Gun Control, With Nathan Florence

The red and black Padillac

NathanFlorence_Winter2015-16_BrentBielmann018Photo: Brent Bielmann

Nathan Florence
Age: 21
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 170 lbs

Shaper: John Pyzel
Board dimensions: 10’5” x 20.75” x 3.63”

If you botch the dimensions on your summertime groveler, what’s the worst that can happen? You end up with a lemon that doesn’t work in waves that are barely worth surfing anyway. Sinks when you paddle. No drive. Turns like shit. So you pawn that bitch on Craigslist. No harm, no foul.

But when it comes to guns? Boards that silence excuses and the annoying hum of tow teams? The perfect length, width, volume, thickness and fin setup is the difference between a successful drop and a trip with the lip on a wave that might just kill you. Nathan Florence is well aware of the importance of a good gun, which is why he puts his trust in North Shore shaper John Pyzel’s hands when things get serious. (And it doesn’t hurt to have a brother like John John as his test pilot.) –Jake Tellkamp

NATHAN: This is the gun I’ll ride at Jaws and any of the outer reefs this winter. I’m not sure if I would ride it at Waimea, that wave is so steep and gnarly that I’m learning you actually want to ride a shorter board out there. A 10’5” is too long.

I don’t have much experience riding thruster guns. I’ve always liked quads — I just feel like they turn better off the bottom and provide more drive. Most of the guys paddling Jaws are using quads. The fins in this board are handmade by Vince from Futures. They’re small, so the board can still turn, but they are insanely stiff. I actually stole these out of John’s board. [laughs]

When I pick up a board as big as a 10’5”, I want it to feel thick and I want that thickness to carry all the way up into the nose. That thickness generates crazy paddle power and lets you get your glide on. And you don’t want guns to be too flat. Honestly, it’s hard to explain the feeling I want to have when I pick up a board this big, but I get it with Pyzel’s boards. He shapes really good guns.

It’s really daunting trying one of these boards for the first time, so I normally have John be the test dummy [laughs]. This particular board is double glassed so that it’s extra heavy to help get down the face. John will always test Pyzel’s theories and then I’ll get my own boards modeled after what John says worked and what didn’t. 

The first time I rode this board was at Phantoms and I knew right away it was a gem. I guess the difference between one of these boards working or not, is if you’re caught in the lip cartwheeling down the face, or if it does everything you hope it will. With a gun, there’s no warming up or getting used to it. You’re riding it in huge waves. There’s no room for error. I’ve had boards in the past where I’ve gone to turn and they just keep going straight and I’ve fallen on my face. This board turns really well, so I’m never too worried about getting it off the bottom. I’m feeling confident going into big surf this winter with this thing.