Alaia surfing was perfected by the Ancient Hawaiian's for thousands of years. After years of modern surfing the once forgotten trend has caught on again allowing for keen surfers and shapers to connect with the past. With no fins or modern installments, made entirely out of wood, this project is for the old school surfer/woodworker that wants to get more out of their surfing or just add a gem to their quiver.
Step 1: The Blank
Picking a blank for an alaia surfboard is not like your everyday conventional surfboard blank. As the name suggests the board is made of wood. Hawaiian alaia's were made of koa wood although modern knowledge has allowed for redwood, cedar, pine and balsa to be used. Each wood has each its own perks and properties and as such paulownia wood is the new good to for making the modern alaia.
Research your local timber suppliers or order online depending on your location. I ordered mine from Paulownia Timber Supplies Australia (http://www.paulowniatimber.com.au/) who have the wood specifically cut into a blank for modern alaia shapers.
Step 2: Marking the Template
Great! You've got your blank. Once you've done smelling the wood and how better it feels than your prefabricated machined piece of plastic, you can begin to shape your board. Before you get straight into it, here are some tools that might help shape your board the old fashioned way by hand.
-Marking Gauge (optional)
-Bendy Ruler (optional)
-Jack plane/Block plane
-Linseed Oil (or other oils that prevents water re-absorption into the wood)
Once you've gathered the equipment begin to mark the template of the shape you want on the blank. Make sure you mark top and bottom so you can keep the edges square once you cut it. Also mark a bunch of construction lines such as a centre (stringer) line to use as a guide later on. My shape ended up being based off a couple of old photos of alaia surfing that I saw around the interwebs, being about head high (6ft) with a rounded nose and square at the bottom. Check out Tom Wegener Surfboards for some other designs, the shape is ultimately up to you and how you want it to ride.
Step 3: Cutting the Shape
Now that you've got your outline cut out the board along the markings being careful to keep your saw square to the top. Once it all cut out using a your setsquare check the edges while doing a bit of sanding making the edges square and in line with your markings. Pretty straight forward this step, if you've done it right the board should be even and looking like a tombstone.
Ps: The left over off-cuts around corners are big enough for fins, or perhaps a handplane. Might satisfy all you greenies out there ;)
Step 4: Rails,Rocker & Concave
Done ya outline! But to avoid your newly crafted board to becoming a home ironing board you might wanna add a few extra features.
First the rails. There's no write or wrong way to shaping a surfboard and the same applies to your rails. Although you could technically just plane down the edges and curve it by eye, you may want to make a bit more accurate. Adding rails bands to the both the top, bottom and sides(edge) of the board can keep your rails consistent and heap you determine how the board rides (rails are very important in alaia's). Rail bands are simply lines along the edge to mark a slope between to points. Mutliple rail bands can be made between slopes aswell after planing depending on the slope that is needed.
Using a jack plane or block plane the rails can be slowly tampered down to more of a geometric rail curve. Depending on the wood, sand paper can be used to round the edges more smoothly once the edges are close to what you want.
The rocker will also need to be shaped similar to the rails. As alaia's have little to no rocker at all the slope of the rail on the nose can simply be increased to account for this.
Lastly the concave. Perhaps the most challenging and hardest to accurately measure, most of it is done by eye. Mark the area where you would like the concave to be positioned and whether its single, double, light, deep, etc. Also mark the starting curve of the concave on the tail edge (back). Then simply plane and sand and hope for the best. A ruler or straight edge can be continuously used to determine the depth and curve. The concave should slowly tamper back to the normal level of the board. The concave will also give the board alot more control and hold the board into the wave better.
Step 5: Finishing
Nearly there! Your surfboard is looking smick and is basically done. Make sure everything is sanded smooth, using finer and finer grid paper. Now that your torpedo is ready for launch there just one last thing to finish it. Oiling your board will not only make the board look and smell great, but can also prevent water absorption into the board. Linseed oil was my chosen choice of oil, as it keeps out water, brings out the natural contrast of the wood and I could niff it all day.
Using a clean rag or cloth soak a section in oil and work it into all sections of the board. Multiple coats of oil to allow the wood to soak it in should be done and given enough drying time.
Step 6: Surf
Yeah! You've successfully shaped an ancient Hawaiian masterpiece and look at that the swell's pumping. Wax up your new board and get on out there. The board might be a bit challenging to get use to and without a leggy you might be swimming to shore until you get the hang of it. There's heaps of footage of people surfing these things so get some tips and enjoy having fun on ya new board.