How To: Build An Alaia With Ryan Burch

Flat spells do weird things to our brains. Before the internet, surfers would at least show up to the beach with some hope of new swell, but now we all just log onto a website and see a swell model that mimics the shape of the waves for the upcoming week. During the ‘08/’09 winter in California, the model usually showed a flat line stretched across the bottom of the chart, a fitting symbol of our flat-lined hopes for waves. During a seven hour internet coma, I mistook the flat line for a picture of an Alaia in profile. I was convinced that it was a sign from surfing’s original pioneers that I needed to build one of those penis planks in order to save the world from a never-ending flat spell (computers turn brains to goo). After the second week in a row of nothing but Lake Pacific, I contacted expert Alaia-builder Ryan Burch and told him of my internet hallucination; he agreed to help if it might end the flat spell, and this How To is the result. –Nick Jiampa

All photos Billy Watts


Buy Supplies. They include: 5 or 6 planks of light wood (we used 5 pieces of Douglas Fir 8’ x 4” x 1”), wood glue, 4 large heavy-duty clamps, 4 smaller clamps, a tape measure, sandpaper, an electric planer, a hand planer, a circular saw, a pencil, and a quart of boiled linseed oil.


Lay out the wood inside the large clamps. Make sure the clamps are spaced so they fit the width of the planks of wood. Lay each piece of wood on its thin side.


Glue the wood. Stop huffing the product for a minute and read the directions. Apply a line of glue onto each of the face-up sides. Then lay the pieces wide-side down and press them together. Line them up so they meet evenly at the nose and tail of the future board.


Clamp the wood. Tighten down on the 4 large clamps, then put 2” x 4” pieces in between the board and the smaller clamps to flatten the deck and bottom. Wait for the glue to dry for up to 24 hours and remove the clamps.


Measure and draw the outline. It’s good to use a template, but if you’re really artsy you can probably freehand your lines. You could probably design your alaia to look like a giant tampon and it’d work fine, so don’t take it too seriously.


Cut with a saw. A circular saw or sawzall probably works best, but if you want to get rootsy then you could use a non-electric wood saw.


Plane the board. If you don’t have the funds for a new electric planer, scour the internet for a cheap one or borrow your shaper’s, he’s probably not using it anyway. Fine tune the grooves left by the electric planer with a hand planer.


Sand heavily. Unless you’re Amish, you’ll want to use an electric sander because it will cut down a lot of time.


Seal the board with Linseed oil. Apply a thin layer to the entire board using a rag or brush, wait for it to dry, and then repeat. You’ll want to ride the board, but you’ll have to wait a few days and will have to seal the board several times. You can also stain the board different colors before sealing.

For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!