Hawaii Paipo History
In 1965, Roosevelt High School, in Mr. Murakami's shop class, I made my first real Paipo board. I had made others before that led me to this design. Itwas one that was around in those days, but everybody had added or subtracted something, which made their board special for them. Val Valentine was the only person I know of who tried to produce them commercially. I never figured out how he made his boards.
My first board, which will be known as "The First Board", was made of plywood and blocks of Koa wood, which I laminated to the edges, and cut out very carefully with a chisel and a grinder, to give me the curvatures that I wanted at the rails. After shaping, I sanded it smooth, then fiberglassed it. The board was somewhat heavy but worked very well.
remember in those days that Makapuu was the place to Paipo. There
were all kinds of homemade Paipos everywhere. Ehukai, on the North
Shore was another Paipo place where lots of riders went. These places
were very hip long before Boogie boards were invented. When Boogie
boards came out, the Paipo almost disappeared. People were attracted
to the new materials (i.e. polyethylene), and with peoples creative
levels going down, it seemed easier, (and/or more decadent) to buy
a Boogie board than to build your own Paipo.
As far as I'm concerned, the Surfboard, and later the Boogie Board, were modeled after the boat (or canoe, same context). The surfboard has evolved from boat designs and is really a scaled down, redesigned, and much improved version of the outrigger canoe and the Boogie Board the same. Surfboards are designed for the rider to paddle around on and float around on, much like a small boat. The same with Boogie boards. A main factor is its ability to float, like all good boats. If it don't sink, it's good. People feel safe when it doesn't sink. Surfing the waves, just like the old canoe did. Of course it's been around for many years now, there have been many improvements in shapes and materials, and much has changed, but not the basic boat origins.
My opinion is that Surfboards and Boogie Boards are improvements on an old theme, not a design synthesized after thought and observation. The Paipo is just that. It was not designed to float; it was designed with only hydro dynamics in mind. Previously the comfort of the rider was not even considered. The rider laid on the hard surface of the board, and often took a pounding. This board will take off easier than a Surfboard, Boogie Board or boat. It will go faster, and has the ability to dive under outside sets with great ease. It's a good feeling, I tell you.
Another aspect of the dynamics is this, if you fall off your surfboard or Boogie board or boat, there is a good chance that the board will ride in without you, and many times you will swim far, (I know, they have leashes now). If you wipe out on a Paipo the board cannot surf without the weight of your body on top of it, so the board will come up where you wiped out and just bob around. You usually find your Paipo near by.
In my minds eye, I see a jet plane in the design of our board, and it seems to work like one. These boards are very fast, and for me that's a joy in itself.
It was 1979, I think, when I moved to Haleiwa to play a gig at the Kui Lima hotel. I returned to Ehukai to see what was going on. I was talking to Sean Ross, lifeguard at Ehukai at that time and great Paipoboarder as well (Probably the best on the planet). I say, "Sean where are all the Paipos, the place used to be mobbed with them?" He laughed and said that since Boogie boards came around the "Paipo boards have all disappeared."
After some thinking, I decided to see if I could make some commercially. I started Hawaii Paipo Designs. I designed, then later built a press for making Paipos, from laminating three pieces of 1/8-inch plywood mahogany. The press was made of concrete (two pieces top and bottom, with bolts all around the perimeter for extra pressure. (See plans included) The prototype plug was my original board, (the first board). I made quite a few boards and learned a lot. The wood was too oily to let the fiberglass stick, and the fiberglass finally separated from the wood. Also the plywood was delaminating. All this, because the board takes a beating when used in the surf, lots of stress and strain, lots of expansion and contraction from being in the sun then the water etc., etc. These boards were very light and strong, the design was sound, but the construction materials were lacking. They fell apart after a few years. They had a life span of about a year under heavy use.
I made a final series of boards and selected the best one to be the prototype plug for a Fiberglass mold. At that time I really didn't know how to continue. I just laid up the glass in the mold. Now it was strong, but too heavy.
I studied new processes, (vacuum bagging, infusion, RTM, etc, etc,)
and, after much development, I finally came upon the current technique,
which I use to make the board. The boards now have incredible dynamics,
good weight, durability and perfect buoyancy. These boards are true
clones of the first board (in shape). Today's boards are a dialed-in,
streamlined versions of the original shape of "The First Board" that
I made in the 60's.
I think that people have not yet tapped the true value of this board, because it lay dormant for so many years. The reason for this is that the shape is very difficult to make. About 30 inches at the widest part, 40 inches nose to tail, and only less than a half inch thick. The demands on the span stress factor are very difficult to meet. Also there is a problem with the curved surfaces. A compound bend across an uneven curve, makes it even more frustrating. It's taken me many years to come to understand the finer points of building this board. I've always done it, because I love Paipos, and I'm a wave rider. Wave riders share a certain common understanding about thrill, satisfaction, and the sea. I am going to try to give the Paipo back to the wave riders, put it back in the water. I see a need and the time has come. The new board is incredible. I don't know of anything faster in or on the water.