The Alaia has made a resurgence in the surfers quiver the past few years.
From “pros” riding them to kids down at your local cruising on them.
Alot of people are completely devoted ( for the time being at least ) to this surfboards finless slide and ride.
Whether this fascination with the past is a rebuke of today’s surf world or just a curiosity about surfboard history and a desire to experience what the forefathers of surfing felt, I don’t know. I do know that it sure can’t hurt to gain some knowledge about surfing’s history and roots.
Some Basic Facts about this Ancient Craft
While the Olo is considered the Surfboard reserved for the Ali’i ( The Hawaiian ruling class ) The Alaia was surfed both by the ruling class and more importantly by surfers like you and me, common folks.
• First and foremost, It has no fin.
• The alaia compared to the olo was shorter a bit thinner and definitely more maneuverable.
• It is a round-nosed shape, with a squared-off tail.
• It was made from either Koa-a hard wood and ulu- a soft wood.
However as stated in Houstons and Finneys Book- Surfing: A History of the Ancient Hawaiian Sport there are reports of these boards being made from wiliwili wood as well.
• The “average” size of these boards are not readily known but they (Bishop Museum in Honolulu,HI) have boards from the 19th century that range from 6 feet up to 12 feet, around 18 inches wide, and half inch to an inch and a half thick.
• The comparatively small size of these ancient surfboards made it easy to “handle in waves that wall-up quickly and form tubes or hollow sections”. In fact to ride steep waves the early surfers needed to angle on the wave, this was called Lala -Sliding at an angle along the face of a moving swell.
Modern Ancient Surfer
Like mentioned earlier the revival is in full swing…
They are making them out of all sorts of materials. From foam and fiberglass to more traditional methods using different types of woods like paulownia and cedar.
Making an alaia involves little more than a jigsaw, a hand planer, sandpaper and the right piece of wood. Once smooth, they are covered with a sealant, typically linseed oil and gum turpentine.
They really are fun to ride so I guess you can’t knock it but you have to want to surf a certain way to enjoy these, its not modern surfing and trying to surf it in a modern way defeats the whole purpose-whats the point of that?
Its more about seeing surfing in a different way, the whole paradigm shift thing, finding potential in a wave that maybe you weren’t able to see before while riding a modern board.
Just because its trendy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a go at it.
Tom Wegener is one of the guys leading the finless charge have a look at some guys riding his modern ancient boards.
Waste of time or are they on to something?
Bet you a dime to a dozen they could care less.