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Posted by Rick Civelli | 01.07.2010 | WB Surf Camp News

An Exploration in Tying the Ancient to the Modern – The Alaia

Right before I started directing summer camps for WB Surf  Camp this summer I took a trip down to Charleston , SC to play some music and visit some friends.  What started as a simple surf session at the Washout in Folly Beach, riding a flat finless piece of lumber has turned into a full blown obsession. Little did I know that, as I spoke about the history of surfboards in our Teen Camps and Adult Clinics this summer, I would be riding and shaping modern versions of these beautiful wave sliders.

After that weekend in Charleston I begged my friend for months to make me one. I had designed a new logo for his modern surfboard shaping brand Grasshopper Surfboards awhile back, and in turn he handed me, what would be, the greatest surfing gift since my parents took me off restriction to buy my first surfboard when I was 9. A 6′ hand shaped piece of Paulownia wood with no fins, no rocker, and a solid, smooth, rich grain that flies across the surface of the water.

Before it ever reached my hands though, I witnessed a film that I know I’ll look back on in 80 years (I plan on living to 110) and say, “That movie changed my life!” In an old historical theater in downtown Wilmington, Thomas Campbell, maker of Seedling and Sprout, premiered “The Present”. Among several awesome surfing voyages and adventures was a section about Tom and Jon Wegener and these crazy boards they were making. The modern soul surfers of today (Dave Rastovich, Rob Machado, Dan Malloy) were displayed charging Sunset, Waimea, Indo, Australia and California on these beautiful wooden planks. The speed and the trim these guys were achieving on these boards was effortless and mind blowing…I had to have one!!

So when it finally reached my hands I rode it for 2 months solid in every condition Wrightsville and Masonboro had to offer. For 2 months I scoured the internet, researching and collecting resources on how to make them better, what they were being made out of, and all of the endless possibilities. For two months I humiliated myself out in the lineup doing no less than 100 nosedives, 100 face plants, 70 spin outs, and aproximately 50 swims to the beach (these boards don’t come with leashes). The learning curve is steep, and being only 1/2-1″ thick, they don’t exactly float very well. Just getting to the point to where I can catch and ride waves proficiently has been a massive challenge, and the hardest thing I’ve done since learning how to surf in the first place. However, after month number three, I feel like I’m getting it.

I spent the majority of Christmas and New Years shaping my first collection of Alaias. Even with all the information available and mentors providing me with constant feedback on design and finishing aspects it has been a trial and error process with a huge dose of patience. With a new found love and obsession for these boards, I’m stoked to announce their completion!

The ancient Hawaiians had to have been amazing surfers to have learned how to surf on these things. After getting back on my regular shortboard, it almost feels like cheating…like I’ve got training wheels on. With more lumber on the way, I’ve got another batch about to be planed into existence. If you’re interested in following my journey to continue making these ridable pieces of art, you can hop over to J Sun Alaias to see my progression. So far I’ve received a lot of support for these things from Rick (our founder) and Surf City Surf Shop (our sponsor surf shop here in Wrightsville Beach), and I’m looking forward to sneaking one or two of these things down to our Adult Travel Camps in Costa Rica in a few weeks and Tortola in March! Should be some awesome, beautiful, and warm testing grounds down there…its supposed to snow tonight…brrrrrr…