President Obama Gets a Couple Thrusters for the Garage

Shaper Jon Pyzel and artists Craig Stecyk and JP Olson present the President with a gift

Last Thursday, President Barack Obama congratulated a group of 600 Olympic athletes for a historic Games that included 46 gold medal wins. But the figures on stage that drew the most attention might have been two 6’0″ thrusters shaped by Jon Pyzel, presented to the President and the First Lady as gifts in commemoration of surfing’s addition to the 2020 Games.

“The experience was insane,” Pyzel said. “I was approached by Hurley about a year ago and was asked to shape commemorative surfboards as decoration for the Olympic Village in Rio, so I made 50 copies of the shortboard that John John like to ride, the standard Bastard model, but I never imagined that two of them would eventually be sent to the President.”

Graphic artist JP Olson painted the boards, which were sent from the shaping bay to an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to the White House in just over a year. According to Olson, the boards were originally suggested as a conversation piece by Hurley and by the USOC [United States Olympic Committee] for this year’s Games, before surfing was put on the voting ballot for Tokyo. The USOC then handed Olson and Craig Stecyk, the iconic street-culture artist, a whopping 200-page guideline book on the design requirements for the boards. Olson painted a few of the boards and the USOC asked for more.

The pair made five different boards, and two of them were sent to the President — one on behalf of the Olympic team, and another on behalf of the Paralympic team.

“As far as I know, the boards are his and Michelle’s to keep and aren’t tied to the White House,” Olson said. “He might keep them somewhere in the upper 48, but he also might take them down to his home in Hawaii. John John has told me that he’s seen him around his neck of the woods on the North Shore. I know that he enjoys bodysurfing. Sasha and Malia are learning how to surf. If I heard that he decided to wax up those boards and take them for a spin, it would be the coolest thing.”

Photo: James Carey
“The same way that people paint their lowriders or their choppers is exactly how we chose to do it,” Olson said. “We were going for a little grit.” Olson, at work in the studio. Photo: James Carey