Historical Alaia Surfing

By now, everyone knows that alaia is a term used to describe one type of surfboard ridden by Hawaiians in the old days. Thus, the new trend of riding alaias is a revival rather than an innovation. Here is a link to a great brief history of surfing in Hawaii.

Here are a couple of good excerpts from this history of surfing describing surfing in Hawaii before and just after Europeans showed up:

Before contact with Cook's crew, Hawai'i was ruled by a code of kapu(taboos) which regulated almost everything: where to eat; how to grow food; how to predict weather; how to build a canoe; how to build a surfboard; how to predict when the surf would be good, or convince the Gods to make it good. Hawaiian society was distinctly stratified into royal and common classes, and these taboos extended into the surf zone. There were reefs and beaches where the ali'i (chiefs) surfed and reefs and beaches where the commoners surfed. Commoners generally rode waves on paipo (prone) and alaia (stand up) boards as long as 12 feet, while the ali'i rode waves on olo boards that were as long as 24 feet.


[Description of surfing from a member of Captain Cook's crew] But a diversion the most common is upon the Water, where there is a very great Sea, and surf breaking on the Shore. The Men sometimes 20 or 30 go without the Swell of the Surf, & lay themselves flat upon an oval piece of plan about their Size and breadth, they keep their legs close on top of it, & their Arms are us'd to guide the plank, thye wait the time of the greatest Swell that sets on Shore, together push forward with their Arms to keep on its top, it sends them in with a most astonishing Velocity, the great art is to guide the plan so as always to keep it in a proper direction on the top of the Swell, as it alters its direct. If the Swell drives him close to the rocks before he is overtaken by its break, he is much prais'd. On first seeing this very dangerous diversion I did not conceive it possible but that some of them must be dashed to mummy against the sharp rocks, but jus before they reach the shore, if they are very near, they quit their plank, & dive under till the Surf is broke, when the piece of plank is sent many yards by the force of the Surf from the beach. The greatest number are generally overtaken by the break of the swell, the force of which they avoid, diving and swimming under the water out of its impulse. By such like excercises, these men may be said to be almost amphibious. The Women could swim off to the Ship, continue half a day in the Water, afterwards return. The above diversion is only intended as an amusement, not a tryal of skill, & in a gentle swell that sets on must I conceive be very pleasant, at least they seem to feel a great pleasure in the motion which this Exercise gives.


Free Alaia Shaping Template

Well, Grant from surfinggreen.com.au sent me a free 6'8" alaia template. Thus, my request discussed in my prior post is answered. Thank you very much, Grant.

Unfortunately, in order to use the template, you need to download a free version of Shape3d software. To get the software, you have to register (i.e., give your name, address, and other info) with the software developer. I am sick of registering for this and that and that and this, so I decided not to do it.

I am planning on shaping my own alaia, and I guess I will just freehand most of it based on various dimensions that I have gathered from checking out various websites. Once I finish my alaia and I have tested it in the waves to be sure that it is actually surfable, I'll be sure to post exact dimensions for anyone else who wants to try to shape their own alaia.

Of course, if my alaia ends up being a piece of crap, then I will probably register for the free software and use the template.


Advice on How to Shape an Alaia

I found a great link to a site showing you how to shape an alaia from start to finish. The site will even give you a free alaia template, though it is unclear if you need to buy a blank from them before you get the free template. I am sending them an email right now and will provide an update when I get a response.


Sliding Away the Day

I guess that a typical alaia surfer will surf like the guy in this video. Not as many of the explosive turns you'd see Rasta or Machado do, but trimming across the waves.

More Alaia Surf Videos

Found some great stuff over at dailysurfvideo.com. These videos indicate that you can learn to surf one of these things pretty quickly.

CLICK HERE for the link. Especially check out the second and third videos.


Do It Yourself Alaia Construction

Lawrence over at bitness.com has been detailing his alaia project. It is now all done and looks pretty sweet. You can link to his series of eight posts by CLICKING HERE. Here is a photo of his finished board:

Wood Stories

A quick link to this video about making and riding alaias:

And another alaia video with one of my favorite songs as the soundtrack:


Great after-work surf today

Now that daylight savings time has made surfing before work a bit challenging (at least for the next few weeks), the after-work surf is where it is at. I snuck out of work at about 4:20 and headed to Grandview. When I first got there, I was disappointed. It looked WEAK and tiny. But, then a set came in. Not big, but rideable and looked like it had a bit of power due to the low tide.

I was glad I went out. Between 4:45 and 5:45 there were only about 6 guys out max. For a while, there were only 4 of us. I caught about 10 waves, and a couple were pretty good. In fact, I almost had a little tuck-and-cover barrel, but the wave changed its mind. (On a cautionary note, there was a lobster trap right beyond where the sets were breaking. It didn't pose any danger, but if the waves pick up a bit in the next few days, as is predicted, it might be something to be on the lookout for.)

When I finally went in at around 6:00pm, I saw some guy with a 4-foot alaia heading out. He had some swim fins, so it looked like he was going to ride it prone. The board looked like it might have been redwood, so I wonder if it was homemade? Anyhow, I didn't get a chance to ask him as I needed to get home quickly.

God bless Grandview. God bless Leucadia.


Alaia surfboards in the mainstream Press

Okay, when the UT runs a story about alaia surfboards on their website, you know the trend is in high gear. Expect lots of alaias at the beach this summer. Whether they will be firewood or wall hangers by next summer is anyone's guess. Of course, I can't believe the SUP trend continues to grow, so I am not a reliable oracle.

Alaia advertisement/art video

Okay, so JP tweeted over at SurfySurfy about a 10-year-old grom making some comment about alaia surfboards being for cavemen. Perhaps, but most of the things I said when I was 10 I have either forgotten or dismissed. I remember thinking longboards were LAME when I was 10. I still prefer riding a shortboard, but a longboard is an appropriate tool for having fun under the right conditions.

Check out this video:

Some pretty nice tricks on those penis planks.