“Where’s your board?” A friend asks me as I’m submerged up to my chin in saltwater.
“It’s right here,” I answer, as I shoot the board up out of submission, holding up what looks like, an oversized longboard skateboard deck.
“What the hell is that? A plank of wood?” The curious inquiree asks, amazed at the capability of even paddling out on such a thing. “You’re joking right? How do you even paddle that thing; It just sinks?“ He immediately hypothesizes.
“I dunno . . . I’m used to it. A little extra effort never hurt anyone right?” I smile.
“It looks like my grandma’s ironing board if you ask me. Is it some sort of peice of funiture? He asks sincerely.
“No, It’s actually made for surfing and it’s called an Alaia. It’s a type of surfboard made of Paulownia wood, usually around six feet in length, used by the ancient Hawaiians in the early 19th century. I’ll bet you could iron some clothes on it if you had to though, It’s pretty flat,” I laugh.
“Do you use your foot as rudder?” he responds.
“No it turns because the rails act as a makeshift fin, slicing into the face of the wave.” I try to explain.
“Wow. That’s interesting,” he softly says to himself, mezmerized by the anorexic feeling of the over all plan of the board within his grip. “I couldn’t catch a wave on this thing to save my life but it sure would look cool in my living room,” he laughs and goes on his merry way paddling back out to join the pack of geizers conversating amoungst one another on the outside. I can see discussion of the new phenomenon turning everyone’s heads.
I had my first glimpse of this new craze when I visited Australia for the Noosa Festival in March of 2007. My first interprutation wasn’t far off from the responses I’ve recently been intercepting from surfers when they first catch sight of the ride.The first guy I noticed riding Alaias was Jacob Stuth, a native noosa shredder and Alaia expert. I asked similiar questions at first like, where did you find that table top shaped like a surfboard? Or why are you riding that weird thing? From the moment I hopped on the thing I automatically judged it because I couldn’t accomplish a successful ride for the life of me. I had no Idea of the fun that could be derived from the speed generated through such an avauntguard yet ancient form of wave-riding.
Today, I ride my alaia on a regular basis. People still look at me like I’m crazy for running down to the waters edge with such a thing but when they see what the board actually does on a wave, they’re usually quite surprised. The little peice of driftwood they once noticed you paddling is now going 100 miles an hour down the line like a little majic carpet ride.