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Text Daniel Ikaika Ito
Images by Ha‘a Keaulana

Leading up to the finals of the Ala‘i‘a division at 39th Annual Buffalo Big Board Classic at Mākaha last month, there was a lot of talk about a recent feature story about the traditional Hawaiian, finless shortboard by a prominent visitor publication. The consensus on the beach by the Hawaiian watermen and water women was that the aforementioned magazine did not have their facts straight in the article, which was written by their editor-in chief. While the level of surfing by the competitors in the Ala‘i‘a division at Buff’s was of a high caliber, the reporting in the article was not according to several experts so Waiola Life wanted to take the time to clarify some facts about the Ala‘i‘a from a Hawaiian perspective.


Californian transplant Tom Wegner started pumping out the shorter-more-chic “Alaya” in Australia. Iconic pro surfers like Dave Rastovich, Rob Machado, Tom Carroll and others made Wegner’s shapes fashionable and more-functional in the last decade. But, the alaia’s wide-acceptance by surfers have led to a subsequent bastardizing of the Hawaiian language.

According to Tom Pohaku Stone, who has college degrees in Hawaiian Studies, Pacific Island Studies, American Studies preservation and is currently working toward a P.h.d., Wegner and the mainstream are mispronouncing the name of the Hawaiian–finless–short–wooden boards. Wegner and the mainstream surf industry call them alaia (ah-lie-ah) when it’s actually supposed to be called ala’i‘a (ah–la–ee-ah). Furthermore, Pohaku started making replicas of the ancient Hawaiians’ surfboards years before Wegner had the idea.


There are no interference calls or triangles at Buffalo’s Big Board Classic because it’s all about fun at this two-weekend event, which is often called “The Waterman’s Olympic Games” by participants.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawai‘i Founder, Kahi Pacarro, won the Ala‘ia division at this year’s Buff’s Big Board Classic despite tough competition.


Kahi is heading to Australia this year to compete in an Ala‘i‘a contest and share the Aloha spirit.


Jackson Kine has one of the smoothest surfing styles at Mākaha and can seamlessly transition from a modern, thruster shortboard to a traditional Hawaiian, finless surfboard with ease.


Sharing is caring: there are no interference calls or “triangles” at Buffalo’s Big Board Classic because it’s all about fun when it comes to competing at–what many locals call– “The Waterman’s Olympics.”


Brian Keaulana’s son and Ha‘a’s younger brother, Chad, is coming into his own as a water safety official, surfer and ambassador of Aloha.


Chad is walking in his ancestor’s footsteps every time he is at Mākaha.