Aloha, an Iconic Australian Surf Brand
Surfing has a long history, but when it finally reached Australia, there was no turning back. The allure of the laid-back Aussie lifestyle meant Australia would always become a surf mecca and with it came the launch of big name surf brands like Aloha.
The Original Surfers of Hawaii
(image: Surf Riders Honolulu, Charles W. Bartlett, 1919)
Written records from the 1800s describe the surf culture in Hawaii by missionaries who were guests of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
"(T)hey resorted to the favourite amusement of all classes – sporting on the surf, in which they distinguish themselves from most other nations," wrote Hiram Bingham, who was the leader of the Pioneer Company of missionaries to Hawaii from 1820 - 1840.
“The inhabitants of these islands, both male and female, are distinguished by their fondness for the water, their powers of diving and swimming, and the dexterity and ease with which they manage themselves, their surf-boards and canoes, in that element," he said.
(image: Hawaii The Surf Rider woodblock print by Charles W Bartlett, 1921)
Mark Twain also wrote about surfing during his visit to Hawaii in 1866, in his semi autobiographical novel "Roughing It."
“In one place we came upon a large company of naked natives, of both sexes and all ages, amusing themselves with the national pastime of surf-bathing. Each heathen would paddle three or four hundred yards out to sea, (taking a short board with him), then face the shore and wait for a particularly prodigious billow to come along...”
“At the right moment he would fling his board upon its foamy crest and himself upon the board, and here he would come whizzing by like a bombshell! It did not seem that a lightning express train could shoot along at a more hair-lifting speed. I tried surf-bathing once, subsequently, but made a failure of it. I got the board placed right, and at the right moment, too; but missed the connection myself. The board struck the shore in three quarters of a second, without any cargo, and I struck the bottom about the same time, with a couple of barrels of water in me...”
The Birth of Modern Day Surf Culture
It would be 100 years before Native Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku would gain widespread recognition for practicing the traditional sport, helping spread it from Waikiki to around the world.
Born in Honolulu, Duke spent his youth as a bronzed beach boy who qualified for the US Olympic swimming team in 1912 and becoming a five-time Olympic medalist. After winning a gold medal in the 100-metre freestyle, he retired from the Olympics, and began travelling internationally to give swimming exhibitions, into which he incorporated surfing demonstrations. One of these demonstrations at Sydney's Freshwater Beach on December 24, 1914, is widely regarded as a seminal event in the development of surfing in Australia.
(image: Duke at Freshwater, 1914)
As the frenzy of surfing as a recreational activity grew into the Aussie way of life, so too did the evolution of equipment and surfing styles. In the ’60s, Australian board designer Bob McTavish was responsible for the design of the V-surfboard and is widely acknowledged today as one of the key figures in the development of surfing.
The Aloha Brand
Closely following this new lifestyle culture sweeping the nation, was local surfer and legend shaper, Greg Clough, who founded Aloha Surfboards in 1978 on Sydney's Northern Beaches.
The Aloha DNA was set in stone back in the early days when, after several years shaping for other brands, Greg honed his skills to perfection. Talented surfers from around the world clamoured to ride them, including a host of surfing world champions including Damien Hardman and Barton Lynch, cementing the brand's rich history and maintaining the progression of the Aloha product.
Former professional surfer Jesse Faen, describes his first memories of Aloha surfboards, before being sponsored by them in the 1980s.
"Growing up in Narrabeen, I looked up to the surfers at my local beach, who happened to be world champions. They were some of the best surfers in the whole world and they were all riding Aloha surfboards. I just remember being in awe of the surfers around me and wanting to improve and aspiring to that lifestyle," Jesse says. "Aloha was just synonymous with high performance surfing and the guys who were heroes to me as a kid."
Jesse was given his first hand crafted Aloha surfboard when he started surfing competitively.
"I remember the pride of being at the Aloha factory and seeing the history on the walls and feeling super excited to be getting a hand-crafted surfboard from Greg Clough. He had so much knowledge and was a great guy and I felt stoked to be around an elder, someone who was nurturing the next generation," Jesse says.
"The boards were really magical and I felt confident because I knew I was in the mix of that kind of pedigree who were getting boards from him. Being part of such an iconic brand made me feel a part of something special."
(image: Jesse Faen, 1990)
Aloha as an iconic surf lifestyle brand draws inspiration from the simple beauty of the ocean, quintessential Australian values and cutting edge design. Aloha Surfboards honour those who came before them, who laid the foundation over 40 years ago, with their unadulterated ambition to create one of the world's premium surfboard brands.
The visionaries of the past have paved the way for a new generation that continues in the tradition of the old guard, leading the youth to the values of the brands beginnings. Today, Aloha houses a stable of world-class surfboard designers who are dedicated to the craft of building the best boards on the market.
"I grew up with Aloha being the epitome of high performance surfboards but to know it now and how it's grown and broadened all over the world is pretty special," Jesse says.
"It has a range which caters to new surfers through to longboard riders with retro designs, and yet there are still high performance surfers like James Wood and Shea Lopez designs in the mix. It's getting fresh blood and has broadened so much, especially with that name, the Aloha spirit, it embodies so much more than it even did for me as a kid, being only high performance surfboards back then, so that's really cool."
"Not many brands can boast the history of Aloha Surfboards, from world champions to people who have just loved Aloha surfboards for 40 years. To have that in the hands of so many designers over the years now and so many surfers is phenomenal. It's a multi-generational brand with parents who grew up riding the brand handing them down to their kids."
Jesse is aware of the brands enduring legacy, as he works to distribute them across the US as part of Australian surf company The Surfboard Agency.
"Working with the brand now is interesting, where I'm talking to surf shops and surfers on a completely different continent. I'm sharing the story of the brand, and all the people who have carried the legacy of the brand, which is really special. I have an 11 year old daughter and I can imagine within the next year or two she'll be riding an Aloha at some point as part of a natural progression, so it's pretty amazing to witness that continuation."
"Aloha is obviously synonymous with Hawaii and that good spirit of the islands, as well as the surfing heritage from Hawaii. It's such a welcoming word, it makes you feel like you want to be part of it.
It's super positive and it sums up the spirit of surfing."