My attempt at an alaia....

I’m really intrigued in finless waveriding, inspired by the many posts on alaias, mats, finless boards, etc. I’ve tried riding my existing boards finless with mixed results, and am looking for a project to start this weekend, so I came up with this one: 8’x15"x1.5" of fun. As of right now, it is in the conceptual stage. Any feedback or criticism is welcome.

My wood selection (that I know of) is limited, so what I think I’m going to go for is pine 3/4"x12"x8’ (at $1.39/ft, it sounds cheap), and I’m going to be doing some gluing, followed by gluing, followed by gluing. Attached is the basic shape I’m thinking of (as a pdf from aku shaper). Inline (below) is the basic scheme I’m thinking of for gluing my “blank” together. Each box represents a separate piece of wood, and the arrow points to my approximate belly contour. After gluing, and shaping, I’ll oil it down for a nice finish. Thoughts?


Sounds like a fun project. You might want to consider redwood instead of pine. It will be much lighter, and IMO look more classic. Are you planning on standing up or belly riding it? The first time you get it in the water you will probably be amazed at how easy it is to sink the board. I noticed that the volume of your design is only 24 liters. To put this in perspective… if you play around with the dims of the standard short board in APS3000 a 24 liter board would be about 5’10 x 17" x 2 3/8".

I’ll check on the redwood; it does look pretty nice. I figured pine might be cheaper, and wasn’t sure on the density between the two. Yeah, not much displacement, but I’m planning on riding it prone and using fins, so I figure not too big of a deal (unless I’m wrong).

You still riding yours at all? If so any new insights?


Ben, what a project, I’d like to have a crack at one too. My only thoughts are if its to be ridden standing up, it has been mentioned that roll in the nose ( from rail to rail) pulls the front of the board up the face.

Second, are you going to attempt to chamber any or all of it?

And third, Ive thought that instead of oiling a board , how about heating a wax and then allowing it to soak into the surface as a waterproofing technique? You could almost wax the board with a thin film and then apply gentle heat to help it seep into the surface. Considering that wax stays on old boards for decades, the molten wax idea might be a technique that never needs a reapplication. It would repel water, give a degree of grip on the deck and be virtually invisible.

Regards, SF.

Oh yeah, I read that somewhere, too. My thinking is I’ll be riding it prone, but maybe I’ll do less belly in the nose so as to not hamstring it before it hits the water (any more than it will be already hamstrung due to poor skills, lack of appropriate tools, lack of knowledge).

As for the wax idea, that is intriguing. I’ve waxed wood before with less than stellar results in terms of preventing water intrusion, but that may be due to materials or poor skills. Thanks for the suggestions, and the encouragement.


for some alaia surfing shots, check go to galleries, then to section titled friends. first 5 or 6 shots are of DM on an alaia.enjoy!

Ive waxed wood too,thats why I suggested it. Cant hurt really. Just work it at the lowest temp and use a squeegee to push in and remove away.

But Ive learnt that a thin film is better than SOAKIN’ the whole board, and if it sucks into the wood too far, and youve lost all hope, a single coat of any resin would make it complete.

Sometimes we've got the answer at our feet but it just struggles to be seen. 



Those pics are wonderful. I love the slow shutter speed, and the beauty it adds to the water. WOW! And DM is definitely one of my heros. Incredibly talented, but down to earth. I think I’ve got the down to earth thing figured out, now if only I could stumble upon some talent… I’m even further inspired, thanks so much for the heads up to these photos. Tomorrow I buy wood, cut, and glue. Sunday, I hope to sand and oil. Or at least sand and sand and sand and sand and sand and sand. Wish me luck.


What kind of wax you talking about? I’ve got some wax for surfboards, some for candles, and some from my ears. Oh, and some I used on some furniture that did not protect it from water damage from sweaty glasses. I am intrigued, especially at the idea of not having to redo the finish every month. I am also intrigued by the idea of refinishing a board every month with a little oil anointment, talk about intimate.



You may find 8’ too long to ride prone. At this length you would be paddling and no swim fins I suspect. I tried testing different types of wood for their flotation, pine wasn’t too good. I’d research the wood options a bit more.


Here is how the ancient Hawaiians finished their boards.

Legndary Surfers: The Kaiulan Board

“Kukui nuts were then gathered and burned to a soot, and subsequently made into a dark stain. When applied to the wood, it brought out the fine grain and made the board a thing of shining beauty. In some instances the boards were stained a dark color with the root of the ti plant (moke ki). In others the natives resorted to making a stain from the juice of banana buds and charcoal from burnt pandanus leaves. In either case, when the stain became thoroughly dried, a preservative of kukui oil was rubbed in by hand, giving the surface an even glossier finish.”

Nathaniel Emerson, in a 1892 article entitled “Causes of Decline of Ancient Polynesian Sports,” mentioned the protective finish of the canoe and surfboard. “This Hawaiian paint had almost the quality of lacquer. Its ingredients were the juice of a certain euphorbia, the juice of the inner bark of the root of the kukui tree, the juice of the bud of the banana tree, together with a charcoal made from the leaf of the pandanus. A dressing of oil from the nut of the kukui was finally added to give a finish.”

You can buy containers of bees wax for finishing at HD. I considered using it but ended up using Danish Oil. The oil really brings out the grain in the wood. I was afraid that the wax might give it a cloudy look. In the beginning you need to reapply oil after each use. Eventually, though, the board becomes “primed,” and you don’t need to apply it so often.

The board that I built is on display in my garage/work shop. I don’t take out to much. It is fun to ride, but it doesn’t float me as well as I would like. I’m going to build another one some day, and use dimensions closer to your design.

11ft, you should email Tom Wegener about your project. He’s had a look at some of the originals in the Bishop Museum and has been really stoked on building and riding the Alaia boards over the past few years.

Here’s a cross section pic to give you an ides of what he’s doing with his rails:

More info on the Alaia boards and Tom’s email address at the bottom of this page:

From the link above:


The Alaia was the most

common board surfed by the Ancient Hawaiians.

Their tombstone shape and their thinness

characterize the 4 to 12 foot range. They

are only ¾” to 1 ½” thick

with a noticeable bottom roll and a slight

deck roll. The rocker is perfectly flat.

The rails are squared off and usually about ¼” thick.

There are about twelve known original boards

that have survived since ancient times,

or the times before the Europeans in Hawaii."


Not a bad idea to contact Tom. He is certainly a part of my inspiration. I’ve read a lot of the stuff on his website. Thanks for posting that, though, as it is making me rethink my knifey edges and lack of dome on top. One of the things that is attractive to me is that I can tinker with it over time.


You may be right about it being a bit long, though I am 6’2" for what it is worth. I guess what I am envisioning is feet dragging off of the back when kicking into a wave, then since it is oiled wood, trim forward by sliding on my belly. If that doesn’t work, I’ll take a saw to it and modify the design.

Swied and SF,

I decided to go oil. I sat and stared at the oil, then at the wax, then at the oil, then at the wax. It came down to a gut feeling. I’m experimenting with enough variables here that I figured I’d go with a sure thing which may not be ideal. I also decided to go pine. The pine was SOOO much cheaper, density is around .4g/cm3, so about the same as the lightest redwood. Before gluing or cutting the template or anything, the wood all together weighs in at (gulp) 30lbs. By my calculations, the wood when finished should weigh in at a smidge over 20lbs before oiling. Sounds like a lot, but here goes nothing. Today I glue wood with Gorilla glue, and print out my template.

I tried molten surf wax on wooden fins I got from someone 20 years ago.

I made a redwood 5 ft alaia about 10 or 12 years ago and I used a solid car wax to seal it and then lightly surf waxed the deck before I used it. The car wax brought out the grain. A couple of coats and lots of elbow grease.Like french polishing. The surf wax Ive scraped off . SF.

Ben, seal it with some kind of oil penetrating finish. Minwax makes a product called Antique Oil (comes in a red can), or you could use a Danish Oil, or even Boiled Linseed oil w/ a little varnish. I’d do that first to seal the wood, then put the wax gunk over it if your looking for a car wax look… But I think you’ll find a penetrating finish the way to go if your looking for semi water proofing

  • Jay


I cut up a series of different wood chips and put them in a bucket of water. One piece was a pine floorboard - it sunk after a short period, whereas the old cedar kept floating. Sounds like you have progressed a it far to pull back, but you could try this simple test for yourself. I have a 5’7" that weighs about 10 pounds - 20 sounds heavy. As you say, you can always cut some length off.

I guess it will also depends on what sort of waves you want to surf- the long board may be fine in clean point waves - hollow reef or beach break waves may be a different prospect.



Whoa! That looks like pretty nice finish from the wax! Thanks for your advice, I hadn’t realized you used wax for the same exact purpose…though perhaps I should have. I’m going with the oil a this time around. Wax is something for me to think about for next time. Or, if I get sick of applying oil repeatedly, perhaps I’ll throw on some wax.


Bought me some danish oil, now with 50% more danishes. Sounds like pretty good stuff. Part varnish, part linseed oil (a.k.a. flax seed oil).


Sounds like Cedar is inherently more water repellent, which jives with what I have heard before. Density wise, I think the pine is about on par (0.4g/cm3 vs. 0.38g/cm3). I hope with the super duper oily finish I’m going to give it that it will be sealed up pretty good, and won’t sink except for when it has my 200lbs on it and isn’t on plane. Luckily it isn’t all muscle, so that gives me some inherent flotation. Yeah, 20lbs is a bunch. If it is too heavy, or too long, it gets sawed!


Kenny Hughes of Santa Barbara… unwinding down the line on an 18 oz. finless surf craft in Costa Rica earlier this year.

my advice is go for it mate. make yourself an ancient surfcraft. for prone riding, i think sub six foot is a good length. any longer & you can’t drive into waves kicking with fins, but once in trim you can still pull your legs up & get into that frictionless glide where your body is tucked up & out of the water. & make it thin, the flex is incredibly organic & joyous, & if you’re using fins you’ll catch waves no matter how thin you go.

i have a 5’3" alaia that tom wegener made for me &, after over twenty years of riding surfboards, it is a revelation. it is such a beautiful way to go surfing. it’s all good.

i hope you keep us posted about your progress. enjoy.

ps: new blog here from a sways contributor trimking


Awesome photo. Is he riding one of your mats? 18oz…damn that’s light.


Thanks for the tip. I’m already off on my adventure, and if it works out poorly, I will heed your advice (and Bob’s) after the fact, and cut the 8 footer down to size. A smaller one surely would have been less time and resource consuming, but where’s the fun in that. As for flex…well, I may be missing the boat on that as well. We’ll see once I get it shaved down a bit more.

Progress report:

Glued it on Saturday in stages using gorilla glue, and not enough clamps. Drew up a template, marked it, and sawed using my good ol’ reliable hand saw. Cleaned up the outline, then spent an hour rifling through the storage unit for my hand planer. A couple hours yesterday and a few today and I am part way there. Got some “rocker” in the nose, got some belly on one half of the bottom, and made a lot of nice smelling pine ribbons. Here’s the pix of the bottom.

That’s a great looking board!!! I just finished a small alaia (for prone riding). No rocker, flat bottom and deck. I finished in it environment-friendly varnish (linseed oil bases stuff).

i don’t use wax so it’s easy to pull yourself up on the board once i catch the wave. It’s about 5 ft.