Some people may think that the alaia was just another fad to come and go in the surfing world. However, Guilhem and Yrwan from Hidden Wood Surfboards in France believe otherwise. As advocates of riding whatever you feel you will have fun on, they have continued to run with the creation of these fun, slippery boards. Influenced from snowboarding, Guilhem and Yrwan have been working with various types of wood and materials to further develop an eco-friendly and functional alaia.
What first got you interested in riding alaias?
With an alaia, it is all about the feeling. We just love how it feels to cruise on a wave. Aesthetics is a big part of it too. The unique mix of object simplicity and wood touching. Coming from snowboarding, we found many similarities between snowboards and the alaia. It is fun to feel how much an edge holds, combined with flex, which offers an amazing pop like a snowboard in powder.
Besides alaias, what other types of surfcraft are you making?
We handcraft handplanes and paipos. Our team riders, Fred David and Pierre Louis Costes, rode them in Hawaii and had lots fun with them, which is really positive for us.
Besides that, we are working hard on a new project, a 100% Paulownia chambered board with a major step forward in the hollow construction. These new boards will be extremely resistant and smooth to surf with an outstanding aesthetic.
Describe your process of making one of your boards.
Our process is not very complicated but you need the best wood, good tools, and strong experience to get a durable board.
The first step is based on the wood blank quality. We choose the nicest parts of the wood to craft our slats. They receive a special preparation then they are planed down and glued together with a natural glue that replaces the toxic epoxy resins.
Thanks to our homemade templates, outlines are drawn on the blank and cut. Afterwards, rails, rocker and concave are pre-shaped with a electric grinder and hand finished with a plane. To get a uniform shape with nice smooth lines, we use different kinds of electric sanders. They are hand finished with several abrasive sheets of sandpaper, up to a 400 grade.
Finally, we apply our HIDDEN WOOD heat transfer and after several days of oiling, the alaia is water resistant and ready to ride.
How do you differentiate your boards from what others are doing?
We talk about alaias as boards just thought to have fun on waves. We are not really talking about performance. The difference remains in the shape and in the woodwork as a joiner.
We are mixing several wood essences (red cedar, paulownia), always working on new experimentation. We are using natural glue and working with different artist to make unique boards.
With HIDDEN WOOD alaias, we try to stick to reality. Some shapes are very sharp, reactive, which are designed for our ambassadors and will always be more technical to surf.
And other shapes are made for our friends. As passionate riders, we want to make alaia riding easy, so we always try to find little tricks to make it more popular and accessible.
Do you think alaias are just a fad in surfing? Or do you see them as a functional part of your quiver?
We love the feeling of riding an alaia. We love working with wood, we like surfing all kinds of board, from a log to a mini Simmons and we will always keep an alaia in our truck because the feeling is unique.