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A Paipo Interview with Devon, Christine and Lionel Aguiar

"A family of paipo riders"

November 19, 2009 - Ewa Beach, Hawaii, USA
e-Mail interview completed by Devon and his parents, based on questions by Bob Green
Photos by Devon

1. Devon, how old are you now and have long you been riding paipo?
Currently 16, and have been riding paipos for one and a half years.
2. Describe the boards that you currently ride?
A Hawaii Paipo Designs SR flex model made out of foam and fiberglass, and a resined, wooden, bullet shaped paipo ("The Bullet”) with a red and grey stripe on the bottom.
3. Does anyone else from school ride a paipo?
A friend, who got into paipo boarding through me. He used to bodyboard until I let him try my paipo one day. He now uses a board my father and I made for his birthday.

Devon at the Wall on a small day in Waikiki

4. I’ve read that you started out on a Morey Boogie?
Like all kids here in Hawaii that came after the Boogie Board era, I would play by the shore, catching the soup by pushing off the bottom when the wave came with a bodyboard (like British Bellyboarding at White Plains Beach). After growing up to the age of about 11, and getting tired of occasionally getting drilled into the sand face first (the result of not bottom turning), I moved on, going out to the line-up with my Morey Bodyboard from Costco, and my old pair of blue and black Duckfeet that I used for snorkeling. It was out in the line-up, in slightly more serious waves, where I learned the concept of bottom turning... the hard way.
5. Why did you decide to give the paipo a try?
I could never dive the bodyboard really well, and one day at White Plains stands out: I had just caught a wave and was headed back out to the line-up (because there are no channels at White Plains to go back out through, you must dive under every wave on the way back out) and a seemingly endless set came in, I kept diving and kicking forward, only to get pushed back. The set finally ended, and I eventually got back to the lineup, exhausted.

About a year and a half ago I saw my mom and dad's old guitar pick style paipos when my dad and I were cleaning out the garage. I asked about it, and he told me it was an old skool bodyboard. I handled it, noticing how heavy and thin it was. I was skeptical, and thought it would never work. Curiosity got the better of me, and I brought my mother's paipo with us one day we went to the beach.

Mum's Old Paipo

6. What was it like riding the paipo the first time?
Paddling out felt odd, and everyone looked at the board trying to figure out what it was. I tried for a couple of waves, and missed them, but I didn't give up, and finally caught one. I was amazed by the speed once I got on the wave, and when my ride finally ended, I noticed how easy it was to dive under waves. I was hooked. My dad and I made a wood board for me a couple of months later (my "bullet" board).

The "Bullet" Board

7. Where do you usually surf?
I usually ride at White Plains, Big Rights, Cunhas, and The Wall (Walls).
8. These spots have a lot of history for paipo riding? Do many other guys still ride paipo?
I’ve read that John Galera used to paipo at White Plains, but I’m the only paipo boarder that I have seen there. The same goes for Big Rights, but I think it’s mostly because Big Rights is more of a surfing spot. The Wall usually has a handfull of paipo riders when a fair sized south swell comes in. Cunhas only had one person (besides my friend and me) on a paipo the day I went out. The only consistent paipo riders on Oahu I know of are John Galera, Bud Scelsa, Larry Goddard, and a guy named Harry, who uses a big orange paipo. I have seen him at Makapu’u and Cunhas.
9. There are no magazines or current movies with paipo riders – how are learning to ride a paipo?
Through trial and error pretty much. Sometimes I try to infuse bodyboarding and surfing maneuvers, because paipo boarding to me is sort of like bodyboarding (riding prone, fins on your feet), and sort of like surfing (fast speed, hard board). But for me, it’s mostly thinking of trying something new and crazy when I’m in the line-up waiting for waves, and then trying it when the waves come. I have also started to knee on my Hawaii Paipo Designs board, with mixed success.
10. You may not realise it, but you surf with some of Hawaii’s long time paipo riders and builders. What is the attitude of older guys to you riding a paipo?
They seem to like it; I haven’t gotten any negative feelings from anyone. I’ve had many older people tell me about how they used to make paipos in wood shop class, and do all sorts of tricks, like 360’s. I suppose they like that someone is carrying on paipo boarding.
11. Do they give you any advice?
Not really, I guess they think I’ve got it down.
12. What do like most about riding a paipo?
The duck diving ability. Like I said earlier, I could never dive a bodyboard. When I eventually tried the paipo, I loved how easily you could dive under waves. I think this has actually saved my butt a couple of times when I thought I could handle the wave size.
13. Regarding your boards, how did you come up with the shape for your “bullet board”?
I wanted a slightly wide tail, because I had heard that it holds the board into the wave very well, but I didn't want a board that was too wide, that I couldn't carry under my arm. I also wanted a streamlined nose that would slice through the water.

Mum’s questions – Christine

1. How did you get into riding a paipo board?
My husband made me a paipo board, so I could go out with him.
2. When was this?
Early 80’s.
3. Where did you surf? Any surfs still stand out in your mind?
The Wall (Waikiki) and Makapu`u.
4. How long did you ride a paipo for? Why did you stop surfing?
For about 10 yrs – until we moved further away from our fav surf sites.
5. Were there many other women surfers and women paipo riders when you were surfing?
Very few.
6. What did you enjoy about riding a paipo?
Fast; easy to transport and go under waves. Also prevented the younger kids on boogie boards from cutting you off!
7. Have you been tempted to get back on the paipo?
On occasion when I see my son out in the surf.
8. What did you think about Devon taking up paipo riding?  I hope he isn’t neglecting school too much?
I’m glad he’s out in the water and not a couch potato.  He knows, school work first before we can hit the beach.

Dad’s questions – Lionel

1. How did you get into riding a paipo board?
I grew up in the 60’s before boogie boards were invented, so we used to make our own boards, paipo boards, to ride the waves. Other kids showed me how to make and use paipo boards.
2. When was this?
About 1963, when I was 10 years old.
3. Did you travel for surf much - where did you surf?
I didn’t travel for surf much. I grew up in a little town called Hauula, and because of my age at the time, I used to go to Kahana Bay, and in 1967, we moved to Hawaii Kai, and I surfed at China Walls, Seconds, Turtles, Makapu`u, and The Wall in Waikiki.
4. Were there many others riding paipo boards? Who were the hot paipo riders when you started?
I don’t know of any hot paipo riders, but when I started, it was my friends and I.
5. What types of boards were being ridden then?
The boards were wooden and resin coated, in a guitar pick style.
6. What was the style of surfing back then? What was good ride?
The style was prone and a good ride was a long ride.
7. I’ve read that you made a board in school? Tell me a bit about the board – how did you come up with the shape, what were they made of?
The board was made in wood shop class. The shape was based on what I saw everyone else ride. It was made out of plywood, and was resined, with a single plywood skeg. The board was a half inch thick, and about 40 inches long, and 30 inches at the widest point.

Dad's Old Board

8. Did you ever ride or own one of the Paipo Nui boards? [if so – do you remember where you bought it and how much it cost?]
No, all of my boards were homemade.
9. How long did you ride a paipo for? Why did you stop surfing?
I rode a paipo from 1963 to 1980. I stopped because I did not have time.
10. How did it feel to get back on a paipo?
It felt good.

Dad's New Board

11. What did you enjoy about riding a paipo?
The speed.
12. What did you think about Devon taking up paipo riding? 
I’m happy he has taken up paipo boarding, and together we have made paipo boards.

Devon's Concave Paipo Board

The concave idea came from my dad's friend, who builds and repairs outrigger canoes, makes paddles, and repairs boats. My dad told him I was interested in Paipo boarding, and one day my dad brought me to his shop. There I asked about how to make a scooped "spoon" wood paipo. He did not know how to exactly do that, but came up with the idea of bending the board to make it curved from the nose to the back.

Other Information: Vist Devon's website at: 

Feel free to send me suggestions, comments and additional information to: The Paipo Interviews.

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