you two tend to go through before he finds a "magic" one?
That's hard to say. He tends to break them down into "contest" boards and "freesurf" boards. The freesurf boards are good feeling, but not "magic." They are the ones he is gonna ride wherever he is going and filming or whatever. (Think about that -- he's usually NOT riding his magic boards in any footage outside of contests!) The "contest" boards are not always magic either, but they are the best feeling boards that he has, and he will not ride them outside of heats, except for a few warmup waves on contest days. These boards sometimes are around for awhile, and you can tell by how thrashed they are, even buckled and repaired, because he has confidence in them and knows he can rely on them to do what he wants. He doesn't often call a board "magic" -- it seems more like the better the board is, the less he has to say about it to me, and if he is riding it in a comp then it's sure that he is feeling good about it.
What's distinct about the board he's been using at the last three events?
It's a design that he has been riding on and off for the past year or more, and it is kind of a combo of two other designs that he really likes, the Flash and the Pinky. He won Rio on the Pinky in 2012, and he always has liked the Flash, so I took the best parts of the two designs and blended them together to create the Bastard. It is a board for many types of waves and conditions, and seems to suit JJ's style well. A very important ingredient in his all his boards is the blank --- I always use Arctic Foam (out of California) for his boards. Their foam has a distinct feel to it, very light, yet strong and resistant to breakage. JJ really likes the liveliness we get from Arctic, and can always tell if I shape him a board using another type of blank! His fins are the JJF Future Fins, which he helped to design and suit his surfing really well.
What's the biggest challenge in shaping for JJF, and the greatest joy?
Every event is different, and trying to make sure that he has the equipment to know that he can win heats can be a little stressful. I have to be aware of what the waves are like and what designs have been working well for him. It can feel like every event is a reset with boards. What was working might change and you have to adapt quickly to that. It can be stressful for me, knowing how important boards are to his success.
But... any kind of stress is forgotten when I watch JJ winning heats and events and just blowing my mind with great surfing in every kind of wave! It's so good to see things come together for him. He's such a good kid and I'm just as proud of who he is as a person as he is as surfer. His mom did a great job raising him, and it's easy to enjoy watching him realize his dreams.