19/03/2009 | by Alex Dick-Read
I became interested in alternative wave-riding vehicles and wanted a surfing tool with low environmental impact and simple design. You’ve probably already read how, several years ago, Tom Wegener visited the Bishop Museum in Hawaii and researched their collection of ancient Hawaiian wooden surfboards.
Through his experimentation he found Paulownia wood, native to Asia, to work best for the Alaia boards. The Paulownia wood and it’s relative water resistance as compared to other woods is very good.
Tom’s brother, Jon began shaping Alaia’s in California importing the Paulownia wood making it more readily available to the US market. I began communicating with Jon and eventually met him in person at the 2009 Surf Expo in Orlando, Florida. I purchased an Alaia blank which provided a template for a 7’ board.
The shaping took approximately 12 hours. The boards Jon had on display had either a concave or vee bottom. He explained that the vee bottom tends to want to angle towards the beach while the concave bottom is more suited for down the line speed and maneuverability. I chose to put in a concave bottom.
The Alaia was my first attempt at shaping a surfboard and I’m stoked as to how it came out. To help preserve the board after shaping, it should be completely rubbed down with boiled linseed oil combined with bees wax and applied with a cotton cloth. The linseed oil and bees wax coat sits for about a day and then the process is repeated 2 to 3 times. After the third time the oil gave the board a beautiful luster.
Tom Wegener’s Website provides various ways in which the Alaia’s can be ridden – prone, knee and standing. I found the board to be very challenging to paddle, which I was expecting, and rode the board prone. The Alaia provided one of the best surfs on knee high waves! I took in many inside-the-barrel views with lots of happiness and smiling at the weird side affects. I’m excited about taking it out again and possibly standing up! I enjoyed the shaping process with the Alaia and plan on producing more.
Thanks to my buddy, Nick Schwarzkopf, for shooting the surf photos of the Alaia’s maiden voyage!