Stab Magazine | The New Normal: Jon Pyzel On Justified Paranoia And Why Hawaii's The Best Place To Be

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The New Normal: Jon Pyzel On Justified Paranoia And Why Hawaii’s The Best Place To Be

Finding a silver lining amongst the dark clouds.

news // Apr 17, 2020
Words by stab
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Jon Pyzel has been self quarantining on the North Shore for the last five weeks.

He freely admits, there are worse places one could be stuck while the world goes to hell. His shaping business is still able to function. The surf is still plentiful (did you see today?). And, while he recognizes and acknowledges the hardships that the rest of the world is going through, Pyzel points out that there is still a silver lining to be found amongst these dark clouds. 

Stab caught up with Jom while he was checking the surf at Sunset Beach and watching a new, late-season swell filling in along the Seven Mile Miracle:

Stab: Where are you riding all this out?

Jon Pyzel: I’m at home on the North Shore. Happily at home.  

[Yeah, Nate!!!]

Sorry, Nathan Fletcher just drove by. We just drive around in our cars and look at the waves and yell at each other now. 

I’ve got my wife and my 17-year-old daughter, who lives with us. And then my wife’s grandmother, who’s 94. She doesn’t live with us, she’s in her own little place, but we bring her over to the house all the time. And then my older daughter, who’s 22, lives down the road from us about a mile. Her and her boyfriend live together. So, that’s my little pod. 

Even with my older daughter, she’s got her friends that she’s around, but she’s been really good. Because we have 94-year-old grandma, she’s been kind of removed. If she feels that she’s been around somebody kind of close, even though it’s her group and they’re self-distancing on their own, she stays out of the house. She’ll come over and visit and hang out in the yard. We had a lot of yard time yesterday. Everybody was outside in their own little space. It was pretty classic. 

It’s super weird. I met a friend to check the waves yesterday and brought him some rubber gloves that I ordered in the mail. I was surprised I got them. And my wife had some masks. So, this guy, he’s a single guy and he’s been pretty nervous, and I had to leave this stuff for him and let him come pick it up. It was like, “Here’s your little stash so you can go get gas and go to the grocery store and be okay.”

On Monday they started enforcing that you can’t go into any Foodland on the island without a mask on. Costco’s the same. We were already doing it, but now it’s mandatory. 

I’m the most…my wife would call it paranoid, but she’s really been accepting of my worries. She’s not too worried about it, and I’m like, “We gotta protect grandma!” We’re like the first line of defense for 94-year-old grandma. So, I’ve been kind of crazy. I’m usually the least germaphobic person. We raised our kids to get dirty. I can’t remember the last time I went to the doctor because I was sick, I just don’t worry about that kind of stuff. And now, I’ve turned the corner and am in full quarantine mode. My wife just gives me this look like, “Oh, honey.”

It’s amazing how quickly we all changed our patterns of behavior.

My whole theory is why not be precautious. I’m not scared of it, but why not take some extra steps and protect yourself. It doesn’t hurt you to be cautious…unless you’re making somebody else in your family insane. So, I’m just going to go for it and try not to get sick. But I’m more concerned about spreading it than I am about getting sick myself. I’m not too worried about what happens if I get sick, but I don’t want to be spreading it around. 

I feel like I know a bunch of people that think they’ve already had it in early January and didn’t know it at the time.

Yeah, same. One of my best friends is like that. He wants to get the blood test to find out if he’s had it. It’s just going to keep being weird for a while, I think…probably a long time.

Yeah, I don’t think it’s going to be un-weird for some time. How you doing on screen time?

I can’t even look at that stuff. It’s so over the top. Right after this thing ramped up I had a few different news apps on my phone. One thing I’ve done is not watch the news on TV. I don’t watch any actual video or footage because it’s too overwhelming for me. But I was reading the news on my phone and I was checking all these different sources. Then I realized that was really unhealthy for me, so I deleted like four out of six news apps on my phone. I’ve got the New York Times for national and international news, and then I have one local news source on my phone. I try not to immerse myself too much in it because there was so much bad news. 

It looks like places are starting to get better, so we’re kind of coming out of it in different places in the world, so there’s a little bit of good news. But deleting those apps was really refreshing for me. 

I run my own Instagram, so I’m doing all that stuff. I talk to people a lot on that. I try and be pretty on it with that. It can be a good way to take up some time and connect with people. I feel like it helps me keep my finger on the pulse of my business. I’m not just endlessly scrolling through Instagram for no reason, but I definitely spend some time there. And it’s fun to see what your friends around the world are doing.

It’s easy to spin yourself out on the news. 

Yep. I don’t want to know every terrible story. I understand how bad this is. I get the big picture, and as long as I’m not ignorant and I’m not making mistakes because of being not informed, then I’m okay. I don’t want read the horror stories, I know they’re there, I don’t need the details. It’s terrible. 

But I did get a great text from one of my friends who’s an ER doctor saying he had some good news. They’d just sent an 80-year-old woman who was on a ventilator home, fully recovered. That was rad! Hearing stuff like that, I love that. For every terrible news there’s also some good news that you can get some positivity out of. 

It’s a whole different world we’re living in. Besides your device, what else are you doing to keep occupied?

I feel like I always have stuff to do. I never feel bored. If I’m just at home, I’ll mow the lawn or do stuff in the yard. Wash the car. I’m really lucky to be close to the beach, so the wife and I will go for a beach walk in the morning. And we can still surf here, so I’ve been surfing a ton. I feel almost guilty. We’ve had really fun waves. It’s almost like every day is Saturday. 

Even though we’re socially distancing and we’re on lockdown, we can still go surf. No one has a job. No kids are going to school. So, there can be a lot of people in the water at times, but there’s also moments when it’s really empty. I don’t want to go surf in a big crowd of people right now, but I’ve noticed that even when it’s crowded people are still spreading out. The kids aren’t really doing that because if you’re under 17 you really don’t care, most kids, but they’re just kids. But we definitely see in the lineups that people are pretty respectful of the situation. And if they’re not, I’ve told people to get away from me. If some guy paddles out on the peak that I’m on I’ll say something like, “Hey, find your own zone.” People get it. I’m not being a dick. 

We’re lucky here. We have sunshine, beaches and waves. I couldn’t really pick a better place to be stuck, or whatever you want to call it. 

And what about your business, are you able to keep that moving forward?

I have my factory down the road. I only have one person there per day. I still have one guy here who is either working from home or going into his office there by himself. We’re still shipping stock boards. And we can still make custom boards because under the restrictions we’re allowed to. I’ll have one guy go in and cut a bunch of boards one day. Then the next day I’ll go in and shape them so nobody is overlapping in the factory. We’ll set up batches of boards like that. We’re less fazed than a lot of places. I really empathize with what other people are going through, but we’re pretty lucky. I’m not bored. I’m pretty grateful to have the people around me that I do. It’s a little different here. 

It’s a pretty tight community on the North Shore, you guys are lucky to be able to come together like that.

There’s only one road in and a bike path, it’s basically just a small town on the beach. I think people forget that because they’re so used to all the stories and stuff, but it’s a small town. I’d rather be in a small town than a big city right now, that’s for sure. New York is like the exact opposite of what we’ve got going here. It’s wild.

Although, I wouldn’t mind being on Tavarua right now. If you could really pick your spot, that wouldn’t be a bad one. I saw some video with Mick Fanning the other day and he said he’d like to be on Namotu. There was no question. It was pretty sick. If you had Namotu with nobody coming or going, you’d be set, just wait it out. 

Do you know anybody that’s had the virus?

Yeah, my wife’s family in California. The is a police officer in the LAPD and he got it. Then his wife and kids got it. But they all recovered and are doing really well. What’s weird is the grandma, who’s 80-something, lives with them and she hasn’t gotten it. She’s been living in the house with all of these people that are sick and is not sick at all. She’s not shown any symptoms, anyway. But they’re all doing good and making a comeback. It’s not necessarily a death sentence. 

It’s so weird what you hear because some people say it’s the most painful thing they’ve ever felt. And then there’s people who think they had it but it was really minor. So, I don’t know, it’s trippy. 

At the end of February, my wife and I went to Japan to go snowboarding. We’d had this trip planned for a long time and were going with other friends. We debated going all the way up until the day we left. There were some cases popping up in Tokyo, but the northern island that we were going to had no cases, so we figured we were all good. Then a few days after we got there all these cases started popping up where we were. Then all of a sudden it was a hot spot, but where we were was a full snowboard vacation zone and everybody had pretty much already bailed.  

We did our thing. It didn’t feel weird. Then we came home on March 6, and at that point we decided to self-isolate. We knew we’d been somewhere that was a hot spot, and at the time, there were no cases in Hawaii. I remember at the time, and it may have been pure paranoia, but when I would take a deep breath it felt like there was something not right. I wasn’t able to get a full breath of air into my lungs, like you couldn’t get that last gasp when you’re going under a wave. It felt like I couldn’t quite get as much air into my lungs as I normally could. 

But I could hold my breath and was fine. I could hold my breath for two minutes and was fine. And now I’m fine. I just wonder if I had something or maybe that was it. I’d wake up every morning and self-assess how I was feeling. I don’t know if I had that specifically and it just went away, or what. I didn’t have any other symptoms. No fever, no achy body. It was paranoia. There was a little something going on, but it doesn’t mean it was the corona. 

Where do you think we go from here?

I just don’t see an endgame. I don’t see a point where everyone is like, “Okay, it’s done.” Obviously, when there’s a vaccine that will change, but that’s realistically about a year away. I just don’t see “normal” coming anytime in the near future. That kind of trips me out. It’s bizarre. That’s a negative point of view, but it’s pretty realistic. 

But then what is cool is how the environment is been given a little bit of a break. My 17-year-old pointed it out to me. She told me that global emissions are down 20-percent right now. And there’s all that kind of stuff. It gave me the perspective that this is Mother Earth calling the shots. She’s like, “You guys have been fucking me up and it’s time to take a look at what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.” 

That might sound like a cheesy hippy, but that’s pretty much the reality. It may be harsh, but I do think this is a wake-up call for how we deal with the planet that we live on. 

And the one thing I really think about is that when 9/11 happened people in our country started taking care of each other a little more. There was a feeling of being a group, being in this together. And I feel like this is a global version of that, in terms of people coming together and helping each other. But even better than that is that there is no enemy. There is no religion we have to try to hate. There’s not people we need to try to kill. There’s nobody to be suspicious of because they might be a terrorist. There’s no physical enemy or people that we want to kill.

There’s not one race, or one religion, or one nation that’s the “enemy.” We’re all in this together. We don’t have to be paranoid that because somebody believes something different than me they’re bad. That’s not what this is. The whole world is literally in this together. Obviously, in my lifetime that’s never happened. What I mean is that there is some good coming out of this and there’s nobody on the receiving end getting bombs dropped on them or anything like that. To have the group mentality of taking care of each other, that’s some good that can come out of this. 


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