In the pursuit of speed.
Living in coastal North Carolina, small waves are the norm. I wanted a board that would be able to generate a tons of speed simply by making the smallest adjustments via trim or weight shifting and I didn’t want a longboard. I knew the ancient Hawaiian Alaia could do that but I was missing a lot of waves on my alaias. I love how alaias feel in a wave so I knew I needed some variation of the Alaia that would catch waves easier and glide through flat sections continuing to extract every ounce of energy from the wave.
Board design priorities:
maximum hydrodynamic lift: Short and wide outline, flat rocker, wide cut off tail, make entire wetted surface create lift, release rails.
minimal drag: no fins, thin rails, flat rocker, short, minimal convex/concave surfaces,
control: ⅜” convex bottom (ancient Hawaiian idea)
No fins. What good is speed when you have no control?
Thanks to the ancient Hawaiians, I found I had quite a bit of control on an Alaia. These are designed to be finless boards from the ground up and they can certainly be controlled… just not like a modern finned board!
A concern about the width is certainly valid. I make each board custom to its rider so it shouldn’t be so wide that you can’t adapt to it. Obviously Paddling and sitting on the board is weird at first but after a session or two you should be fine.
In regards to how it paddles compared to a typical short-board, it is harder to catch waves because it is shorter, wider and less buoyant. Paddling is very similar to a regular Alaia except that it paddles a little faster mostly due to higher buoyancy.
Because I hate to hear about someone’s board getting wrecked up in the rocks, I install a leash attachment on most of the alaias I sell. I don’t like wearing a leash personally, but I don’t want to mess up my board either.
As far as durability goes, a wider board is in general more susceptible to breakage/splitting. I will say that I have broken a SRFDORD model but it was thinner and Made from western red cedar which is actually known for splitting. It was an early prototype failure. The solution to this is a thicker board using a higher quality wood and higher quality blank construction.
Since then, I have been making them at least 1-1/8” thick out of paulownia. Paulownia is known for being split resistant so I use it exclusively on these models and have not broken a single one even in top to bottom overhead waves. That’s not to say they are unbreakable... but a thicker board made from Paulownia is way less likely to split or break. 1-1/4” is typically how thick I make them. I’ve noticed that paulownia is able to flex across the grain quite a bit before splitting. I’m sure this flexibility is what prevents it from splitting in the surf.
I hope this gives you some more insight.
I turned to the work of others to guide my design.
Ancient Hawaiian Alaia:
Experimental Foam “Lord boards”
Short, wide and rectangular
Wide cutoff tail
High aspect ratio planing hull study
Straight buttock lines aft
Low speed planing ability
Planing craft weight carrying abilities
Smooth water speed
Low speed planing
When surfing is more about: having fun, riding the wave, the feeling, self expression, creativity, drawing new lines, out running sections, having to bleed off speed
At first the board feels slow, but the board is actually able to catch just about any wave… just takes some getting used to though. Weight of board noticed, No fins Make the board want to rotate with each stroke. Quickly gets to planing speed. Acceleration noteworthy…
The feel of an Alaia but more. Like noseriding a longboard, trimming high lines, sliding, rotating, flying, going sideways, backwards, frontwards.
Small wave tool. Super small waves enjoyed. Overhead waves full kamakazie speed runs. You will out run the wave so what will you do with all that speed?
Stand proud. Hang 10. Cheat 5. Make barrel. Defy logic