By Remi Petersen.
"I started riding Alaia’s about 4 years back when a friend from Italy brought his own one over here with him. It took me a while to pluck up the courage to actually paddle out on it, but once I did, the feeling I got riding it in that very first session was enough to get me hooked.
Most of my experience has been on an Alaia, but I have also had the honour of surfing Derek Hynd’s Personal Friction Free boards, Tom Wegner’s Albacore/Tuna from the Seaglass Project and more recently, another finless board (sorry for using that term Derek!) shaped by one of the local French shapers.
Currently I have 6 Alaia’s - of which 2 are snapped, 2 have been fixed, and 2 haven’t broken yet. I've been lucky enough to have a good relationship with some Italian surfers, which has allowed me to refine the shape of my boards and over time I have had the opportunity to ride Alaia’s from around the world in all types of conditions. From a Tom Wegener in 4-6 foot Bali, to the Hidden Wood boards in small French beach breaks. So although I might not be the oldest and most experienced Free Friction rider, I do know a bit about them.
Let’s get one thing straight, it’s hard - extremely hard - to ride them. For instance, with an Alaia, it starts with the paddling and it’s actually harder to paddle one of those boards then it is to swim around the ocean for a coupla hours! This is because the board has next to no flotation so you have to keep yourself balanced over the board while at the same time trying to paddle forwards.
Catching the wave is slightly easier, as long as you put yourself in the right position! As soon as you pick up a bit of speed the lack of any additional drag due to things such as fins, leashes or rockers, results in the board being lifted above the water and starting to glide.
I reckon it's essential to start out at a spot that is frontside for you, and with just enough power to let you get onto the wave. Even then, keep the pace slow or even directed towards the shore - as at first turning may seem impossible!
It is super fun to surf with because you are able to catch any kind of wave with it, you can’t get injured due to the fact that it is made from a boogers material, you are able to make better turns, and it is easier to handle than an Alaia. To me, it is ideal in all types of small wave conditions and is still fun when it comes to slightly larger waves.
On the other hand, Derek's FFFF* boards are definitely not as easy to get your hands on. Each one is hand shaped from scratch and a lot more technical details go into it. Where the SeaGlass project’s bottom deck is almost exactly like an Alaia's, the FFFF has had a bunch of experiments and test runs done on it in order to have these crazy asymmetrical channels and cut-ins built into it. These boards definitely favor clean conditions and are by far the best FreeFiction boards to ride in solid surf as they are the biggest (apart from an Olo, which I have yet to try) and have the best hold and most rocker of all the fin free boards.
(*Far Field Friction Free or just ffffffff - as that's the sound the boards make!)
My preferred Friction Free craft is my custom AlaiaReligion board (recently renamed OM or OfficinaMed), but I will always be open to try new boards that capture my interest, because I believe that the only way to learn is to try different things with an open mind. I try to take the good and the bad from each one to learn about this art-form I have the privilege of riding."
Shot to wave-slider extraordinaire Remi Petersen for giving us a bit of an insight about going Friction Free. Sounds like a blast!