So I've been surfing for about 8 years now and shaping boards the past year (5 total) and I'm staring to explore new options. I'm certainly not opinionated either way when it comes to board choice i just love being on the water. I love shredding a shortboard on nice chest high and up days and love cruising on my longboards on the smooth knee to waist high days. I'm contemplating building and alaia board and wanted some peoples thoughts if its worth it. I've heard theyre a ton of fun on real long chest high breaks but would it be rideable on our east coast waist high slop? enough power in the waves? etc... thanks for any thoughts
hey, i've finished one recently, outa a paulownia tree me and my bud chopped down over a year ago. Havn't had much of a chance to try it much. hard to get myself to do it when i know other things are super fun. This weekend i'm headin down nc for a week and i plan to commit myself to it then. So far, i gotta say, it's damn tough. it sits so low in the water, you sit out there up to your neck. paddling feels like you're stuck in the mud till you really get moving. so if you want easy, go big. Mine's 6'6". Was gonna do 7-7'6" but knots in the wood and whatnot convinced me to cut it back. The biggest reason i did it was because i'm sick and tired of working with glass. It's just disgusting. So i hope i can make it work, and maybe it could even last me many years. time will tell. If you're really curious i'll try and remember to get back to you after my little vacay
My .02: If you enjoy shaping and riding your shapes, go for it. Swells will come and when they do, you will have the Alaia ready and waiting!
If you feel so inclined, bring it to AI so some of us can try it out too...
Actually he's one of my best friends. There is a fella in Wrightsville who shapes alaias and paipos, the name escapes me now, and he swears by them. Sounds like a fun project.
An alaia is a board for a special and rare day around here. I wonder if thickening and widening it (as opposed to Tom Wegener's narrow and thin boards) would help or if that would kill the alaia-ness of it.
I have a 3 foot diameter Paulownia tree in my yard right now.... I was thinking solid wood surfboard and an Alaia....
Trying to find someone to mill the wood for me.
any local saw mills around you should do it. just cut it down to workable pieces on a band saw, throw it on sticks for a couple months, i did a year to be safe considering humidity around here. And make sure you have a good amount of weight on top (cinderblocks what not) typical air cure stuff, nothin new here. i did 6x2's. try to go straight and you'll get a good amount of wood to work with once you do get it milled. cost me 45 bucks to get 7 6"x2"x9' boards done came out over 1 3/4" thick, not bad. plenty to play with
I got interested in alaias in the spring of 2008 and wondered if they would work in East Coast surf. I contacted the Mollusk surf shops in NYC and San Francisco about the Wegener boards they had, and the comments from people that had ridden them were that they were fun, but hard to get into waves. Since I bodyboard and was going to ride the alaia prone, I thought I had a reasonable chance to make it work. In addition, Jon Wegener also had been doing a lot of prone riding in the waves in Noosa. I had trouble connecting with the folks in Australia about the boards and I didn’t want to spend $600 plus shipping to find out that they were a no go here.
From interviews with Jon Wegener about the boards, the story was that the shaping was critical, but I decided to try it anyway. I had not made any boards previously. I got a single piece of poplar 17in wide, 1in thick and 5’5in long and put a ¼ roll across the bottom, used a rounded nose, added a curve at the nose to reduce the chance of pearling and made the tail square. My rails are thicker than the 1/4in Wegener uses and are generally ½ in or so and were easier for me to hold. I started using this board in January 2009 and it had a completely different feel than a bodyboard, very smooth and effortless, especially in the tube and on the face. The paddle-outs and wave paddle-ins were harder than with a bodyboard, but the duck diving and control in close outs was better. I was hooked. I found a place in Tennessee (Ron @ Full Cycle Woodworks, sustainablelumber.com) and got paulownia planks about 6-7in wide, 6ft long and 1in thick. I used marine epoxy to glue it together, shaped it using hand plane, router and sander and finished it with marine varnish, which allows me to change position on the board easily. I don’t use wax on any of the alaias or bodyboards, just a personal preference. The oil finishes (linseed) I found to be too grippy, but for stand up riders they are likely better. I also got into carving designs in the boards. The board was 6’3’’, 19 in wide with a ¼ in bottom roll, 1/8in top roll, round nose,etc. At the time Wegener was running ¾ in thick, 16in wide boards around 7ftplus for stand up. I like the wider and thicker board, as I’m 6’3’’ and 205lbs and the shorter board was easier to move around. This general type of board has worked well at VB, where I generally surf the jetty. I have used two shorter, 5ft boards in Hawaii (Chun’s, Lani’s, Alii Beach, Puena Point, Makaha, and Southside in Threes and Tennis Courts). Again, the paddle outs are harder, but the boards work up to double overhead before the rails get too sketchy to hold well and I go back to the bodyboard. Over the last two years, I have not seen anyone using an alaia in the morning at the VB jetty or in Hawaii, with the exception of one surfer I spotted at Makaha one morning. It was interesting that I had generally one or more surfers a day come up to me in the line up or in the lot in Hawaii with stories about their fathers (or them) surfing the old school equipment back in the day.
I have tried other woods (African and Honduran mahogany, western red cedar, redwood, cypress, Spanish cedar) but the paulownia is the best all round in terms of strength and buoyancy. Alaia shapes and lengths have gone from delta wing paipos to round and fish tails, double curved rails and 42-48in to 7’ 2’’ and 8 ½ ft. I have a few boards in the works that are going to be thicker, but my feeling is that the thin boards may end up to be better. Tom Wegener emphasized extreme flex in his boards, but mine are more rigid. I have noticed that Wegener has gone wider with his wood alaias (maybe to get more float?) and developed the fiberglass Tuna boards to make the paddle-ins easier. Tom and Jon Wegener have really done a lot to get people interested in alternative surfing solutions and I’m happy they have done so. I also got into making hand planes, but generally the waves at VB are not as well suited for them as they are for the prone alaias. I did email the University of Hawaii Hawaiian culture center when I got started and they told me that either a-lay-a or a-lie-a was an acceptable pronunciation for alaia.
I hope that this helps; I’m generally at the jetty in the early morning with the boards if you are curious…
jon has shaped a couple boards for me including his bluegill which is foam alaia hybrid. rides really awesome and is my small wave board of choice. absolutely flies and makes slop fun. definitely gets me out in the water more and has improved my overall surfing because of the increased difficulty riding it. having said that, if you're an experienced surfer you'll get the hang of it pretty quickly (it took me a session to adjust to it).
the wegener bros are really a+ people and love surfing and experimenting with different designs and ideas and are surprisingly willing to listen to idiots like me talk about board design at length. i say step outside your comfort zone and buy one. you won't regret it.