Understanding the Alaia and Finless Revolution

The resurgence of finless surfing started in Noosa when Jacob Stuth rode an alaia on the afternoon of March 5, 2005. He traversed across an open shoulder faster than anyone could have imagined on an Ancient Hawaiian alaia replica. Since then, the alaia has gathered a cult following around the world. The buzz you get from riding across an open wave is exhilarating, and many  seasoned surfers have said that it brings back the grommet stoke of surfing all over again.

surf_alaia_630Photo: nobadtides.blogspot.com

The downside of the traditional Hawaiian style wooden alaia is how difficult it is to paddle and get into waves.  Competing for waves with other surfers can be disheartening on an alaia, and many shapers are currently working to capture the feel of the wood alaia with a more paddle-friendly foam board.

After two years of alaia and finless expression sessions, the organizers of the Noosa Festival believe it is time to bring the alaia into the fold of competition.  For some, the jump from a purist surfing pursuit to foam and competition is too much of a leap.  The inclusion of finless craft into competitive surfing will provide a fresh challenge for the athlete, as well as renewed spectator enjoyment, particularly in smaller waves.

Modern surfing, which is based around the tri-fin set-up, has evolved to a point where perfect waves are expected. Conversely, the finless boards are small-wave friendly. They are extremely maneuverable, fast in small surf, exciting and new. For the past two years, the alaia division at Makaha’s Buffalo contest has been the most hotly contested.

In thinking that we need to begin a new dialog around this genre of finless surfing, I have set out some very basic guidelines for surfers and judges to consider, which are based around finless surfing’s unique advantages.

Basic Maneuvers

The Take Off:  There are a variety of ways to take off. You can drop in straight, slide sideways, backwards, into a 360 drift, or set the edge and go backwards toward the pocket.  They can be tricks as well as functional ways to get into a position in the wave to gain speed or set up for the next maneuver.  The take-off is a maneuver to be explored and mastered.

The Cut Back:  Possibly the most phenomenal maneuver in finless surfing is the cutback at speed, way out on the shoulder.  The finless board can maintain speed on a soft shoulder, giving extra currency to solid rail cutbacks that displace an amazing amount of water.

The Rebound:  After the cut back, the finless board will head back at the whitewash with speed and acceleration.  There are many possibilities for terrific maneuvers when you rebound off the lip or the whitewash, including 360s, aerials, sliding into and then coming out of the tube. This area needs to be explored and names given to moves.

The Tuberide: The possibilities for tube riding are exciting. Alaia converts are constantly pushing the boundaries for tube time. The finless board has incredible down-the-line speed, possessing the ability to accelerate out of a deep tube as well as stall and sideslip in the tube. Rasta’s huge tube ride during the expression session at last year’s Noosa Festival was possible because he was keeping control by side slipping down the face while in the tube.  One nice maneuver is to pull into a close down tube and then side slip out in the whitewash.

The 360 Spin

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Sources: The Inertia | Author: Tom Wegener

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