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Ancient Sport and Ali`i Surfers
Canoe Surfing
Wave Forms/Surf Breaks
Ancient Boards

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Ancient Boards

Surfboards used by ancient Hawaiians ranged from five to 15 feet long, measured five inches thick, and weighed up to 160 pounds. Many types of wood were used, most commonly koa or wiliwili which was particularly buoyant. Boards were shaped with a stone adz first, then smoothed with coral or rough stone abraders. The root of the ti plant or pounded kukui tree bark was used as a finishing stain, giving the board a durable, glossy, water resistant black surface.

Hawaiians used two main types of boards. The extremely long olo was usually of wiliwili wood. Thick in the middle and thinner towards its edges, the olo was buoyant and good for catching large rounded swells like those at Waikiki. The olo board allowed the rider to catch a cresting wave before it actually broke and the ride could continue long after the wave flattened out. Though these boards couldn't turn quickly and required stamina and strength to paddle out, the very long rides they afforded are why they may have been reserved for ali`i.

Alaia boards were approximately nine feet long, wide at the nose and tapered toward the stern. Alaia were good for skilled surfers riding rough waves. More maneuverable than olo, they were better for steep, fast-breaking surf and wave conditions along rugged coasts.

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