How To Shape Alaia Surfboard
Wave Tribe's Guide on How to Shape Alaia Surfboard
Shape Time: 6-8 Hours
I have been shaping foam blanks for over a decade and recently I got bit by the Alaia bug.
Purchased the blank and put it in my shaping bay and with the help of Surfing Green's Alaia Manual (available free anytime you purchase a blank from Wave Tribe) and went to town.
Working with wood is much different that working with foam, yet the basic concepts remain the same. You need to draw the outline, cut out the basic shape, put in the rails, scoop the nose for rocker, and finish the board with multiple grades of sanding and then slap on a protective coat.
I used the electric planner, orbital hand-sander, saw and sandpaper to shape the blank---the orbital sanding being the tool used most. You could do the entire shape with a saw and sanding block but your arms would feel like rubber after.
The Paulowina wood shapes easily, it's a soft wood and the planner mows right though it.
Indigenous to China, Paulowina has been cultivated for 2000 years. Most species of Paulowina are very fast growing and can reach highest of 30-60 feet in 15 years, growing up to 10-20 feet in one year under idea conditions---it's like the bamboo of trees.
What the Hell is Paulowina Wood?
Once the trees are harvested they regenerate from there existing root system earning them the name "Phoenix Tree". That's cool, no? Thus, paulowina has the ability to reclaim ecologically stressed and degenerate patches of land and the root system can penetrate complex soil environments---it's kind of like an eco angel, turning waste land into regenerative forest.
Paulowina is a pale, whitish color and can be grey, light brown or reddish.
Paulowina is great for surfboards because it has a good weight to strength ratio being lighter than hardwood but more durable than balsa. It also absorbs less water than many other types of wood and thus does not need a resin or glass finish making it super ecological---though you could glass it if you wanted. Paulowina boards should be finished with a seed oil to protect it from water absorption and prevent damages from sea salt and the sun.
The board, like anything made of wood, is 100% biodegradable.
What is an Alaia?
First of all an Alaia doesn't have any fins.
Secondly, the board is SUPER thin and has no fiberglass or resin. That means its super eco.
The Alaia comes from Hawaii and was part of the Hawaiian surfing heritage, the original boards were between 7-12 feet long, weighed up to 100 pounds and were made from the wood Acacia Koa.
The modern Alaias are MUCH lighter and most are made with Paulowina wood, though you can use other woods if you seal them up with glass.
It's difficult to ride an Alaia, hard to get them on a plane and even more difficult when you get them up (no pune intended). But when you do, they are a blast and will give you the ride of your life.
Alaia is a Basque girl's name meaning joy and happiness, which is exactly how you'll fell when you finish shaping one and then get to ride your very own creation.
Grab our free guide here and check out these shaping video for more visual instruction.