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Eric Arakawa holds one of his creations aloft in his workshop in Waialua.
Vol. 8, No. 4
August/September 2005

  >>   An Island At Sea
  >>   High Rollers
  >>   The Print Master

The Shapers 


by Jesse Katz
photos by Dana Edmunds

In koa groves on the slopes of Hualalai volcano, above the Kona coast, Tom Stone sees surfboards. He makes an offering of fish and fruit, asking the gods for permission to fell a tree and give it new life in the water.

In an abandoned Waialua sugar mill, on Oahu’s north shore, Eric Arakawa imagines the same contours—on the screen of his laptop computer. Opening his SurfCad version 2.33 software, he bends lines and tweaks angles with a click of the mouse, turning a million pixels into the latest model for his squad of touring pros.

In his Honolulu workshop, hidden behind a hospital supply wholesaler, Ben Aipa leans over a polyurethane slab, aligning a decades-old template on the rough, unfinished foam. He has operated this way for 41 years now—with thick, salt-hardened hands—milling, shaving, planing, sanding, the impression of his fingers worn into every tool like a glove.

On Maui, not far from the mountain of water known as Jaws, Jeff Timpone experiments with a more recent invention, the tow board, championed by some of the most daring athletes alive. He has never ridden such a colossal wave himself. Knowing the ocean, he can scarcely bear to watch his own customers take it on.