Alaia Wood Surfboard





Introduction: Alaia Wood Surfboard

Build your own ancient Hawaiian surfboard! This is a cheap alternative to todays overpriced, overengineered foam boards.

This cost me 30 dollars in wood and some extra for tools. So this will save you about $270 in new board costs.

Warning: This board is not for beginners, it is not very buoyant and does not have a fin (although one can be added.)

Step 1: Acquire Accoutrements

The tools you will need:
Screwdriver (electric) and screws 2.5"
Waterproof wood glue
Newspaper (to keep work area clean)
Hand Planer
Sealer (eco: linseed oil, ease: varnish)

Wood for surfboard and frame clamps:
5 or 6 1"x4"x8'
2 2"x4"x8'
1 1"x4"x2'

The 5 1x4's are what you will be making your board out of. I used pine but anything that you find in your lumber (fir, cedar, redwood) store is probably fine as long as its not too heavy. The 2x4's and the short 1x4 will be used to make your frame clamps. They can be of any wood.

Step 2: Build Frame Clamps

If you already have 24in clamps then you can skip this step.

This is supposed to cost as little money as possible so I decided to build clamps instead of putting out for $30 clamps. These clamps will hold the planks together while the glue dries and keep them all flat.

I used 5 1x4's so my board will end up being about 18 inches wide. If you use 6 it will be closer to 21.5 inches and will will need to make your frames wider.

Cut your 2x4's into eight 24" pieces and your short 1x4 into eight 2.5" pieces.

At this point lay four 2x4 pieces down parallel 2 feet apart and lay your surfboard planks on top of them. This ensures you leave enough space to squeeze your shims in when the rig is all together. Put the 2.5 in pieces outside the planks on the 2x4's that should be sticking out the sides of the planks. Now sandwich the planks with the remaining four 2x4s. Hold in place and put one screw through each 2x4 into the 1x4 below. The screw should not go through the bottom 2x4, if it does back it out a little and it will be fine.

Step 3: Glue and Clamp Planks

Take off the top clamp and lay the planks on their thin edge. Apply glue to 4 (not 5!) of the planks edges. If you glue all 5 edges your board will be glued to the clamps, no good.

Put the top half of the clamp (the one with the 1x4 screwed onto it) on the bottom and place the four other 2x4's to the side. This makes it easier to screw the clamp together.

Now put the planks in the bottom clamps making sure they are aligned at the top and bottom and push them together. Place the free 2x4's on top and screw them into the 1x4 blocks.

Time to shim it tight! I bought regular door shims but they were too thick so I had to split them in half and they worked great. Using three shims for each clamp hammer them tight. You only need to do one side.

Wait for it to dry for at least 24 hours.

Step 4: Give Her Some Curves

Once the glue has dried it is time to cut your board into its finished shape.

Be creative it's your board, do whatever you want.

Once you have the shape you have to plane it flat, sand it and round the edges.

Step 5: Waterproofing

Once all the fine details are finished you have to finish it with a varnish or linseed oil so no water gets into the wood. If you don't do it right and water gets in your board will warp and thats no good.

If you use linseed oil you will have to put on several coats and will have to re-add it every so often to maintain the finish.

You can also use varnish which will require less maintenance.

Linseed oil is more eco friendly but varnish is easier. Its up to you.

Step 6: Optional

If you want you can add a fin and a leash but I'm not so at this point your on your own.

Hope this instructable was helpful and you will be surfing in the style of ancient Hawiian's soon!



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    I'm going to make an alaia, as they have to be the concave

    I've used both linseed and tung oil and both work. Linseed takes longer to dry and doesn't seem as thick as tung oil, but it works. I use about a 50/50 mixture on the first coat then straight tung oil after that. This instructable did a great job of explaining the shaping process. If you'd like some info on the different types of woods you can use and which is best take a look at this post I wrote about choosing wood to make an alaia. Trust me when I say that if you plan on surfing it, the type of wood you use is critical!

    This instructable needs a video of the board in use in a big way.

     man, this thing is gorgeous!! i'd like to try one out with some stain, maybe a bit of color too. this is great, though! thanks! :)

    how do you know how long your board should be corrosponding to your hieght

    5 replies

     Im about 5'10" and I built an 8 foot board. The longer the board the more buoyant it will be and easier to surf.

    Also since this is a wood board and you will not be fiberglassing it, you can always cut it shorter. I recommend start long and slowly cut some length off. Only thing you will have to do is re-varnish it.

    thanks because im going to hawaii next summer and im hoping ill be able to go surfing on th giant waves. This will be my first time surfing usually i skimboard same thing but just short board dont go out as far and start out from shore. i dont fdo the skimboarding where you just skim on the shore i go out on the waves a watch a video on youtube if you dont understand what im saying

    The best waves are on North Shore Oahu. Its also the worlds 2nd most dangerous place for shark attacks. wherever you go you have to get shave ice. i had it about 15 times when i was there.

    Is it true that there is just a large drop off after you go out only about 20 feet from the shore. Ive only been to hawaii once but i wasnt interested in surfing then also havent you ever had shave ice wereever you live ? i have it all the time in the summer

    yeah but its no where near like what it is in hawaii. and the vans that sell shrimp are awesome.

    also if you added a peice of foam on the top tham added another peice of wood wouldnt it be more bouyant?

    2 replies

    It would be more buoyant but it would also be very heavy. You would also have to worry about sealing the edges of the foam (not sure what you would do.) Mine weighed 18 pounds as it is which is manageable, but any heavier it would become very burdensome. 

    Also if you haven't surfed this board is probably not for you. Skimboarding will definitely help with the riding aspect, but this board is very hard to paddle. When you lay on it the board sinks below the surface and you are practically  swimming. I recommend renting a regular board, it will be much more fun in the end.

    just last night i reasearched alot and i wont be able to bring a surfboard to hawaii they have a max length and even a small board wont be able to fit in the cargo space 35 inches. so ill probably just rent one there and get lesson for the three weeks that im there. ill be able to surf on an alaia when i get home. theres this giant beach called horse neck beach where the waves are giant and the water isnt even that deep it will be awsome. also i wont be able to buy a regular board i dont have enough money. im only 12 i dont have a job hehehe. ill just bring my skimboard to hawaii it'll be almost as fun. the skimboard i also made i nthink its awsome i used varnish and polyurethane. i did two coats of polyyurethasnevthen two coatsd of varnish its cool. i went on tom wegeners website and the boards are more shapedcthan the one you built.  i might make on shaped like a teardrop sticks in the waves well.

    darn! when I saw the picture I thought this was an instructable for giant popsicle sticks!

    So, how is in use? Is the glue the only thing holding the boards together? I don't know what kind of forces a surf board is subjected to, but I'd be worried about the whole thing splitting along one of the seems.

    1 reply

    In use it is very difficult. You can catch waves but you have to have very good paddle strength. Standing up is another beast altogether. It is a very steep learning curve. The glue is doing all the buisness and is most likely the strongest part of the board. You will be surprised how strong it is and I have no worries about it breaking.

    I think there may be an issue regarding the use of linseed oil or varnish as a finish considering the application for the board is use in salt water. how many hours to build start to finish?

    1 reply

    Tom Wegener uses linseed oil on all of his boards. He is a professional board shaper. I used polyurethane which should hold up longer than linseed oil but you will have to re apply both eventually. I'd say it took 10 hours or so to complete.