making a 7' alaia out of 6' lumber

I realize that the alaia’s went out of fashion a couple of years ago, but I figured I’d wait out the fad and give them an honest go once I didn’t have to worry about looking cool doing it… At any rate, I’m finally getting around to building an alaia. I’ve never ridden one, so I’m not at all sure what I’m going for, so any tips and pointers would be appreciated. Here are a fe wscattered thoughts about my progress so far:

First, a much younger, smaller and better-surfing friend of mine recently built a 6’ alaia out of cedar fencing from the hardware store down the street. I enjoy prone surfing plenty, but I also figured that at 215#, if I were ever going to have any hope of standing on one of these, I’d be better off in the 7’ range. The problem is that I was hoping to keep the lumber budget at around $20, so the 6’ fencing seemed like the way to go.  I had some old bender boards from a hws project laying around the garage, so I decided to try to supplement the length a bit. Also, I was worried about strength, so I wanted to maintain a longitudinal grain pattern as much as possible, so this is what I came up with. (personally, the simplicity of an alaia is a major part of the appeal of building a primitive surfboard, but that pretty much went out the window when I decided to build 7’ board out of 6’ lumber)

here’s my layout:

I’ve made a few wooden fins, but I’ve been reluctant to try such an ambitious glue up on an alaia because I really don’t have the the proper tools: (my “quiver” is basically limited to a cheap circular saw, a harbor freight hand planer and a hand held belt sander).

The first problem I encountered was that when I clamped all those ill-fitting hand-cut pieces together, they (not suprisingly) started to slide around, making my blank longer and thinner. I pretty much got them where I wanted, but the piece closest to the nose ended up a bit out of place, which resulted in a kink in the redwood bender board. (didn’t take a pic). I thought about trying to shave it off and splice a piece of stringer in the proper palce, but I decided to just plane it off and leave it as is, becasue given my skills and my tools, my fix idea did not seem likely to work well enough to be an improvement. here is what I’m left with:


the next problem I have encountered, was that I (almost) ran out of glue (titebond III)
in the middle of gluing up the second side of my blank. In the rush of
getting it together before all the glue set, I cut the bottle in half
and scooped out the dregs with my finger to smear on last couple of joints. It
seemed to work (no kink like the first time) but…

Later as the glue was drying, I was measuring my layup and discovered that this side was significantly narrower than the first (7 inches, as opposed to 8) . I couldn’t really figure out why, but I started thinking about adding extra width in the stringer. once the glue dried and I took it out of the clamps, I realized that In my rush to get the last piece in place, I had accidentally glued the wrong edge, so the grain of the wood ran parallel to the stringer, rather than flaring outwards along the sunburst pattern, if that makes any sense. This explained why my blank was narrower than I expected. you can sort of see the problem in the photo below

Reluctantly, I got out my circular saw and cut off the last piece, staying as close as possible to the glue line, then cleaned it up with my planer/sander and a knife and reattached it in the proper configuration.

As I was thinking about adding with, I also considered reversing the two halves, as in the photo below. This got me thinking about pros and cons of symmetry in an alaia. I don’t really expect to stand on this thing, at least for a while, but on you tube I always see people sliding around spinning these things and riding them fakie. since most of the waves where I live are rights anyway, I’m tempted to experiment with an Assym layout so that if I were to ever get flipped around, the rail in contact with the wave would be still be “nose forward”. Anyone tried this? Thoughts?

I’m also considering keeping it simple, and going with a more traditional alaia (Yeah, I know, its a little late for that). When I looked at layouts with a wider parallel stringer, it looked out of place with all the diagonals in the layout so I’m thinking that if I go symmetrical, I should use a tapered stringer sort of like this. looks more dynamic to me. Thoughts?

To expand on my idea about an assym alaia, I guess it would actually be some kind of radial symmetry: the two halves would be identical, and the foil of either side would be exactly like a regular alaia, but one side would be backwards, if that makes any sense. So the template would look something like this:

Hi, What you were trying to do can turn out really cool if you have the proper tools and skills, but maybe you are over thinking it.

Have you considered just using a simple scarf joint to extend your 6’ boards?

You could even use a scarf joint to extend the pieces it looks like you have cut off.

Also if you use epoxy for glue you can get away with less than perfect joints.




thanks for the suggestion Trent. I think you are right about the scarf, I’m sure it would have worked at least as well, with WAAY less effort, but most of the scarf cuts I’ve seen require a pretty acute angle, and I’m not sure I could do a good job with my circular saw. I think it can go to 45 degrees, and maybe that would work, but I decided to see what else I could come up with. My solution was not remotely the easiest possible solution, but hopefully it will look pretty good. So far I’ve been pleasantly surprised by ability to overcome my problems…

As for scarfing the kinked stringer, that was my initial thought. I could probably use a jig saw to remove some of the existing stringer and scarf it, but I decided that the glue line of the scarf wouldn’t be much better than just leaving it as is, so that is probably what I’m going to do. I have also considered shaving the the other side a tiny bit to match.

Also, after a bit more thinking about the assym idea I realized that even though it would be great for slip-sliding alaia style 180’s, it would only be able to go right (or left depending on the outline), which is not a huge problem for me, because I mostly surf rights anyway. But, then I realized that if I cut 50/50 rails the whole way around, I could simply flip the board over if I found my self at a left… still no radical cutbacks, but I’m not sure those are in the alaia repertoire anyway… I’m getting more and more tempted to try out an assym design, but maybe I’ll save it for alaia #2.

Trent, you persuaded me to fix my stringer issue. the two sides match up better now, and I think it looks better. I still have to mow the new stringer down to match the blank, but here’s a shot a few hours after I glued it when I was confident enough to remove a couple of clamps to take a pic: 

In other news, I’ve pretty much decided to go with a tapered stringer and a symmetrical outline. its just easier and I want to get in the water.

So, I’ve got it all glued up and pretty much sanded. I ran out of wood on the rails near the tail, so I was kinda forced into a bump wing. also, I had been planning on going with a straight tail, but when I glued up the two halves, one of them was short along the stringerline, so I had to cut a swallow, or lose some length. I went with a swallow.

Then Just as I was getting ready to call it good and seal it up, the edge of my sandpaper grabed a sliver of wood and tore it. I Don’t know the best way to fix this and would appreciate some help: anyone???

another shot

still working out a few issues, but I started sealing with tung oil. The finish does not look good. It needs a lot more sanding. but i decided that what it really needs is to get wet. this weekend. so I’m moving forward. I tried to patch the torn grain in the pic above with glue/wood flour. I used titebond II because its lighter than III but it still turned out much darker than the surrounding wood. I dug it out and got some wood putty. The wood putty was slightly lighter than the surrounding wood, but I figured a slightly light area would not be as noticeable as a slightly dark area… then I started applying the tung oil and all the wood got MUCH darker, but the putty stayed the same and looked ridiculous:

once the oil hardens up a bit so I can safely sand it, I’ll dig it out and go back to the glue/flour. mean while, here’s what I’ve got after a few coats of oil: I think I’m going to call this one  “Pelican Brown”