Today, I decided that I would eat lunch at Seaside. So, I left my office in Solana Beach with my sack lunch and drove 5 minutes to Seaside. When I arrived, I saw Rob Machado and another surfer who I could not identify (a regular-foot) surfing alaias. There was a photographer and a videographer in the water filming them. [I am sure the videos and pics will be on Surfline, in a magazine, or in a movie in short order.] I, of course, had left my cell phone (my only digital camera) at my office.
Anyhow, I enjoyed eating my sandwich, yogurt, and tangerine while watching Machado & Co. sliding across the 2-3 foot mush. Comparing the speed of the alaias with the shortboards in the lineup, it is clear that on a weak, mushy day, an alaia is the best. Better than a longboard, I would wager, except for catching the wave. After that, the alaia dominates.
The other thing I noticed was that when you did a nose-dive (which was the wipeout of choice for these guys), the board stops and pops up. I never once saw Machado or the other guy (was it Chris Del Moro?) have to swim to the shore to get their boards. This is nice to know for someone who has become a lazy swimmer due to using a leash.
Did I mention I want an alaia? (Rob, if you read this, hook me up, please. It will make a nice feel good story for this blog.)
Is anyone else out there obsessed with alaia surfboards? I first encountered the boards last summer on the internet. I can't remember where on the internet I first saw or read about them, but I was hooked.
An alaia is a replica of traditional Hawaiian/Polynesian surfboard. They are made of wood, razor thin, rather short (under seven feet usually), and finless. This classic photo (which I had seen a million times but never really bothered to think about what the board looked like) shows a Hawaiian man holding an original alaia:
The person who seems to have single-handedly resurrected the alaia is Tom Wegener. His passion for shaping surfboards of all kinds is evident, and his passion for the alaia is probably the most intense. Check out these videos of him speaking at Patagonia Surf Shop in Cardiff, CA, where he explains how he first began shaping alaias and the evolution from that moment: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; and Part 4. Part 4 features some especially amazing carving on an alaia by David Rastovich.
Do I own one of these boards yet? Unfortunately, no. Have I tried one? Unfortunately, no. (But check out some virgin alaia rides here.) I have looked at them and touched them at the Patagonia Surf Shop. I am planning on buying one as summer approaches so that I can learn to ride one in warmer water. Right now, I prefer having a board with more buoyancy to keep me on top of the winter water. I guess that means I am getting old.
(Update: for related posts, make sure you click the alaia tag appearing below.)