In the 1800s, Hawaiians made their surfboards out of solid wood. Groundswell Wood Surfboards taps into the very roots of surfing, offering the unique experience and soul of surfing in wood.
Pacific Polynesians are credited with being the first to surf and were behind the development of the first wooden surfboards which were made from solid wood. As it is today, Hawaii was the epicentre of the surfing world. The most commonly used wood surfboard was the same finless ‘alaia’ board that is making a comeback today, but wood surfboards for larger waves could be up to 18 feet in length. According to www.woodsurfboards.com, the old wood boards looked like “big elongated tomb stones”, weighing in excess of 100 pounds.
A significant innovation was the Tom Blake Hollow Surfboard, first produced in the late 1920s – early 1930s. It was still a wood surfboard but because of the hollow construction it was lighter. Blake is credited as making the “single largest leap forward for the art of surfing in hundreds of years”, but the introduction of the first foam boards in the 1950s, which were lighter and more manouvorable, put an end to the era of the wood surfboard.
Wood surfboards are making a comeback though. There’s a thriving subculture in hollow wooden surfboards all around the globe. Hobbyists are making wood boards in their garages or living rooms. And in the US, Australia, Ireland and Brazil, builders have launched companies building and selling hollow wooden surfboards. Probably best known are Grain Surfboards in Maine US, but they are joined by Cedar Surfboards in Ireland, Grown Surfboards in Australia and Siebert Woodcraft Surfboards in Brazil. These efforts are now joined by Groundswell Surfboards in South Africa.
It’s debatable what has led the return to wood, but there’s a few factors to consider. Climate change has become a key global issue and raised awareness about environmental issues and the fact that the surfboard manufacturing industry isn’t exactly green. This has sparked interest in alternative materials. This has gone hand in hand – or perhaps been a result of – a greater degree of experimentation in surfboard riding and a willingness to look to surfboard shapes from bygone eras for inspiration and innovation.