Ben Aipa didn’t start surfing until his early 20s, when an ankle injury sidelined the 5’8″, 240-lb. linebacker’s semi-pro football career. Shortly after taking up the sport, Aipa was competing at surfing’s highest levels: a finalist at the 1965 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Contest at Sunset Beach as well as finishing fourth at 1967 Makaha International and competing in the 1968 World Surfing Championships.

However, it was behind the scenes, as a surfboard shaper, that Aipa made his impact on the sport. He made the board that Fred Hemmings used to win the 1968 World Championship. Two years later, he founded Aipa Surfboards, and in 1972, Aipa invented the swallow tail, a double-edged notch at the end of the board, which enabled surfers to execute quick turns on the face of the wave. He also added a wing along the board’s rail ahead of the tail to increase the board’s speed. The design innovations helped revolutionize the sport.

Aipa is also credited with contributing to the modernization of the longboard, applying new materials to innovative designs. The resulting lightweight yet stable platform opened the sport to a wider population and enabled older surfers.

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