Very nice surf last week thanks to Typhoons 15 and 16. Friday at Kako was perfect, a little over head high and really clean… Kako closed out Saturday so I headed over the Gyokyo for another great session. On Sunday and Monday it was breaking in Funka Bay…all in all, it feels like the typhoon season arrived a month early, which is great as August is usually pretty small. After the nice stretch of waves, the winds shifted onshore, and it’s been pretty junky since...
This year I pulled back on my board building activities mainly due to a lack of space, and quite frankly, a lack of need. I ride about 6 boards somewhat regularly, of which three are my own builds. On top of that, I have a few more boards that are gathering dust, so I really can’t justify making any more at the moment.
But, as I really dig the process of taking on new projects, I’ve decided to try to replicate some traditional surfcraft and see how they turn out. Even if they don’t turn out to be rideable boards, I thought they would be a tangible way to explore surfing history.
The first thing I wanted to make was an “itago” (板子), a traditional Japanese surfcraft similar to a paipo board. These types of boards were used for wave riding in Japan from about 150 years ago up until the 1960s.
Originally, itago were “found” surfcraft; with kids using the removable floor boards from fishing boats to ride waves. Later itago were purpose-built, and adorned with advertisements for products or departments stores, and available for rent at popular public beaches throughout Japan. An excellent history of the itago, including numerous board examples and historical pictures, is available at Nobbywood Surfboards:
The itago I made is a replica of one of the boards in Nobby’s archives/collection, an example of a rental board used in Kanagawa in the late 1960s.
About 20 years ago after a surf session in Toyoura an old fisherman came up to me for a chat, and he told me that he used to surf in Rebunge as a kid on "boards". I hadn't given that conversation much thought until I started reading more about the history of the itago. It now makes me wonder how far back surfing culture goes in Hokkaido.
Old school Japanese itago surfing
Japanese girls with an itago