Who is Jon Cole?

Cape Town SUP caught up with Jon Cole, the shaper behind Zeal Surf who innovates and creates some of the best SUP & surfboards on the market…

Here is how that went down…

1. Ok… so tell us about who you are and what do you do?
I work in the timber construction industry , but have also worked with yachts, in wood and fibreglass. I am a believer in the Messiah, and the path guided by the Holy Spirit. I have two awesome young sons, who are also learning to surf.

2. What is your job @ zeal surf?
At Zeal I’m assisting with design and CAD shaping, also having done some hand work shaping, and occasional finishing tweaks on the designs.

3. and how long have you been shaping?
I began hand shaping in the early 1990’s for few years, but it was not continuous. I did a lot of study on surf design out of interests, and had some other shapers cut my experimental designs. May even be a couple of years now working in the near abstract world of shaping in the cyber realm with Ian on the computer now.

4. Who’s the Shapers that influenced you?
Pierre De Villiers was definitely my first, and biggest influence as a shaper and surfing personality, but also must add Peter Daniels, though I’ve never met him, I’d come to recognize master craftsmanship at an early age, and his boards really inspired me with how well they performed, drawing me to deep observations of their perfect shape.

5. Onto surfers then… Who is your favourite?
John John Florence has such graceful lines and fluid progressive approach, it’s like maturing the whole sport to resonate with imagination, much like music has done for centuries, so finally surfing is reaching it’s creative maturity, (not to forget Jordy Smith’s ground breaking steps into the acrobatic genre, along with many others). Tom Curran was a huge influence as a grom, with his dynamic, yet smooth lines. Locally Pierre De Villiers in big waves, Ian Armstrong and Cass Collier, epic all rounder’s, and in small waves Ethan Pentz, and Michael February, Tarryn King-Kleinhans really showing all how it’s done on a SUP, and Matthew Mior on the longboard. I would have to round off the list with Matt Bromley, threading lines and riding in the grand masters realm in waves of consequence, most importantly of all, maintaining a humble and noble character of integrity throughout.

6. What do you reckon is the most important aspect of SUP surf design?
Well I can’t put it down to a single thing, but to make this list short, the bottom contour and the tail shape, (including the rail in the tail area) are the most important elements.

7. How much impact does the fin setup have on a board?
Much bigger influence than the average surfer realizes. though beginner to intermediate surfers mostly can’t even feel the difference in performance between plastic fins and fibre glass glass, so until that that point as a rider, when you can significantly feel the difference, there is not much point in making a study of that to learn what suits you best, and for what waves. Competition is great to get defined performance criteria, but surfing is also just for fun, so “functional” is a very relative term, and personal preference. The huge advantage nowadays is that most boards are fitted with boxes so you can experiment in interchanging your fins. It’s quite complex, and most surfboard producers stay within the bounds of decades of tried and tested combinations.

8. What should I look for when buying a Stand Up Paddle Surf Board i.e. is length the only consideration?
I would suggest people to rent from one of the many shops on the beach to get a feel of what they like first. Also skill level is a huge determining factor. Ideally you’d want the shortest board you could possibly ride. That’s a general rule with all kinds of surfing. and the opposite is true while learning, the longest, and widest board you can possibly handle while you learning. Most of the sales staff will guide people individually into what’s the best need for them. Everyone is different. Another factor is budget, as some people only want to buy one board, so are looking for an all round board that will be good as they grow into the sport, while others are already anticipating having a “quiver” of boards. My general recommendation to people is to buy “in-the-now”. Get what you need, and want now. So if you a beginner now, get a beginner board, and not get caught up in struggling to learn on a high performance model.

9. Can you give us a quick overview of what you consider to be a good beginner SUP surf board?
As mentioned, a bigger board should be as long and as wide as possible to handle, however as you go over 9 foot, the whole thing becomes big and cumbersome, so it not a simple rule of bigger is better. Depends on your size and body weight. For an average sized person, rather go wider than 30 inches and thicker than 4, than go longer than 9 foot. Nice smooth lines, flat, even to v bottomed is more graceful and forgiving than a dynamic concave bottom shape which may have too much drive to handle.

10. Any advice that you have for aspiring SUP surfers?
Small waves, even flat water is great to start. Use oversized fins for increased stability, and adjust them down for performance as you get better.

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