Pyzel: Three Boards That Saved My Hawaiian Season - Stab Mag
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Pyzel: Three Boards That Saved My Hawaiian Season

The Ghost, Shadow, and Pyzalien 2 come to our rescue.

Words by Michael Ciaramella

I didn’t know if we were going to Hawaii this year.

The tour looked tentative, travel regulations loomed, and Stab simply didn’t know if it could conduct business as usual with a pandemic going on. Alas, with a bit of geopolitical lobbying and support from the necessary orgs (thanks Vans, Red Bull, and WSL), we finally got the green light.

Hallelujah.

Following this euphoria came the realization that I was short on surfboards.

That might sound ridiculous coming from a quote-unquote “professional amateur board-tester”, but as it turns out I’d left most of my step-ups in Costa Rica when I returned home last September, thinking I wouldn’t need them on the US east coast. I was (mostly) right about that, but with covid still poppin’ I’d failed to consider the prospect of traveling to places with sizable surf—hence my being wholly unprepared for Hawaii this winter.

So I thought: what’s my best bet for getting high-quality Hawaii boards with a reasonable turnaround time?

Anything on the mainland seemed too risky. If the boards weren’t ready by the time I was leaving, they’d be useless.

My Arakawas worked amazing last year, but I’d heard their orders were through the roof after Jack Robbo winning Surf100, so that was also out of the question.

Then I remembered something that had been gnawing at me for years. As a quote-unquote “professional amateur surfboard-tester”, it’s my moral duty to have intel on all the hot new models. While I do a fairly good job of staying on top of the major releases, there is one board—perhaps the most famous performance craft of the last five years—that has genuinely eluded me.

The Pyzel Ghost.

Like many of you, I’ve lusted over this board’s unique curves since I first saw it eviscerate Margaret River Main Break and the North Shore’s Rockpile, both times under the feet of John John Florence.

Nearly half a decade later, and I’d yet to dig my own toes into the foam and give it a twice-over.

So I called up the ever-amiable Pyzel crew and put in a three-board order from their Waialua factory: one Ghost (a step-up), one Shadow (a shorty), and one Pyzalien 2 (a step-down), which is the board Jon Pyzel himself most often rides.

Here’s what happened next.

The Ghost

Between the time that I’d ordered my boards and arrived in Hawaii, the world bore witness to the most caustic turn ever performed on a surfboard (see below). John Florence unleashed this viral hack on a “maxed-out” day at Haweiwa, riding a 6’2 Pyzel Ghost. That’s just one inch taller than John, for anyone without a tape measure handy. 

Comparing anything John does in the water to one’s own surfing requires a particular (but nonetheless ubiquitous) strain of stupid. When the Ghost made its debut at Margaret River in 2017, every Tom, Dick, and Harry flocked to their local Pyzel retailer to grab one for themselves—not one of those folks has redirected their board in a manner even remotely resembling John’s surfing since, but not for lack of trying.

Alas, delusions of grandeur make the world go ’round. This is especially true for your writer, who foolishly bought into Bitcoin near its all-time high and is currently in a state of crypto-induced panic. 

So naturally, when I finally got my hands on the Ghost, there was a little voice in my head who said, “You can do it. You can do that turn.”

I took my Ghost to Haleiwa.

It wasn’t quite maxing out—more adept surfers would probably call it ideal size—but the waves were pretty damn intimidating. Surfing them not so much, but getting caught inside terrified me.

I considered riding a borrowed 6’6 for paddling power, but then I thought: WWJJD?

I grabbed the 5’11 Ghost and scuttled nervously toward the channel, which at this point was anything but. A couple dry-reef donuts later and I was past the toilet bowl. Twenty seconds later I was somehow in the lineup. Classic Haleiwa. 

I spent the next two hours with my heart rate averaging 130, paddling for my life as sets sucked me closer to the dreaded bowl. Meanwhile, Griffin and Crosby Cola, Ethan Ewing, Jack Robbo, and Slater caught bomb after bomb and surfed ‘em like they were fucking Sebastian Inlet in 1989. Badboyryry’s got some photos of it somewhere.

Timid as I was, I managed to squeak a couple corners under the pack. I retained a covid-safe distance from the pocket at all times, but when the shoulder’s force diminished to such a degree that I was forced to redirect my energy toward the bowl, the Ghost gripped the wall with intention and turned on a dime. I was enthralled.

Big(gish) Haleiwa, small(ish) Haleiwa. Video: Will Stiles

While the board was theoretically small for the conditions, my Ghost paddled exceptionally well and never felt like skittering out. Jon Pyzel explained this phenomenon to me, saying that the Ghost’s outline is one of a longer board, but the nose gets pulled in early (hence the wide point being forward) and makes the board shorter than it technically should be. So you essentially get the benefits of a big board (paddling + hold) with extra maneuverability for tight pockets.

In conclusion, my surfing looked absolutely nothing like John’s but the Ghost was a raging success. I’d recommend it to anyone who surfs mildly confronting waves.

Just one pro-tip: use smaller fins than you would in your shortboard. The rail does all the work.

The Shadow

Full disclosure, I actually tested my first Shadow about a year ago. But—and this is a Nicki Minaj sized but(t)—it was in Dark Arts construction, which for better or worse, inherently changes the characteristics of a surfboard. So let’s pretend that never happened and start anew. 

I landed in Honolulu at 2 pm on a Thursday. Grabbed a rental car, made a pit-stop for groceries (second pro tip: never buy food on the North $hore), and bee-lined it to the Waialua Sugar Mill. Waiting ever so graciously for me was a recently-cured Pyzel Shadow, the same board John Florence rides at most performance-based CT venues. 

As soon as I got my hands on the thing, there was one thought in my mind: V-Land. Booking it up the Kam Highway, we passed all the renowned breaks that a braver human might dream of surfing on the North Shore—Waimea, Pipeline, Sunset, etc.—until reaching the most delightful head-high rip bowl known to man. 

Slap a tail pad on, scribble some wax, screw in a fin or two and I’m out there. 

Rockies first, then V-land. Video: Tom Williams

First impression: the Shadow fits extremely well in a tight pocket and turns on a dime. This is probably the most important feature for a V-land board, so we were off to a good start. It did struggle slightly holding its rail through a proper wraparound, which I originally ascribed to poor fin choice (always go full fiberglass in Hawaii), but over a series of sessions at a number of different waves, I found that the Shadow simply prefers to pivot rather than arc. In other words, it’s best for Taj-style surfing rather than Parko. 

If you’re regularly surfing punchy beach breaks or bowled-out reefs, this board will be your best friend. Slopey, long-walled waves will be less appealing to the Shadow.

The Pyzalien 2

During my three-week stay in Hawaii, the waves dropped below head-high a total of two days. This is a ridiculous thing to complain about in any circumstance—let alone a covid year, when most people have been unable to visit such wave-rich and climate-ideal locales—but goddamn, if it didn’t make testing this board difficult. 

The Pyzalien 2 is a small-wave performance board with a signature swallow-tail. It’s wide through the middle and pointy at the ends, which implies that it should both carry speed and maintain control—an ideal blend for a groveler, most would say. 

With the waves refusing to falter, I found myself staring longingly at this board in the corner of bedroom. “Someday we can be together,” I’d say as I dragged the Ghost and Shadow out the door for another day of fun. 

Eventually, I paid the price for this negligence. Refusing to wait any longer for my affections, the Pyz 2 popped its cherry with my girlfriend, who decided to sneak off for a session while I was away.

I came home to find the board waxed, wet, and with foot dents in the deck. 

“Hey! I hope you don’t mind, the girls wanted to go surf this little right so I went with them. The board is really fun!” my girlfriend said with just the right amount of feigned innocence that I couldn’t be mad. 

“Oh, great…”

“Yeah, it’s really fast and paddles super well. It feels perfect for me.”

“Glad you liked it, babe!” I said through gritted teeth. 

So I wasn’t the Pyzalien’s first, but I didn’t hold that against her. The next small day, I paddled out at Backdoor point and gave the board a run. Our connection was immediate. 

You can thank Surfline for the seizure

The Pyzalien 2 has flow in excess. When you’re riding this board, there’s no excuse for getting caught behind sections or doing little wiggles between turns. It transitions cleanly from rail to rail and has an ideal blend of hold and release in waves under head high.

Watching these clips back makes me wish it would have been this size for half my trip. It was genuinely one of the most fun sessions I had, probably because it was empty and one of the few times I wasn’t intimidated by the waves. 

But also because the board fucking went

Outside of Hawaii, the Pyzalien 2 is a board that you’d be thrilled to ride 6.5 days a week. A real bang-for-your-buck kinda stick. Shame my girlfriend won’t give it back. 

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