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Shaper: Unknown
Length: 6 feet 3 inches
Width: 14 inches
Year Manufactured:
Sometime in the 1920`s
White Pine
Surfboard Photos: Surfing Heritage Foundation
Wooden Alaia-style 'Kit Corona'
This surfboard belongs to a category that ancient Hawaiians would have called “ala’ia”—relatively short, narrow and thin. There are drawings from the very earliest days of western contact (the voyage of Captain Cook in 1778) that depict such boards being ridden, often by women either prone, kneeling or up on one knee. Photographs of male surfers from around 1900 show they were still in use even then.

This board was probably made in the 1920s or 1930s from what appears to be a single plank of white pine. It bears the inscription “Kit” and “Corona”. Who made it and who was Kit? That’s impossible to know after all these years. But Corona might refer to Corona Del Mar, just south of Newport Beach, which was one of the few pockets of regular surfing activity in Southern California during the ’20s. Duke Kahanamoku gave surfing demonstrations there several years earlier. Because of its small size, this board was most likely made for a child who may have seen some of the pioneers and wanted to emulate their surfing exploits. Unfortunately the waves at Big Corona and Little Corona, as the surf spots were known, were ruined in 1937 by construction of a jetty at the Newport Beach harbor entrance.

It was once thought that alaia boards were surfed only from a prone or keeling position, but that myth has been spectacularly debunked in recent years. As interest grew in surfing’s roots and history, board makers such as Tom Pohaku Stone in Hawaii and Tom Wegener in Australia have been making alaia-style boards in the seven-foot range that have been ridden successfully standing up. It should be noted, however, that the finless alaias are notoriously difficult to control and the surfers who’ve mastered them are among some of the best in the world, often current and former champions.