Wood Plank Surfboards for Purchase

We make a variety of the early period wood surfboards available for purchase. The Boards featured include the Ancient Alaias, the Paipo, the modern Alaia, the Waikiki Plank, the California Balsa/Redwood Plank, the Tom Blake Hollow Paddle and Surfboard, and the Hot Curl surfboard. These boards are re-created with the generalized details for their period.
Plank Surfboards

Hawaiian Surfboard History

The Ancient Hawaiians viewed wave riding as not only recreation but as an integral part of their culture and religion. The Ancient Hawaiian Surfboards or papa a he’ nalu (pa-pa HAY-ay NA-lu) came in four types: The Olo (O-lo) used by royalty only, Kiko’o (key-Co-oo), Alaias (ah-LAI-ahs) stand up board used by commoners, and the Paipo (pie-poe) a body or belly board used by commoners.

The papa a he’nalu prior to the discovery of Hawaii by James Cook varied for the individual and his or her place in society. There were unlimited designs and shapes for these boards. However, the four types of boards were allowed and used only by those worthy of their use. Kapus designed a papa he’e nalu for the individual. The stages of producing a papa he’e nalu include selecting and cutting down the proper tree, shaping, and finishing the board. There were also numerous ceremonies along the way that coincided with each step of the board making process, including a ceremony for its inaugural use.

A Hawaiian papa he’e nalu defined and became a mark of his or her status in society. The Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii may be the only place where you can see these early period types of papa he’e nalu.


The replica Ancient Alaias we make are based on general characteristics that these papa he’e nalu had prior to the arrival of James Cook. The Ancient Hawaiians used native woods; Ulu (bread-fruit), Koa (Hawaiian Mahogany, Wili-Wili (Hawaiian Balsa) found on the islands. They may have also used wood or lumber that found its way to the islands by the currents and washed ashore (redwood and cedar).

After James Cook discovered The Hawaiian Islands and introduced Europeans to the islands, the indigenous people of the islands suffered physically and culturally. The Europeans brought with them diseases (virus), bacteria’s and a new religion. The Hawaiians had never been exposed to the diseases and bacteria that were now on the islands. As a consequence, the Hawaiian population dropped from four hundred thousand to 40,000 thousand at the turn of the 20th century. The missionaries imposed their religion on the Hawaiians. The missionaries tried and succeeded in eliminating the Hawaiian way of life. Part of this involved the elimination of surfing in the islands.

By the late 19th century surfing was only practiced by a small number of surfers throughout the islands. Surfing’s revival came in the late 1800′s and the early 1900′s with the modern Alaia and the plank surfboard.

The revival of wave riding began around the end of the 1800′s. The native Hawaiians did not have a written language prior to the introduction of the European settlers and missionaries. There was no written form to document the sequence and production of centuries of building papa he’e nalu’s. There were a small amount of boards produced in the 1800′s but none dating back prior to the arrival of James Cook. There was oral tradition, but this was very limited.

The Hawaiians and Haoles had to re-create their surfboards for the new era. The Modern Alaia was thinner than their predecessors – The Alaias. The templates or outlines were similar, but their thickness was reduced to 1/2″-1 1/2″. Their lengths ranged between 6-8 feet.

Plank Surfboards

Another surfboard was developed during this time as well, the plank surfboard. The plank surfboard became the favorite and most abundant surfboard in the islands and around the world from the early 1900′s to the mid 1920′s. The plank surfboard was the beginning of the development of the modern wood surfboards to the foam and composite boards we have today.

From the early plank surfboard eventually developed into the California Balsa/Redwood Plank Surfboard and with the invention of water proof wood glues in the late 1920′s, to the blanks used to create The Hot Curl Surfboards of Makaha in the mid 1930′s to the late 1940′s.

We currently have two Plank Surfboards on display at:

The Surfing Heritage Museum & Gift Store
South Coast Plaza West (formerly Crystal Court)
Mon-Fri 10AM-9PM · Sat 10AM-8PM · Sun 11AM-6:30PM
3333 Bear St., ste 303, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Early period wood surfboards
re-created by Mark Carnahan