Jon Wegener’s handcrafted alaia (Ah-LIE-ah) boards pay homage to surfings early days — reaching all the way back to the sport’s Polynesian roots. He’s a craftsman, open to new ideas while being reverent of the old ways. Every board he shapes is a reminder that surfing is about more than contests or chasing sponsorships… it’s about pursuing joy. Jon makes 100% Paulownia alaias, Foam core alaias for improved buoyancy, plain or with decoration.
For a few people, learning to ride the alaia comes very quick and naturally. For the rest of us it takes a commitment and practice. People often ask us for tips on how to ride an alaia. So we thought that we would share some pointers that you might find helpful. Keep in mind that it is not like riding your surfboard. The boards don’t have as much flotation, less rocker, and no fins. You are not just going to paddle out to your favorite lineup and start catching waves. It takes a little time and a lot of humility. But once you get your first ride, you will be hooked, just like the rest of us.
Until you become a good paddler on an alaia, it will be best to surf where you can keep your feet on the ground. This way you will be able to jump into waves, and get a feel for the way the board rides the wave.
Riding an alaia, is all about engaging the rail. The best way to practice this is by riding waves on your belly. (Remember we said humility?) You will feel like your surfing is taking 3 steps back, but it is really fun. You will be surprised by the speed and the overhead barrels! Look for small reforms on the inside.
Since the boards do not have rocker, try to paddle in with the board angling down the wave. Paddling straight in will result in a nose dive. Once you become proficient you can vary your takeoff style.
This will help you stay in control of your session, and not get too frustrated with current, and big wipe outs. Staying away from longboarders is also a good idea for now too. (Actually alaia surfing will teach you to look for good shaped waves where no one else is surfing. It’s tiring to paddle back and forth as you would on your surfboard. This makes you a wiser and more efficient surfer no matter what board you are riding.) Stay in a crouched position. Keeping a low center of gravity works best.
When you are too far forward on the board, your rail has a hard time engaging and you will spin out. If you find yourself spinning out scoot farther back on the board to paddle. This will help you stand farther back on the board as well.
Touching the face of the wave keeps your body in the right stance. It also has the magical affect of sucking you up into the perfect trim zone. Your fingers act as your fins. You will also use your hands to lead into your turns. Switching hands to the reverse rail will guide your turn, and keep your body in the correct position. It will also stop you from spinning out, on your turn.
Above all keep your expectations reasonable. It’s like learning to surf all over again, although it is much quicker and enjoyable the second time around. Alaia riding has reignited many people’s passion for surfing. A big part of this is the challenge and thrill of learning. Keep these tips in mind and you will progress faster. With practice you will be out at your favorite lineup getting the rides of your life! Have fun!