Santa Barbara's Chadd Konig at Rincon on a 6'2" Seaglass last winter.
The Seaglass Project Tuna, a finless alaia-style surfboard created by Tom Wegener, has been announced the winner of a prestigious Australian International Design Award (AIDA), receiving The Good Design™ or Design Award™ trademark. The 2011 Presentation Ceremony took place July 22 down in Melbourne.
I caught up with Wegener for a bit of insight into this unique surfboard.
(Full disclosure: I have a 6'2" Seaglass and I surf it often and can and will attest to the design's awesomeness.)
What is the Seaglass significance?
For only a blip of surfing history has a fin been placed on the bottom of a surfboard. It has been heralded as a huge advancement, but the jury is still out on this. It took 14 years for the fin to catch on in surfing, showing there was resistance to the development. The fin was originally called a “stabilizer,” and that’s what it is. It stabilizes the ride like training wheels on a bicycle. Modern surfing developed rapidly after the late 1950s, with fins and new foams and fiberglass. The old finless boards were quickly forgotten.
The reintroduction of ancient surfing through the alaia has challenged modern surfing. The alaia is a very thin wood surfboard that the ancient Hawaiians rode. The alaia’s popularity has taken off like wildfire around the world with core surfers. The alaia is faster and gives a better ride than a modern finned board, but the thin piece of wood is very difficult to paddle. There is minimal flotation, and competing with other surfers on foam boards is nearly impossible. To bring the ancient alaia feeling to more surfers, I mixed hydrodynamic elements of the thin wood alaia with modern surfing materials to make a board that is easy to paddle, catch waves on, and ride while not moving too far from the essence of alaia surfing.
How can a Seaglass enhance one's surfing life?
The best thing about the board is you are a beginner all over again. You learn to see the wave and ride it like the hundreds of generations of surfers before you. You have taken off the training wheels and it’s time to open your wings and fly. The main gift of taking the fins off a surfboard is there is much less drag on the board, and it feels like there is no limit of speed.
There’s one more version in production. It’s soft, like a bodyboard, and it’s easier to surf and actually feels more like an alaia than the Seaglass, but it’s not as fast down the line. It’s a super fun board to ride, and for older guys like me, it is better in the tube because when you don't make it, the board can’t hurt you. In the original plan, I hoped to make two complimentary boards, one glassed and one foam. This way, people can appreciate the flex of the board and how important it is for surfing.
Flex is the basis for alaia/ancient surfing. It actually takes three similar boards for a surfer to calibrate a feel for the boards and what it’s all about. The third board is either the alaia or a board made by a local shaper. I’m a garage shaper and think this major shakeup of surfing is best for the local shaper. Shapers have been making the same thing over and over for too long. Shaping is an art, not a trade governed by the book. It is time to get exciting again, to what surfing was before the thruster appeared.
Trevor Gordon on the same 6'2".
Why doesn’t everybody own an alaia?
The entire movement is still new. After making wooden alaias for six years and getting an enormous amount of press, including Surfing magazine’s 2009 Shaper of the Year honor, I still get quizzed on the alaia every time I surf. "You can't surf on that!" is what I hear. It shows that surfing has become very conservative. People are comfortable with what they are doing and don't want things to change, and they don’t want to stand out in a crowd. This is the polar opposite of what surfing was prior to the 1980s. I look to the kids and say, "Do you really want to be the first generation that wants to be exactly like your parents?" I think most people are afraid of looking like a kook. But the best surfers long for a challenge, and nothing could be better than starting surfing all over again. Tom Carroll said, "It is just like starting over, but this time may even be better.”