How to describe the indescribable?   When I was first asked to write a description of the glide you get on an alaia, all I could think of was… magic.

So I took the boards out again and tried to articulate what makes these boards so special.  The first thing you notice is the speed…these boards go really fast, and it is effortless speed. Learning to control and direct so much speed is as fun as it is challenging!

In spite of all of this speed, alaias are very maneuverable. You engage the entire rail line to draw long carving turns and you release the edge and slide to do drifts, cutbacks and other slide turns. The second thing you notice is the glide that these boards give you.  You can feel the lack of friction, and it feels like sliding across ice. The third thing you will notice is that you always seem to have just enough speed and momentum to make the wave.

If looking ahead you are questioning whether you will make the section, the alaia will always somehow make it through. If there is a flat spot you skim across it and make it to the next section. Getting one good ride on an alaia can be as gratifying as an entire session on a surfboard.  The alaia is way of harnessing the wave’s pure energy… and it just feels magical.

Photograph by Shawn Parkin.