a board with roots

Mike Stewart on an Alaia
Mike Stewart on an Alaia

a few months ago, i posted an article on my teamfli.com blog [ Blog Post on Wooden Boards ] about alternative surf craft and especially wooden boards called paipo’s and alaia’s. these are the traditional hawaiian names & while paipo’s are relatively short and shaped like a butternut, alaia’s are long & narrow boards, the longer versions of which are used to stand-up surf on. the boards that especially interest me are the ones that were ridden in the prone position. i have made a few of these myself and have really enjoyed surfing them for the last year or so. here is a pic of me sealing one which my brother jaco & i laminated together from obeche wood, which comes from west africa and is used there for making dugout canoes.

Sealing Alaia
me sealing my alaia

the best wood to use for these boards is paulownia, a species common in the orient and seemingly enjoying a bit of a boost of popularity in countries such as the usa & australia. not only is it a great wood for making boards, due to its light weight and dense structure, it is also easy to work with and is a very fast grower to boot. paulownia trees can grow up to 3m’s in length in just a year.  unfortunately, the wood is not easily accessible in south africa and pretty costly to import. the fact that it is considered a foreign (invader) species makes it even more complicated….

i have yet to get good images and video footage of me riding my alaia and my paipo, but recently found this video clip made by some australian bodyboarders who have been making and experimenting with alaia’s. they have made two videos. a teaser and the full version. here is a link to the teaser: click on this link to view it: Alaia Groove

here is a screengrab taken from the longer version of the video, showing the guys pulling into some solid waves. remember that is a hard piece of wood, roughly the same dimensions as your average ironing board and without any real rails to speak of.

alaia tube
tuberiding an alaia...

what i love about these boards is that they not only represent an ancient tradition, there is also something very soulfull about riding a wooden board… it has a sort of inherent genuineness about it. in a future post i will explore more of the low-environmental impact these boards have as opposed to their foam siblings.

trust you have enjoyed this little journey of discovery…

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