The right choice of the board can help You to reach Your surfing goals faster and do the manoeuvres, that You prefer, easier. Lets follow the steps of our predcessors-surfers to find out, what boards did they use. Exactly these boards helped them enjoy surfing up till 70ies, when surfing got more and more popular and more accessible to everyone.
Already since Pre-Incan civilisation (Mochica/moche culture) around 2000 years ago they practiced riding a vessel with a waves. It is likely that they Mochica people did in fact “surf for fun” given that the longest ridable wave of the world Chicama was within their empire. Nowadays You can conquer this wave visiting Trujillo region in Peru.
The art of surfing, known as he'enalu in the Hawaiian language, was first described in 1769 by Joseph Banks. Surfing was a central part of ancient Poynesian culture and predates European contact. The chief (Ali'i) was the most skilled wave rider in the community with the best board made from the best tree. The ruling class had the best beaches and the best boards, and the commoners were not allowed on the same beaches, but they could gain prestige by their ability to ride the surf on their boards.
Paipo (historical to 1900)
The Paipo is considered the ground zero of wave riding, and was originally ridden “prone” (on the belly) or on the knees. Paipo boards traditionally ranged from 3 to 6 feet in length and were originally crafted using breadfruit wood; a plant brought over to Hawaii by Polynesians via canoes during colonisation. The Paipo board is recognised as the true classic surf craft of Native Hawaiians.
Alaia and Olo (historical to 1900′s)
The Alaia and Olo boards were traditionally made from beautiful Koa wood, which was harvested in the upward valleys of the ahupua’a. Alaia boards originally ranged from 5 to 12 feet in length, and Olo boards from 10 to 24 feet, which allowed them to be the first boards ever ridden standing up. Olo were originally reserved for Hawaiian royalty due to its size and weight up to 90 kg. These boards set the precedent for the future of wave riding and craftsmanship.
Classic “Duke (Kahanamoku)” Plank (1920’s)
Shaped by the Hawaiian legend himself, Duke Kahanamoku, this board is a blunt nosed, square-tailed redwood board. Historically, redwood was introduced to Hawaii as a viable surfboard material after Queen Liliuokalani’s nephews discovered it during their time at the military academy in Santa Cruz, California.
Hollow Paddle-board (1940’s)
Tom Blake’s hollow paddle-board represented a key transition in surfboards, moving away from a solid plank to something designed as a composite (similar to modern surfboards). The board’s hollow structure significantly reduced the weight. It was one of the very first surfboards to come with a fixed fin. Before fins, the only method to control where the board was going was to stick your feet and toes into the water. Well this is the art of surfing!
Bob Simmons Board (1950's)
Constructed using a balsa wood core with fibreglass cloth wrapped all around it. This board was designed with cutting edge “planing hull” technology from naval architecture theory, making it lighter and more manoeuvrable than any surfboard that came before it. Notably, Simmons was the first shaper to use fibreglass in surfboards. This design essentially paved the way for the beginning of modern boards. Simmons inspired the transition from the hollow wooden paddle-board, toward modern composite surfboards.
Hobie Longboard (1960’s)
The Hobie Longboard greatly helped define the modern surfboard era. Hobie and his partners were arguably the first group to have a high production surfboard factory utilising lightweight polyurethane foam. Abandoning conventional balsa wood core surfboards, Hobie’s boards represented the birth of the modern surfboard factory and the craftsmen associated with it.
Lightning Bolt (1970's)
Shaped by “Mr. Pipeline”, Gerry Lopez, the Lightning Bolt was considered the most high performance surfboard during its time. This board started a shortboard revolution in the surfing world and allowed surfers to ride critical waves previously considered impossible to surf, such as Pipeline. Lightning Bolt dominated its era with superior performance and a bold use of modern shapes, bright colours, big logos, and psychedelic artwork. This board injected new performance and aesthetic expectations into the surfing world.
MR Twin Fin (late 70's)
When Mark Richard’s introduced his MR Twin Fin, surfing never looked back. Utilising a two-fin system, this board brought forth a new style of high-performance surfing using manoeuvres that a single fin simply wouldn’t allow. As a result, the MR Twin Fin revolutionised competitive surfing and pushed the progression of the sport harder than it ever had before.
Would You try riding any of these boards?
Soul-surfers think, that before You have tried all (!) of the board designs, You can’t be called the real surfer. Note that to try Alaia or Olo board You will need a bunch of friends to help You cary it at least till the water.
Soon we will continue surfboard history up till nowadays.