“We want to test it enough, make enough prototypes that if someone surfs it they’ll think it’s pretty fucking cool. If it’s not good and they don’t appreciate it, why would I want to do it? A lot of thought and input and research and R and D before we release it. We’re not making cookie batches here. We’re close to where we wanna be. I’m a nerd with this shit. If my name’s on it, I’m not going to release it in a hurry.”

Long read: The Miracle Coupling of Akila Aipa and Kelly Slater!

Two old friends get together to create a flashy Slater Designs twin-fin collab…

It ain’t a stretch to suggest that surfing’s genetic code, its great culture, has been weakened, maybe fatally maybe not, by the WSL’s VAL onslaught.

Just as the modern man is an invertebrate who frets over his Twitter posts and binge-watches television series with a tub of ice-cream balanced on his abdominal apron, the modern surfer has moved from sharpened surfboards to double-enders and from trekking through the Indonesian jungle to ride a wave that will tear his head off to wellness retreats with a surf-yoga component in dowdy sand-bottom rollers.

Akila Aipa, fifty this year, a former pro surfer from Hawaii and the son of the great surfer-shaper Ben Aipa, therefore, is not a man of this time.

He grew up with a front-row seat to the North Shore, with a famous, and famously loved Dad, chased contests briefly then settled into a life as a small-time shaper out of a factory near the Waialua Sugar Mill.

A rare soul connected to surfing’s cultural continuum.

Like Ben, Akila was doing it for the love, pretty much, and until recently, five hundred dollars would get you a version of the five-eight Kelly Slater used to beat hell out of Kerama last year, one of a seven-board quiver he’d made for his old friend.

As our tour correspondent reported, “Kelly leant back into a savage back foot heavy layback hook. It was the turn of the day. The turn of Kelly’s year. It lit a little candle of hope in the deep dark cave of Kelly’s retirement year.”

And as Kelly said at the time, “Akila…board is so lively and fun. I thought for sure it would be too low volume for me but it planes really well and just grabs speed from everywhere. Stoked. Unexpected. Can’t believe it took us this long to make a board.”

Akila appreciated the attention, a little spotlight on his three decades of shaving foam.

What he didn’t have, still doesn’t, was the manufacturing set-up to deal with the demand. He’d shaper a board, then outsource the rest of the production. His margins are tiny. Hundred bucks for a board on a good day.

So when I call on one of the last days of the Hawaiian winter to talk about his collaboration with Kelly on a twin-fin model for Slater Designs, it ain’t surprising to hear he’s been “walking the property” at a friend’s place that might serve as a new factory.

“Trying to make changes to grow,” he says. “What good is all that buzz if I can’t absorb it?”

Akila can talk but he doesn’t gush, another reason he’s not a man of this tremulous, pearl-clutching era.

I ask about the twin and he says, “Yeah, we’ve been poking around, we’ve been playing.”

I push a little.

Akila tells me Kelly has thickened, physically, ten pounds or so of muscle.

“Heavier than he’s ever been. Stronger and healthier than he’s ever been. He’s bulked up as a man. He’s learned to value that weight. And his equipment’s come along with that. He had a certain literage before and we have to come up with at least a litre or a litre-and-a-half. You can only push a sensitive board so far before you start babying it. He can ride a thicker board, lay into it and if he opens up and plays his power game, ooowee, fun shit!”

So for every ten pounds you add, your boards go up a litre?

Akila says yeah, warily, because he doesn’t want you to become obsessed by your supposed perfect literage number.

“It’s become this security blanket thing,” he says. “Know your numbers, your dimensions.”

Akila likes working with Kelly because, “He’s invested, man, he’s not afraid to try shit. You give him a wild board and he doesn’t rip it apart and discredit it.”

For Snapper, Akila has made Kelly three boards, a five-eight twin, a five-five and a five-ten.

“Is it going to be barrelling or running? That squash we did for Keramas was a five-eight, he came up two inches, which dialled in that extra litre. It was a natural volume gain just by going up in inches. We’re looking for a longer rail line so he can push it and hold it longer. The five-eight has a breaking point where it disengages. At J-Bay that could be a disadvantage. I want him to have the five-ten in case it’s five foot and there are faces to gouge. These days, everything’s so specialised and Kelly’s an out-of-the-box dude. The thing about surfing is its expression. When you’re performing, take the thing that gives you the freedom to perform and express. If we don’t know what brush he wants to paint with, provide all the brushes.”

Akila laughs.

“I don’t overthink this shit. Fun boards, fun designs are the most important thing. If you’re making five percent gains instead of rewriting the book each time, try not to overthink it. Live in the moment, let the designs evolve.”

How articulate is Kelly during the design process?

Akila shoots back. “What do you think?”

Well, I say, I imagine he would be rather finicky, sensitive to changes and able to communicate his findings in detail.

“He’s an articulate dude, right. If he’s open and wanting to give up his time he’ll go there. If it’s short and simple he’ll be short and simple. He won’t try and get intricate if it’s not working. If it’s wrong we’ll get to it right away.”

No pals during the design process either.

“Gotta be able to handle that good and bad and don’t take it personally,” says Akila. “We’ll drink a beer and golf and be friends and then, like this week, we’ll come to the table, put time in and work.”

Kelly, says Akila, is one of the, maybe…the…”deepest thinker and surfer on the planet. I don’t take that lightly. I don’t want to waste that time. I don’t want to take him in circles. It’s not a hamster wheel. Let’s nail shit. When he gives you something, you know there’s thought and a process behind it. Who doesn’t appreciate that? The designer has to be open, vulnerable and able to handle that and adjust to it. It’s a working relationship and it’s fun as shit.”

Akila hoots.

“It’s a body of work, man!”

The twin he and Kelly are working on, and which’ll slide into the Slater Designs range later this year, maybe summer 2020, isn’t the monster swallow, crescent-moon fin things you ride on chubby points and nurse along waves everywhere else.

Still, it is going to be a board most of us can shred a little on.

“Everything’s pretty subtle,” says Akila. “He knows and I know that it has to be replicated on scale, across all sizes and be as user-friendly as possible. As intricate thinkers as we are, we’re not so left-field to make a board surfer will struggle with. The consumer has to feel gains from it.”

Right now, it’s testing, hitting the factory, then testing some more in the North Shore wave park.

“We want to test it enough, make enough prototypes that if someone surfs it they’ll think it’s pretty fucking cool. If it’s not good and they don’t appreciate it, why would I want to do it? A lot of thought and input and research and R and D before we release it. We’re not making cookie batches here. We’re close to where we wanna be. I’m a nerd with this shit. If my name’s on it, I’m not going to release it in a hurry.”

The tech, whether it’s PU and epoxy, is yet to be decided. Akila wants the design to be perfected before anything else. He appreciates who he’s working with, however, and would be pretty thrilled to maybe develop tech using hemp resins.

Last time we spoke, a little less than a year ago, you could buy an Aipa for five-hundred dollars and if you lived in Australia, he’d give a flight attendant pal fifty bucks to deliver it to you.

A ridiculous price, you’d think. How does he do it etc.

Today, Akila charges seven-hundred dollars a board.

“I was cheap too long,” he says. “I’m blue-collar. People could afford my local prices. I’ve got some flack for putting the price up. What they’re not seeing are the changes I’m making to be better and the price reflects that. It allows me to own my own machine, a factory, have quality control. Here’s the thing, I’ve been shaping for thirty years. The price should reflect that. I was working by myself. Now I have a small staff, I gotta pay for that. My board didn’t pay for no machine, didn’t pay for shit! That’s what the price reflects. Better boards, a better brand.”

I ask Akila about his famous Dad, now almost seventy-eight, a former linebacker who didn’t start surfing seriously until he was twenty, but got good real fast, the inventor of the swallow tail, the stinger.

Ben caught a blood infection in hospital a while back. Beat him up bad.

“Dad, he’s slow,” says Akila. “He’s on a recovery path. He’s living simply with this wife. I’m just stoked my son has a grandpa.”

A sigh followed by a loud laugh.

“Every day above the ground is a good day. Any age. We’ll take it. I’m learning that.”


"I hate surfers!"

Breaking: Democratic presidential hopeful and “Clinton Machine Public Enemy no. 2” Tulsi Gabbard defies “surf-hating” Party overlords in San Francisco!

Super Monday.

Tomorrow is Super Tuesday in these United States of America and a an especially super one seeing that, for the first time in modern Presidential primary history, the state of California will have a decisive say as to who the Democratic candidate will be.

In years past, Californians went to the polls very much later than the rest of the nation, generally after the candidate had been selected by New Hampshirans, Iowans and a grab bag of other strangers. Frustrated by being the largest state and having no say, the powers moved primary day on up and here we are.

As you may know, there is currently a death struggle in the Democratic party between the “surf-hating” establishment, ruled from on high by Bill and Hillary Clinton and their vast “machine” and surfers, including and limited to Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard.

You certainly recall when Hillary Clinton attempted to paint Gabbard with the “Russian asset” bush and also when she sent a strange little troll named Mayor Pete Buttigieg after her.

Both efforts failed extraordinarily. Gabbard is set to become a very rich woman, suing Clinton for $50 million. Mayor Pete was sent back to the “shadows” without so much as a whimper.

How did Gabbard celebrate?

By rubbing herself in the surf-hating establishment’s nose and going surfing in San Francisco. Shall we turn to the Chronicle for more?

The congresswoman, who has been surfing since she was a teenager, put on a wetsuit and paddled out off the Pacifica coast with young people from the City Surf Project, which uses surfing to get youth to respect nature, build healthy habits and find personal growth.

She spent about three hours on the beach and in the water with the young people, some of them surfing for the first time.

“It was priceless seeing the joy in the eyes of kids this morning, many who come from a challenging background, getting to experience surfing and the healing qualities of the ocean for the first time,” Gabbard said in a statement Saturday.

The stop at Linda Mar beach, with the temperature in the 60s, had to be an improvement over her last political surfing stop on New Year’s Day in New Hampshire.

Gabbard, true to her Hawaiian roots, donned an Xcel wetsuit but I wonder if O’Neill might have been a better way to reach that northern California constituency.

I also wonder how the Clinton Machine, busily turning the final screws on a Frankenstein-like creature named Uncle Joe, will react to the overall insult.

Will Uncle Joe have many, secret, hidden votes stuffed into his veneers?

The “by-any-means-necessary” crushing of this surf rebellion?

Uncle Joe.

And Cousin Hunter. Did you know he’s an artist now?

Much to ponder.


Ayaka Suzuki, Pipe shredder from Japan. | Photo: @ayakasuzukii

From-the-sex-is-a-social-construct-dept: Women shine in gender-neutral Pipe surfing contest!

The gender war just got hotter!

Okay, so there’s this issue of women getting equal prizemoney when they aren’t called upon to perform in the same heavy conditions as the men.

Where are the women at Teahupoo, Pipe and so on?

Two weeks after Chas first called on Devon Howard to become a surfing pioneer by allowing women to compete against the men in the same heats, I’d like to note that it has already been done.*

Last year, the 2019 Mike Stewart Pipeline Pro was an open entry event, with no division between genders.

Four women entered, with 2018 world women’s champion Ayika Suzuki’s advancement through her first-round heat offering proof of concept that the women could compete and succeed against the men.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9NYelfBFDR/

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9K1Vian1jc/

This year’s competition featured nine female competitors, again including Suzuki, Pipe regular Traci Effinger (who goes by the glorious @clamdragger handle on Instagram) and the muse for this story, Miya Inoue.

In tricky six-to-ten-foot wind-affected Pipe, Inoue progressed through four rounds, reaching the quarter-finals.

Inoue scored the highest single-wave score of that heat after she projected off the lip of the biggest wave that came through in the twenty-five-minute heat, before being unable to find the backup score needed to progress.

I’ll ignore the usual tropes that will be trotted out in rebuttal here (aren’t all bodyboarders girls? It’s so easy, anyone could surf Pipe on a boogie board ** et al) and call on the WSL to offer a wildcard into next year’s Pipe Masters contest to one or more worthy female competitors.

And I’m calling out the female surfers, for one of them to put their hand up and say, “I can charge Pipe, give me a jersey, I’m ready!”

If a fifty kilogram (110 pounds) bodyboarder raised on Japanese beachbreaks is willing to throw herself at the lip of an eight-foot Pipe wave, there’s gotta be a female professional surfer who will have the vertical bonnet to take on Pipeline against the guys.

Paige Alms? Tyler Wright?

Imagine a Mason Ho vs Coco Ho heat at Backdoor?

And if the WSL is serious about equality, let’s see them give the women a chance to compete against the men in other premiere events as well.

Steph Gilmore is oft acknowledged as the most stylish rider regardless of gender at Snapper, why not give her a shot against the men in the opening contest of the year?

Carissa Moore or Lakey Peterson would do more damage laying into the walls of J-Bay than, say, Miguel Pupo?

At the very least it would they would great PR pieces.

So what say you, WSL corporate overlords?

How do you vote surfing world?

Just like aerial moves, heavy waves and the priority system, are you ready to follow in bodyboarding’s shoes again once again?

*The very first Morey Boogie world championships in 1982 was actually a gender-neutral event as well. Mike Stewart’s future wife, then Lisa Miller, competed and advanced through the first day’s competition. Presented with ten-foot Pipeline on the second day, she perhaps wisely withdrew.

** I offer Jamie O’Brien’s recent crabclaw efforts pushing his sponsors’ bodyboard products as rebuttal.


Sharks and selfies. Like boats and hoes.

Smokescreen: Mainstream media underplays seriousness of death by “man-eating shark” in suggesting selfies are more dangerous!

Lies and damned lies.

The lamestream media is the absolute worst. Incredibly the worst. Everything President Donald J. Trump says it is plus lots more and now, like him, I feel personally aggrieved. Personally targeted and harmed by new scurrilous, vindictive reporting that suggest taking innocent and beautiful self portraits, or selfies, is more dangerous than getting eaten by a shark, be it Great White, Bull, Tiger, Hammerhead or other.

Equally infuriating and triggering.

Why?

Because we surfers, we ocean pioneers, know the risks, the dangers every time we paddle out. Feel the terror but does the media care?

No.

It’s “agenda” is on full display but we must turn to Jacksonville, Florida’s local NBC affiliate for more.

The Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care in India found that 259 people worldwide died in 137 selfie-related accidents between 2011 and 2017, compared to just 50 people killed by sharks.

And a new survey found that 41% of us have already risked our safety in pursuit of a selfie.

While there might be more ladies taking selfies in general, the men are more likely to take risks, according to a poll conducted by the smartphone case company Case24.com.

The company’s survey found 61% of males would accept the challenge of a cliff-edge photo, compared to 38% of females.

Like sharks, cliffs appear to favor men but back to the issue at hand. Jacksonville, Florida’s local NBC affiliate if you can even believe and, as you know, Jacksonville is very close to New Smyrna which is, in turn, the shark attack capital of the world.

The shark attack capital of the world.

Selfies.

It’s a conspiracy against us and, as such, no surfing is recommended for the next two weeks until everything shakes out.

More as the story develops.


Hero.

Watch: Empowered mother breastfeeding newborn publicly shamed by toxic surfing patriarchy on popular Instagram page!

Cancel surf culture.

Welcome to America, where it’s OK to festoon the pages of surf magazines and surf-centric Instagram feeds with high-res images of breasts, but it’s not OK for a mother to nurse her baby while participating in the surf act itself.

The popular account Kook of the Day recently posted a video of an empowered mother breastfeeding on a wave and what should have been a moment celebrating the whole of the female experience quickly devolved into the very worst displays of toxic masculinity.

Comments dripping with less-than-woke misogyny began appearing right away.

bchip19: Call child protective services. So fucking irresponsible. One false move and it’s disaster.

matt_meistrell: Dumb people do dumb shit!

jonnysurfstyle: Jesus!!!! You kidding me??????? She goes down that babies gone!!!!! Stupid stupid women!!!! This annoys the fuck out of me!!!!! Even stupidity knows its limits and I am stupidity!!!!

Etc.

And it’s shameful that we still need to be having this conversation in 2020. Breastfeeding moms are not brash, unrepentant exhibitionists. Few to none of them are trying to show off their breasts to unwilling participants. Yes, some of us have fully evolved beyond the twisted hypocrisy of a culture that says a billboard of a lingerie-clad boob is A-OK while an uncovered nursing infant is offensive.

I can only hope and trust that her child did not its first experience of the life-determining effects of American society’s gender binary, swaddled in either pink or blue. Moments out of the womb and before even receiving its name being wrapped in gender. I can only hope and trust they will not be destroyed by the blitzkrieg of gender-norming as they grow.

In the meantime, may this mother’s brave display of her complete personhood be a beacon for us all.