Paige Alms, 2017 Pe'ahi Challenge. Photo: WSL / Saguibo
Paige Alms, 2017 Pe'ahi Challenge. Photo: WSL / Saguibo

What She Rode: Paige Alms and The SOS Sushi

We talk with Alms and shaper Sean Ordonez about their Jaws-winning gun

Last week, we asked Pe’ahi Challenge winner Ian Walsh and shaper Chris Christenson about the nuances behind the pair’s 10’4″ swallowtail, which helped steer Ian through one of the largest big-wave barrels ever caught on camera. But Ian’s win was only half the story at Jaws. The other was Paige Alms’ decisive repeat victory at Pe’ahi for the women’s event. The Haiku native’s backyard mastery of the break was clear, and her equipment this year featured a shorter SOS-Shapes gun that she nimbly maneuvered through the west bowl and into the channel. We reached out to Alms to learn more about the design that helped her win back-to-back Jaws titles.

What were you riding at Jaws?

I was riding a brand new 9'11" that was a slightly shrunken-down version of the 10'4" that I rode last year in the contest. It's just a magic board that I've had for four years now. I've been wanting to go a little bit shorter. The first two waves I rode it this winter were in the contest and during one earlier session at Jaws. It's a quad setup. I pretty much only ride quads on my guns. No need to slow them down.

Something that's pretty unique about Sean's [Sean Ordonez, SOS shaper] boards is that a lot of them have a double concave deck, which allows the rails to be more pinched and pulled down, but it still carries a lot of volume through the board. It makes it feel like you're paddling in your board, rather than on top of it. Same for when you're maneuvering the board – the design makes it easier to put on rail.

How long have you been riding this particular shape?

This design I've been riding since we started paddling out at Jaws, but this board in particular is a brand-new fresh one.

Has the board been a group effort?

It's Sean's design, for sure. I just give my input on what I'm feeling, what I want to work on, and what I want to change. The board is five inches shorter than my other gun, but it still paddles and feels similar to the 10'4". Our guns have a little less nose entry and more tail kick – the opposite of what everyone else is doing with their guns. Judging how it paddled and surfed in 3-4-foot waves, I knew for sure it was going to work well, and I knew I wanted to ride something slightly smaller so it could fit in the pocket better.

If winter conditions shape up, will this one be your go-to?

For sure. This is definitely my go-to at the moment. I have a few boards from the past couple of winters that are slightly smaller for sitting on the west bowl when it's really clean. I have another board for if it gets really big, but that 9'11" is pretty much going to be my go-to this winter, as long as Mother Nature provides us some surf.

Photo: Leboe

We then reached out to Sean Ordonez, lead SOS shaper, for more information on the design.

What shape was Paige riding during the contest? Do you have a name for it?

I have two styles of designs that I do for Jaws. I call one design ‘The Sprocket,’ which I use for surfers who sit on the inside northwest bowl for an airdrop or an early takeoff. I do that design for a number of people, like Paige, Albee [Layer], and Kai [Lenny].

‘The Sushi,’ which Paige rode, is a bit of a hybrid. It's for the peak that's in-between the west bowl and the outside north peak, so she can fit it into the pocket with that little hook and bend in the wave when it gets in the 15-20-ft range. What she rode was basically a hybrid Sushi-Strocket with both design vectors. It was made for the line she's looking for, basically.

Are there any unique design characteristics to the board that help in those kinds of conditions?

There's a little bit of everything, and it would take another article to talk about all the details, but it's basically been a progression over the years of The Sushi for the outside peak approach and for big open face turns. It's a forward V concept, you could say. It contains all that energy that the board touches on that low entry nose.

It's a hard one for me to describe properly. It's a bit of a longboard noserider, gun, windsurfing, towboard mix. It's a bit of everything. Overall, it's a board that I've designed for her to give her more comfort, and not have too much board. We shrunk down the 10'4" into a 9'11", which is a nice new size and a little bigger than her 9'4", which was made for that west bowl. It's not too narrow, with a really nice tail channel that helps give a little better steering and rail-to-rail control. And it's strictly a quad. With that channel, it actually acts like a six-set.

There's a lot of stuff happening with the board, but her guts and drive to win was what did it. It's her confidence on the board that matters. Paige is very particular about her boards. She's been one of my strongest critics, in a good way. We've fine-tuned that board a lot from the early stages. Paige has really pushed me to fine-tune a gun made for someone who likes to finesse-surf rather than attack the wave.