The Stab Caddy: JJF’s ‘The Flash’ by Pyzel
The black-tailed beauty.
Remember that alley-oop John John Florence pulled during last year’s Oakley Pro Bali, when the world properly lost their shit, including Seabass, who had already posted a 9.80 and 9.57 in the same heat? Of course you do – you and the 1.2 million other people who have viewed the clip repeatedly to try and understand the physics of such a leap. Well, we quizzed JJF about the best board he’s ever owned, and coincidently, the planets aligned.
“One of the best boards I have ever owned would be the black-tailed board I had last year,” says John. “I rode it in Bali and Fiji and it goes unbelievably well. I only rode it in a few heats and maybe during one free-surf before the event to feel it out. It’s really tough not riding a board that goes so well. I just want to surf it everyday but I know I’ll probably try an air and break it.”
“Then I have another board I had a while back that I won Margaret’s on, right when I qualified – that one was good too,” John recalls. Right, okay, so it’s clear the symbiotic relationship between JJF and his shaper, Jon Pyzel, has been a thriving success. So surely, when you come across a winning stick, you’d just duplicate it like some sort of mad scientist, right? “I have similar boards but you can never really copy a board,” says John. “I went to Tahiti and forgot a really good 6’0 pintail, but that’s probably a good thing because it made it last.”
Silly things happened on that magic black-tailed board. Photo by Oakley/Hennings.
Shaper: Jon Pyzel
Dims: 6.0 x 18 5/8ths x 2 1/4 round tail.
Volume: 25.7 liters.
Stab: Can you tell us about the magic black-tail?
Jon Pyzel: At the time John was riding 5.11’s a lot, so that was a little step-up board. Not quite a step-up, but a one-inch longer, round-tail that would hold in a little better. He was riding it in Bali and said it was going really well. Up until then he has always ridden undersized boards for his height, for how big he is. That board was the reason he rides 6.0 as his usual short board now. It was great because the 6.0 worked so well and finally he started riding bigger boards.
How long did that board last? That board lasted a whole year. Nine months straight, which is amazing. It was one of those boards that just don’t break. He’d stomp big airs on it and ride it in barrels and it just lasted. He finally creased it, not even bad though. We kept that board. It’s one of those boards you keep and put away. I have a few stashed that have been memory boards… really special boards.
How much input does JJF put into his boards? For a long time he left the ordering up to me, just because we worked together for so long – almost his whole life sine he was five years old. It was in my hands when he was younger, which was a lot of work trying to figure out what worked best for him. Then over the years he’s learned a lot. He doesn’t fuss over the minor details but he does have a really good general idea of what feels good and what works for him. He can pinpoint what doesn’t work, like if it’s not working coming off the top or something like that. The constant filming helps because he’s looking at how the boards are working. He critiques my work but really helps me improve it, which is awesome.
It seems like JJF is one of the few pros who don’t ride tons of other shapers’ boards. John’s tried other boards and people obviously give him boards all the time. If he rides something else he likes he will tell me, which is pretty cool. That’s what makes us work so well and I have developed my boards around the way he surfs and what he’s feeling. We’ve worked together to help each other. That way he can always count on stuff. He knows how the boards are going to feel before he gets them. Obviously every board isn’t going to be the magic board but it’s nice for him to take a bag of new boards somewhere and know how they’re going to feel. The consistency is good I think. We’re not just making the same board over and over again. We’re constantly trying to develop them, which is really fun.
How many boards a year does he get? Ah man, I don’t like to count because it gets depressing. I sometimes start the year off counting but then stop halfway through the year. In 2012 I counted and he got up to about 80 boards. What’s cool is he doesn’t get like 100 boards and use 20. Of those 80, he rode all of them. What he does is divide his boards into contest boards and free surfboards. So all the magic ones go into a board bag for contests then he uses all the others for free-surfs. If it’s not special it goes into the free-surf pile, which gets used up and destroyed. So if he gets a board that works great and is better than one in the contest boardbag he’ll trade it out and that board will go into the free surf pile.
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