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Greg Noll Surf Center surfboard shaped by Ben Aipa in 1969, serial #570. Featuring a transitional era shape, made in the period when surfboards were starting to be shaped shorter in length. The late Ben Aipa (1942-2021) and the late Greg Noll (1937-2021) will be remembered as two of the most influential and revered surfboard craftsmen in history. Full restoration performed by the legendary surfboard restoration expert, Randy Rarick. Use as a functional vintage surfboard or display as a historical surfboard art piece!
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History of Greg Noll & Ben Aipa Surfboards
Greg “Da Bull” Noll was born in San Diego, California on February 11th, 1937. He was given “Da Bull” as a nickname due to his steadfast and obstinate approach towards charging big waves. Noll was 11 years old when he first started surfing and from a young age was taught how to shape surfboards by none other than Dale Velzy. Noll eventually became a skilled shaper himself while continuously polishing his surfing skills. His remarkable abilities as a waterman earned him a spot with the LA county lifeguard. He especially excelled at paddling, a skill that led him to being selected for the U.S. Lifeguard team which competed in the 1956 Olympics, held in Melbourne, Australia.
In 1957, Noll made big wave surfing history as the first person ever to ever ride a wave at Waimea Bay, now an iconic big wave riding break on the North Shore of Oahu. In December of 1964, Greg Noll made history again riding a giant wave at third reef Pipeline. Noll was known for surfing in a pair of black and white striped boardshorts, his way of preventing others from taking credit for his rides.
Noll returned to California with well established notoriety. He then started a thriving surfboard manufacturing business in Hermosa Beach, California and partnered with iconic surfer, Miki Dora to produce the Miki Dora “Da Cat” model longboard. Sales took off immediately and reached a peak production of around 170 boards a week. Noll also produced surf films such as the “Search for Surf” series featuring waves ridden in Hawaii, California, and Mexico.
Greg ended his big wave riding career on a storm swell that hit Makaha in December of 1969, catching as big of a waves as one could paddle into. Fred Hemmings, a fellow big wave rider who was a witness to his ride at Makaha was quoted saying “If there was anyone else in Greg’s place, he wouldn’t have made it alive”. Decades later, one of Noll’s personal big wave balsa guns sold at auction for $40,000. His autobiography, published in 1989 was titled “Da Bull: Life Over the Edge”. Greg “Da Bull” Noll is one of the most recognized names in surfing history and will forever be remembered as a big wave riding pioneer and expert surfboard craftsman.
A legendary surfer and surfboard shaper, Ben Aipa, was born in 1942 in Honolulu, Hawaii. He has made an important mark in the world of surfing and has been through it all, from worthy competitor to top-tier board-builder to coach of Hawaii’s best surfers. His uncles toughened the son of a Kauai Sugar Plantation worker growing up as his dad left to be a marine. In his teenage years he moved to Oahu to help support his mother and siblings working in the pineapple fields, shining shoes in Honolulu and diving for coins thrown off of tourist liner boats at Aloha Tower. From middle school to high school, Ben Aipa was a fearless competitor in swimming, weightlifting, and football (subsequently growing into a semi-pro football player). Thanks to his height 5’8″and weight 240 lbs, at the time he held positions as linebacker, fullback and center. First, he planned on a career as a pro football player but switched his plans to surf in his early 20s because of an ankle injury. Ben started shaping the same year he started surfing- 1965. Ben surfed 365 days straight that year. He got an offer from his friend, Joe Kaula, who worked at Surfboards Makaha to help in shaping boards. He learned the basics quickly. One year after learning to surf, Ben paddled out with Eddie Aikau during the 1965 Duke Invitational to make a statement that Hawaiians should be invited to surf in the contests held in Hawaii. He also finished fourth in both the 1967 Makaha International and the 1975 Lightning Bolt Pro, and competed in the World Championships in 1968 and 1970.
His surfing and shaping career became noticeable quickly. Aipa Surfboards was founded in 1970, and Aipa soon came into his biggest influence as a designer, inventing the double-ended swallowtail in 1972. His famous model called the “Sting” was modeled after the hydrofoil boats that he had seen racing at Ala Moana. He always observed the life around him very carefully and repeatedly recalled that it was what inspired him. Ben shaped the first Sting and gave it to Larry Bertlemann, who later described his friends work in these words: “What he was doing was futuristic. Watching him, I said to myself, “He’s stinging the wave!” That’s how I developed the name for the design.” And that’s how the Sting was born. Ben invented the doubled-edged swallowtail design in 1972 and followed this with the split-tail design in 1974. Word traveled fast about the new design, especially after it appeared on the cover surfer magazine. Australian surfer and soon to be a four-time world champion Mark Richards noticed Ben’s work, and he also began riding Aipa’s Sting. Ben shaped a series of Stings for Mark Richards, who eventually asked Ben to move the wing further down the board closer to the tail. This is the start of what would become the winged twins. Mark Richards shaped his own boards, and we can notice strong influence of Ben Aipa’s technique. What’s interesting, Ben’s surfboard design allowed his surfers to radically change surfing and also impacted the future of skateboarding.
As an almost-star in football, Ben Aipa took his knowledge of football strategy and applied it to surf coaching. He individually coached some of the best surfers in the world, such as Sunny Garcia, Bethany Hamilton, Brad Gerlach, Taylor Knox, and many others. As a testimony to Ben Aipa’s impact on surfing, in 2004, Bethany Hamilton accepting her title at the awards banquet to a 500-person standing ovation, thanked her coach, “Ben Aipa and God”. Ben Aipa went on to enter and compete in different surfing contests: He won the grandmasters division of the 1989 United States Surfing Championship and the legends division of the 2000 U.S. Championships. Enlisted into the Surfing Hall of Fame in 1992, Ben was chosen as one of the Top Ten Shapers of All-Time by Surfing magazine in 2004. Ben’s effect and influence will be known by generations of surfers, shapers and coaches to come. Honored and inducted into both the Surfing Hall of Fame and Surfing Walk of Fame in 2018. Ben said, “I wonder what is next?”
“I was never watching what other board builders were doing…I was watching the surfers and the natural world around me. Their movements showed me what was missing… I was always looking for the next wave…The Next Move.”