- WSL / Damien Poullenot
- WSL / Damien Poullenot

From two-time World Champ John John Florence, to big wave heroes like Mark Healey, to a slew of other North Shore chargers, shaper Jon Pyzel is the one putting surfboards under their feet.

Raised in Santa Barbara, Pyzel relocated to Hawaii in 1992 where he has since built a thriving surfboard business. Apart from shaping for the local contingent, when the Triple Crown and Big Wave World Tour come to town he gets flooded with orders from the world's best, looking for an advantage in the turbulent waters.

Haleiwa, Sunset Beach, Pipeline and Jaws are all very different waves each requiring different attributes from the equipment surfers choose to ride. We sat down with Pyzel to discuss what he's been working on in the lead up to the winter season and how his board designs vary from spot to spot. Here's what he had to say.

John shares his World Champioship with his shaper John Pyzel. Pyzel and John John Florence celebrating the 2017 World Title. - WSL / Steve Sherman


Haleiwa goes anywhere from two-foot super weak little lefts to 12-foot scary, freaky bowls that are horrifying, so you're going to want anything from a California style grovel board all the way up to the biggest boards that guys are riding this year, probably 6'8" I would guess.

If it's really pumping your going to want a little more beef in your board, but basically if it's under double-overhead then guys are riding a slight step-up board. It's a full on, rippable wave.

You're probably going to go with a shortboard squash tail and then as soon as you go into a little bit of a step-up you're going to go into round tails. And everyone's going to be riding thrusters. Nobody is going to really want to ride a four-fin probably at any of these spots this year, maybe Pipeline.

Halewia is all about performance surfing and occasionally getting really barreled...and always getting really worked. It's the most terrifying six-foot wave on the North Shore.

For me, I may be different than a lot of shapers, but the boards that I've been making for the last few years, they all work well at all of those spots. So I make the same board for a guy for Sunset as I do for Pipeline. And I make that same board for Haleiwa when it's pumping.

The difference I would say is that with Sunset you're going to be riding a thicker, slightly longer version of those boards. And I'll play around with the bottoms too. It's not all vee, I'll put concave in there too.

Sunset Beach

Guys are going to ride shortboards if they run heats at Sunset Point. But in general, if it's decent Sunset, you're going to want a bigger board. But again, over the years, I've seen guys go smaller and smaller and smaller.

There are certain guys that are going to ride a bigger board. It's not necessarily that they're bigger guys, rather it's their approach. There are guys that are looking to roll in out the back and get in easier. But with the younger crew, the 20 year olds, those guys are more into pure performance. They're not worrying as much about paddling as they are getting in underneath it.

And that's a factor too, getting points for a later drop. If you roll in from the outside it might be a good wave. But if you get that same wave where you get in more dramatically, I think that's something that's going to add to your points. Smaller board, tighter turns in the pocket, that's what they're looking for.

Kemper advances at the HIC Pro Big Wave World Champ Billy Kemper putting it on rail at Sunset. - WSL / Freesurf/Keoki

My theory has always been to have some beef in the middle but refined through the outside. You want to have that paddle power with that steady, sturdy feeling. Sunset is a radical wave. It may not look like it from the beach, but you take off and you go so fast. You have to bleed off speed before you can do a bottom turn.

But then having a thinner rail, especially through the back half of the board, is also really important. I always focus on the back half and back third and getting it really thin because you're going so fast that when you go to tip it over on a bottom turn you really want to have bite. You don't want a lot of floaty, boaty rail.

And you also want some rocker. Really you want to slow down out there and be able to turn up into the lip or into the bowl. You need to be able to control your speed and push against that board without it wanting to keep going straight.

And when you're going really fast, if you have too little rocker, your board really wants to continue on the path that it's already on. So I try to keep a lot of curve through the tails and keep it really thinned out. Keep it fast but controllable. You're going to want a thruster to go into the lip as hard as you can. And control in the barrel. Sunset is a really technical barrel.


It's a hard wave surfing-wise, but it's pretty simple from a surfboard perspective. You want to get in easy and you want to get barreled. It's shorter and shorter boards every year for everybody. Guys are not trying to get in on the roll-ins at all anymore. They're trying to get in as deep as they can.

They're trying to take off behind the peak either right or left. They want something that they can knife into it. You see guys go all the way down to the bottom and do bottom turns, but I think the best waves that you see ridden at Pipeline are the waves where guys don't even get to the bottom of the wave. They're kind of coming halfway down the face and pulling in, either dragging their ass, or arm, or whatever.

John John Florence (HAW) placed 2nd in the Final of the Billabong Pipe Masters 2017 in Pipe, Oahu, Hawaii, USA Florence enroute to his second world title at the 2017 Pipeline Masters. - WSL / Damien Poullenot

You don't want to be digging rail, or nose dips or anything like that. You need a fair bit of curve in the board. The adjustment between boards at Haleiwa and Sunset and boards at Pipeline is that you want more rocker at Pipe. And you want some curve in there, especially nose rocker.

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