Ben Aipa, one of the most influential surfboard craftsmen in the history of the sport, passed away on January 15, 2021, after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease and effects of a subsequent stroke.
"I'll remember my dad as a father, surfer, shaper, designer, athlete, friend, mentor and a grandfather. Thank you for loving and mentoring so many generations of surfers in competition, and most importantly life. Your contributions to our sport and industry leaves a legacy with everyone you were able to share with, help and inspire," wrote his son Akila on Instagram.
Growing up in Hawaii, Aipa had a passion for football until an ankle injury fortuitously sidelined him and he picked up surfing in his early 20s. Athletically gifted, by 1965 he'd made the final of the Duke Kahanamoku Classic at Sunset Beach. He went on to compete in the World Championships in 1968 and 1970.
Aipa's contributions to the development of modern, high-performance boards cannot be understated. First picking up a planer in 1966, his comfort in the shaping bay was immediate. By '68 he'd shaped the board that Fred Hemmings rode to victory at World Championships in Puerto Rico.
Aipa Surfboards was officially established in 1970. Among his innovations are the development of the swallow tail and the "stinger" design, in which he sculpted a wing along the rail ahead of the tail. Aipa's designs were ridden by Larry Bertlemann, Michael Ho, Buttons Kaluhiokalani and Mark Liddell in competition, where Aipa also served as an informal coach/trainer for the surfers.
Along with running a successful surfboard business, he continued to be one of the most inspiring coaches over the years, working with the likes of Championship Tour stars Brad Gerlach, Sunny Garcia, Kalani Robb, Bruce and Andy Irons and Bethany Hamilton, among many others.
Today, his sons, Akila and Duke, have carried on the family tradition and continue to build beautiful surfboards under the Aipa name.