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A Paipo Interview with Gus Acosta

WaveArrow developer

A Paipo Interview with Gus Acosta
December 25, 2011, and update July 22, 2012 - Big Island, Hawaii
E-mail interview by Bob Green
Photos courtesy of Gus Acosta

Gus's board designs were inspired by hulled trimarans and ridng the boogie board of his children. A stand-up surfer for many years he has been experimenting with finned, fiberglass boards which he calls the WaveArrow. The WaveArrow manifesto: High speed maneuverability.
1. Did you ride a paipo as a youth? If so, when and where was this? What type of board did you ride?
Swam, bodysurfed and surf mated at Trancas Beach, California, then went to a balsa 9'6". I'm 70, and can't make the hop to stand on my 10'2" Edwards, so now I belly board. I had 25 years of stand-up riding, raised 5 children as an on-line carpenter, made friends and had a good time.

Gus with prototypes 1-6. The WaveArrow manifesto: "Aeronautical fore and aft, three hulls, a distinct body depression, the removal fin box on the bottom of the keel chine, not on the side. Two leash positions (arm or leg). The body depression is essential for flexibility. The board works on any size wave. High speed maneuverability is what we achieved."

Photo courtesy of Gus Acosta.

When did you come to Hawaii?

I've moved on and off Hawaii four different times because of the children and the lame school system here. Not the teachers -- the system sucks.
2. Who influenced you as a shaper? Who else has been involved in making the WaveArrow?
Kudos to Dean Edwards on Big Island, he broke the ice (and shaped prototypes #1, #2, #5 and #6). David Souder refined the prototypes of a difficult project (prototypes #3 and #4). Tim Orr of Pure Life Surfboards transformed the concept into a beautiful speed machine (shaped prototype #7 - #11).   There are many many, many very creative and talented shapers out there. My above shaper favorites helped me, patiently and graciously, what can I say, "Thanks gents." (For more info see Note 1.)

When was the first WaveArrow made and how has the design changed?

2002. Three changes, the stern isn't so pronouced, other than that Dean's interpretation of the design was remarkably right on. Also not quite as wide.
3. Did you make any paipo boards before the WaveArrow?
4. What is the background to your making the WaveArrow?
The need. I started all my chidren on boogie boards. Wet suits and fins was a Christmas sensation, two of everything. The twins went to the water like cub sea otters. The water was chilly but we didn't care. I always have a set of Churchills in my car. We were in Maui at Guardrails, a nice south swell hitting. It was slightly too big for the eight-year-olds. I asked them if they wanted to paddle out. They said, 'No you go out." So I grabbed one the boards. Anyway, I got lucky, snagged a set wave, "Wow what fun!" I saw major speed potential. Kinda went from there. Hard board, aerodynamic, multi-hull, nothing too far out about that. I like to go to sea on something substantially seaworthy.

WaveArrow protoype.

Photos courtesy of Gus Acosta.

WaveArrow prototype: 52" long (stem to stern), 42" stem to insert, 23-3/4" wide and 3" thick. "Aeronautical fore and aft and concentric about the center lines."

Photos courtesy of Gus Acosta. 
5. Can you explain the key design features and why you think they work? What other features of your boards contribute to the WaveArrow's performance?
The WaveArow is a small kind of surfboard, embellished to accommodate the prone dynamic. The mini trimaran thing comes from experience with the whole Woody Brown catamaran thing, then triology excursions with the tri. It works large or small. The fin thing is a must for bottom turns for me. So prototype #10 is composite of all I know about speed, form and function! The streamline is an ancient concept. Catamarans have been around for 2,000 years. Build a small surf board, remove a section of the stern for hips and kick ability. A port and a starboard hull, add fins, rig the bottom to enhance the multi-hull dynamic and you have yourself a wave craft you can go to sea on and feel well equipped, "Why not?"

WaveArrow. "People ask me if its a knee board. My answer is it's whatever gets you down the line with grace and speed. For me it's prone, I like being close to the face".

Photos courtesy of Gus Acosta.


Photos courtesy of Gus Acosta. 


Photos courtesy of Gus Acosta.
6. How does design of a paipo board and stand-up board differ?
It doesn't. The design automatically covers that option. Wally Froiseth was standing up on a plywood paipo in the 1940s. Where there's a will there's is a way. One day will probably see some kid wahine blasting out of backdoors. The boys are already doing it on boogie boards with no fins. Mike Stewart is the man for one. The beat goes on.
7. Has anyone tried riding a WaveArrow finless?
8. Any comment on the techniques required to ride one of your boards, for example, making them turn or gain speed?
Be polite and respectful in Church - the line-up. Paddle outside and see what the set wave is doing. Don't take off on the first wave. Set yourself up for taking the drop, the more critical the better, go to the bottom, gain speed, hang on, adjust, go to the lip and do a Ben Aipa off the lip, then a couple of Slater's pumps, kick out head for the clouds! etc etc. Differ, set yourself up again. Lot of waves.
9. Who has been buying and riding your boards, local guys or from further away?
Chris Tagashike has given a very good review of riding small Pipeline: "Got 'wet' today in some small stuff a Pipeline. The board is a keeper Gus. You were right in that it's faster than what I expected in my old paipos, so much so that I have to take my time and even stall a little at take off or else outrun the break. Cutbacks are a breeze and very stable carrying my 205 lbs. ... Had 2 guys come by on the beach and in the water to ask me about the board, and one guy said, "Wow, it's fast." November 4, 2011."

Lifeguard Rick on a WaveArrow

Photos courtesy of Gus Acosta.
10. What type of wave do your boards go best in?
A head high, warm point break plus with a couple of buddies.

WaveArrow #10.

Photos courtesy of Tim Orr.

WaveArrow #11, shaped 11/11/11.

Photos courtesy of Tim Orr.
11. What direction are you heading with the WaveArrow, commercially and design wise?
Dean's first board was so close. Ugh. Anyway I was trying to increase the hulls, i.e., make the hulls more pronouced, thinner, more flexible and incorporate removable fins. Fin position is an issue, the hard rail - soft rail combination. I've given the WaveArrow ball to Ian Foo to market. He is the main event in the whole Hypr Nalu stand-up paddle board provider in Kona. Ian will be bringing the WaveArrow under his product line name, in three versions:
(1) an all-soft, fins aeronautical for and aft etc., body cavity double leash positions;
(2) a hard bottom soft top, all bells and whistles; and
(3) a carbon fiber all-hard board.
Small, medium, large and xxlarge - the hyper extreme. Kudos to him and all the other shapers: Dean Edwards, Davy Souder and Tim Orr. Oh yeah the original Hawaiian sovereign nation spelling for paipo is apparently paepo. Out of respect should we use paepo? (For a short discussion on the spelling and usage of the term paipo, see Note 2.)

The Hypr Nalu Hawaii Paipo Boards (hard boards)

The rectangle in the centre of the deck is 1 1/2' deep handhold to make it easier carrying a WaveArrow. The soft boards were developed by Ian for beaches that don't allow hard boards.

Photos courtesy of Gus Acosta.

Note 1. Tim Orr of Pure Life Surfboards, Kona, Hawaii, describes himself as a "Big fan of the Bonzer, and the Campbell Brothers." For some information on Tim see the SurfCrazy Stanley's Surf Gear website.

Note 2. For more information on the etymology of the term paipo, see Clark, John R. K. 2011. Hawaiian surfing: traditions from the past. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press. From his book,
"In the earliest descriptions of surfboards by Hawaiian scholars, the smallest boards, those that were shorter than six feet in length, were generically called papa li`ili`i, or "small boards." During the early 1900s, the name papa li`ili`i was changed on two fronts with non-Hawaiian surfers calling them bellyboards, because they were most often ridden prone, the rider laying on his or her "belly," and with Hawaiian surfers in Waikiki calling them pae po`o boards.

Pae po`o is an interesting word. It does not appear in any Hawaiian dictionaries, Hawaiian language newspapers, or writings of the prominent Hawaiian scholars of the 1800s, such as `I`i, Kamakau, Kepelino, and Malo, who described traditional Hawaiian surf sports. The term appears to have been coined by Hawaiian surfers in Waikiki circa 1900, where it was commonly used to mean bodysurfing or bodysurfing with a small wooden bodyboard. The literal translation of pae po`o is "ride [a wave] head-first", or in other words, bodysurf, and a papa pae po`o was a bodysurfing board, or what surfers today call a bodyboard.
In everyday conversation, pae po`o was often shortened to pae po, which is common among Hawaiian words that end with double "o's," such as Napo`opo`o on the island of Hawai`i, which is often pronounced Napopo. The popular spelling used today, paipo, was coined by Hawaiian surfing legend Wally Froiseth, who, besides being an excellent surfer, was an exceptional paipo board rider who was famous for standing on his twin-fin board while riding big waves. From 1956 to 1986, Froiseth made approximately 150 paipo boards, which he sold to friends and other surfers, putting a decal on each board to identify it as his product. No one before him, however, had ever spelled pae po, so without the benefit of seeing the word in print, Froiseth spelled it as he heard it, pai po."

Other info:

Acosta, G. (2006). U.S. Patent No. 7074098 - Wave Arrow. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. See PDF file. Also see: 

Also see an earlier cameo:

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

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