We’ve always been fascinated by those most ancient of Hawaiian finless wave sliding craft, alaias and olos. Without fins to hold them straight and steady, the bottom contours and rail profiles of these thin, flat, blades are key to ensuring that they hold into the face of the unbroken wave and generate speed and lift – and what speed! A few months ago, with summer approaching and the prospect of much more time spent playing in the sea in small surf taking up more of our thoughts, we began to bounce ideas around the workshop about how we could offer an alaia workshop: a one-off, annual event that can sit somewhere in-between our one-day make-your-own bellyboard and handplane workshop experiences, and our more involved, week-long, hollow wooden surfboard courses. The key to this was how to produce a blank with a deep enough concave. Following some head scratching and back-of-the box sketches we came up with a way to do it (a teaser image of our concave-contraption prompted a lot of questions and discussion when we posted it to instagram) and we set about producing a pair of poplar blanks with three teak accent stringers.
In a fortunate twist of fate, around the same time we had an enquiry about an alaia workshop from Helen, James and Mat’s yoga instructor (who runs excellent classes in the events space opposite our workshop several evenings each week), as a birthday present for her other half, Dougie. We know Dougie and often see him just up the coast surfing at Penhale (his regular break), and he was more than happy to join us for the maiden course and have some input into the design process.
Dougie joined us for two and a half days the week before last to shape his alaia, whilst Chris and James shaped the other one as our Otter in-house display/demo board. A lot of discussion went into the outline shape of the identical alaias before saws were committed to poplar, and the resultant template has a fairly full nose to give as straight a rail-line as possible and avoid the nose catching (as the boards have less buoyancy), and a gently flaired square tail so that as the alaia flexes under the weight of the surfer the rail can connect with the wave face all the way to the tip of the tail to help it hold in. The bottom contours feature a long, deep single concave that starts a third of the way back from the nose and runs right out through the tail to provide lift and generate speed. From the highest points on the edge of the concave the bottom then slopes out to the thin, fairly hard rails. The nose is shaped with a slight belly for easy entry, whilst the deck is gently domed out to the low volume rails.
The finished alaias were then given a few coats of oil to seal them and give a more durable finish, and we’re looking forward to a nice small, clean, sunny day to take them out for a few waves.
We’d like to run just one special make-your-own alaia workshop course each summer over the course of two and a half days, including accommodation in lovely bell tents and some great food. If you’re interested and would like to find out more and perhaps put your name down for the first “all-inclusive” (camping and cooked-for) course next summer, then please get in touch for a chat.