Last year David Rastovich called and said that he would like to make a proper dugout canoe. We looked at a lot of logs and agreed that we would do it soon but the time always was pushed back. In January a tremendous storm tore through the Sunshine Coast and the biggest paulownia tree that I have ever seen fell down in the nearby town of Pamona. The great Bill Wallace called me and told me that I should pick this tree up (When Bill calls you know it is important!). I looked at it and called David right away and said the time is now.
By a miraculous twist of fate, the log was delivered to my driveway the day before I took off to Waikiki Hawaii to promote Jack McCoy’s movie, “A Deeper Shade of Blue” as well as to work on an alaia article with the Bishop Museum. I was going to be in Hawaiian canoe heaven.
All went well in Hawaii and I met many incredible canoe experts and soaked up their information. I was on Waikiki beach talking to a group of the canoe paddlers when they said, “Hey, that is the canoe you want to check out right there!” Two veteran Moloki paddlers came in on a 22’ canoe, Tommy Waters and kalama Heine. They were enjoying a leisurely Saturday paddle and were coming up to Duke’s at the beach for a drink. I asked them if they would talk to me if I was buying rounds. It was game on! Tommy was enthusiastic but was being pursued by a beautiful French girl. Kalama has been paddling canoes since he was 5 and has built them as well. We talked through several rounds and then took off for a paddle.
I felt I understood Kalama’s thoughts. The principles of the canoe were similar to what I had found when I made all the 14 to 18’ finned hollow wood boards (I made 7 of them). You want the wave to push the tail of the canoe forward as it hits it so you want more volume in the back third. The front should be narrower with a V to cut through waves as you paddle out or go up wind.
That night my friend Michael Holmes (owner of Noosa Longboards) asked if I had seen the old wood canoe upstairs at Duke’s. I had not and late at night, hours before my flight, I was madly measuring and filming the exact canoe that the modern canoes were based off. With the wood I could see and feel what Kalama was talking about. Through the back third of the board there was a pear shape to the hull where the area was large but narrower above the water line. The nose narrowed and there was a distinct V through the front half of the canoe. There it was.
Now I am back at home and looking at the log and praising it as I speak. It has a bit of a cork screw twist so I have to be very careful about how to shape it, even though it is really big. I am going to approach it like I have done with the two Olos I have shaped as well as the long finned boards. You have to stay in control of every cut. There is a lot of measuring and lines to be drawn. The process is systematic. The hard part about shaping a lot of volume is knowing which is the last cut. Lots of shapers, occasionally myself, have pride in being spontaneous and cutting with reckless abandon, but this is not one of those cases. This is about measuring twice and cutting once. This is about discipline.
This is such a unique experience in Australia and for aspiring surfboard shapers that I would like to invite people to come and see it. I have to charge money though because I will spend a lot more time talking than shaping. If you would like to be a part of this please email me and we will work out a time.
I remember when my old apprentice Matt Williams first came to work with me. I was drawing up the templates and making the jigs for the 16 footers and I told him that I wish he really knew what he was looking at. He now owns his own surfboard factory and I suspect that some things sunk in.
To see more on Tommy Waters and Kalama Heine please see: http://vimeo.com/user11958439