Ben Aipa’s influence on modern surfing has affected all of us.
His major contributions to shaping are such things as the hugely popular swallow tail, the “stinger” and the modern longboard. Considering his contributions and experience in surfing and surfboard shaping, we feel very fortunate to offer Ben’s line of Molded Epoxy Sandwich surfboards.
Ben Aipa was born in Honolulu in 1941. The second oldest of three kids, he excelled in sports. In high school he was a “jock”, playing football and swimming competitively consumed his time. When high school was over he went on to play semi professional football. His build (5’8″, 240lb.s) at the time afforded him to hold positions as linebacker, fullback and center. His career in football ended with an injury that occurred while at work.
After his football career came to an end, Ben and his cousin were looking for something to do in paradise and one day they chipped in and rented a surfboard. Ben was an accomplished swimmer and bodysurfer at the time. “We flipped a coin to see who would try first, my cousin won. After a few tries he gave the board to me”. In 1962 Ben paddled out for the very first time at age 23. “I took off on my first wave, stood up and rode it the whole way. That was it”. Ben surfed 365 days straight that year. Ben entered his first contest in 1965 at age 29. He went on to win that contest (and many more).
In 1966 Ben began shaping. It was a time when surfing was entering a time of change. “I was here, right here and I saw everything happening right in front of me”. Boards were changing; guys were going from the traditional “tankers” to shorter boards, 9 feet and smaller. That year Nat Young won the World Amateur Contest on a 9-foot board.
By 1968 the Hawaiians, Californians and Aussie’s all showed up in Puerto Rico with their versions of the short board. “At the next World’s in Bells Beach, circa 1970-71, Wayne Lynch rode a 6 foot board”. Surfing had seen a drastic change in boards and style. Slide slipping a single fin was in.
The big change came when two kids that rode for Ben made it to the World’s at Oceanside in 1972. “These two kids sat off the left side of the jetty and made it all the way through the finals to win on swallow tails”. Those “kids” were Michael Ho and Larry Bertlemen. Ben explained that some people had tried tails similar but he made them deeper and more defined. “I picked the name swallow tail because of the way the bird makes really fast turns”. In the wake of these innovations, Aipa quickly established a reputation as a go-to shaper for boards that could enhance the low-slung and aggressive style that soon became the vanguard of performance during that era. Afterward, he also contributed heavily to the development of the modern longboard.
In the recent years, Aipa has continued to compete—winning several Legends and Grandmasters championships at a national level—and has served as a trainer and mentor for surfers such as Brad Gerlach, Sunny Garcia, and Bruce and Andy Irons and Koa and Alex Smith. He continues to shape custom boards from his shop in Honolulu, Hawaii