Alaia Surfboards; "Wood is Good" Series

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.)


J.P. St. Pierre said...

Google Derek Hynd, some rad footage of him surfing alaias and finless boards. Chad and Trace Marshall at Malibu. Dave Rastavoich and Dan Malloy surfing big Sunset in the new Thomas Campbell movie Present. All kinds of trippy stuff.

Matt said...

Thanks for the search ideas, J.P.. I also found this link on Surfline to an interview with Tom Wegener:

josh klein said...

Hey! Alright! I feel your enthusiasm about these boards! I absolutely love these things... Have you ridden one yet? They are hard to learn, but really rewarding when you figure it out. Here in Hawaii, I get instant props just walking to my local breaks. I guarantee if you get one you won't regret it. Besides, it'll last so long your grandkids can enjoy it later on... I make alaia's out here in Hawaii and this is my site:

Matt said...

Thanks for the post, Josh. Glad to know someone is reading this, and an alaia shaper at that. I checked out your site and it looks good. I like that you are selling a Pine model of the alaia for about $200.

I am currently working on shaping my own alaia, which I will document on this site at some point. God knows what the result will be. Fortunately, my father-in-law has is a master woodworker (he's got all the tools and has built boats, houses, furniture, etc.) and has shaped a few foam boards in his time. We shall see. If it doesn't work out, I will probably turn it into a piece of artwork and may be ordering something from you.