Paipo boards are small wooden surf craft made to be ridden prone. Alaia boards are paipos’ bigger brothers and can be surfed while standing. While known in Encinitas for building and riding both traditional-style paipos and alaias, Jon Wegener was not the first to do so. That name pre-dates Captain Cook’s visit to the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. While those boards were originally made of ulu, koa, or wiliwili wood, Wegener shapes his from paulownia wood because “its density makes them waterproof.”
Wegener’s love of wooden surf craft began after his older brother, Tom, moved to Australia more than a decade ago. While riding Alaias is beyond the ability of the average surfer, Jon and Tom’s skills are far above average. Encinitas 20-something rippers Ryan Burch and Eric Snortum jumped on those primitive vehicles.
Burch and Snortum on alaia
Local 20-year-olds try the small wood boards
Realizing my limited abilities were no match for an Alaia, Jon offered to loan me a Paipo. To my untrained eye it looked like little more than a plumped out Popsicle stick, but it fit easily into the trunk of my car.
Later that week, while driving past Torrey Pines Beach, I decided to take the Paipo, still in my trunk, for a spin. That four-foot long, 18-inch wide, three-quarter- inch thick sliver of wood turned an uninspiring shore break into an hour of speedy joy.