The Alai originated in the 1800’s in ancient Hawaii. ‘Lala’ is a word that’s been used by the ancient Hawaiians for hundreds of years that describes the controlled slide in the curl when surfing on an Alai board. In Japan, the Alai went by ‘Itaka’.
They are a thin, round nosed board built from solid wood of the Acacia Koa. Typically standing at about 7-12ft and weighing up to 100 pounds (45kg) – some these boards were monsters.
It is the larger version of the Paipo board, used for knee or belly surfing, and the smaller version of the Olo board, generally between 18’ and 24’ long, which was traditionally reserved for Hawaiian Royalty.
Originally, surfers used them just to paddle, but as they got bigger and skills evolved, people began to stand up and surf them.
The Alai has no ventral fins and relies purely on its sharp edges to hold the board in the face of the wave which is how it’s distinctively different to boards today.
Modern Alaias are 5’ to 12’ long and can be made of various types of wood including Redwood, Cedar, Pine and Balsa.
In 2006 Alai’s made something of a comeback thanks to Noosa based Californian surfboard shaper, Tom Wegener. He tested a series of prototypes on pro-surfers who starred in the surf film ‘The Present’. This film really amped up recognition, appreciation, and demand for the Alai.