My life is enmeshed with surfing about as much as possible. I make surfboards for a living, my family surfs, most of my friends surf, and I love surfing. One of my big issues in life is finding where the business stops and where the fun begins. For me it begins when I lose myself in the surf. When I am jumping in the water and the whitewash wash cleanses me of my worries.
Surfing with friends and going with the flow brings on the joy. Then a crowd problem arises or someone drops in on my son, and I sort of get jolted back to reality, or there are people watching or cameras and I have to perform, again, back to the business reality.
I love the paipo so much. I never get jolted back to reality. My favourite surf is to wade out into small waves with my paipo and catch small waves. It is like a pleasant day dream. I can do it for hours and find total absorption into the surf. It is a meditation. It does not suck.
Of course I spend a lot of time in the crowds surfing all the boards I shape and I love it too. But, I think I am a lot more relaxed and resistant to getting caught up in the performance hype because I am so grounded with the paipo sessions. I am not so hungry in the surf. It is a very nice surfing balance.
I think people are baffled watching the great George Greenough ride his mat in atrocious conditions. He says he likes it when the wind is howling and there is lots of popcorn on the waves (white caps). I believe he finds his bliss bobbing out there, alone, in the surf he loves so much. But, this surfing is not simple. There is just as much technicality to making a waist high grinder on your belly as there is in any other surfing. It is challenging with great rides and a sense of achievement though nobody ever notices.
If you ever are frustrated with crowds, the surfing scene, poor surf… I seriously recommend grabbing a paipo and finding the absolute joy of riding a little wave towards shore on a piece of wood. There is a good reason why this is the world’s oldest continuous sport. You will not be disappointed.
Tom Wegener lives and works in Noosa Heads, Australia. Together with his brother Jon Wegener, based in California, they helped ignite the Hawaiian wooden surfboard revival by basing their alaia and paipo designs from The Bishop Museum archives.
Photography: Izu, Japan by Mizoguchi