AHI is the Hawaiian word for both lightning and Tuna. The Hawaiians were struck by the resemblance of the yellow finned fish to lightning as it flashed beneath their outriggers.
AHI board was designed between 1984 and 1986 at the Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara. Design and utility patents were issued in 1990. At that time, my involvement in Microsurgery took my life in a different direction. Other body boards were manufactured with hand knives and die process. They are cut from 2" thick flat sheets of Polyethylene foam. This accounts for their simple, flat shapes. AHI boards are molded from expanded Polypropylene foam which permits complex hydrodynamic contours.
AHI Board was designed before the method for molding it was possible. Kanagifuchi LTD. of Japan patented the polyproline foam technology for the automobile car bumper cores in 1987. Previously, bumpers used hydraulic shock absorbers to meet low speed impact requirements set by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Polypropylene foam behind bumper facia is a perfect shock absorber. It has 100% memory on impact with no known solvent. It is the world's lightest, strongest and newest plastic. A solid block will float in water. Polyethylene foam by contrast is 5 times as heavy and sucks water like a sponge. These features make AHI Board extremely light and safe with enough flotation to support a 300lb adult.
AHI was designed using ancient ship building techniques. Willow battens create its outline, every point of which forms a true curve. Danish ship's curves from a defunct Naval Architectural supply house were scanned and enlarged to match size of the AHI Board. These were used to establish the Venturi and inner-haul shape.
The heritage of AHI's design literally goes back to the Viking's. Dozen's of shapes were evaluated and refined on the waves of the Hollister Ranch until the ideal shape was found. Two different models were created. The first had fins on the outer rails. These boards were extremely fast. I literally passed surfers riding this model AHI! However, it's turning characteristics were difficult to master for beginners.
Our production model was not significantly slower but it was much easier to turn. It was designed for all sizes of waves from knee high to 20ft. I have surfed AHI board on 15ft waves at Drakes Point. I feel much more comfortable on AHI Board in Big surf tan my hard fiberglass surfboard. As wave size increases, AHI is easier to control. Approximately 1,100 AHI Boards were manufactured for test marketing, about 100 remain. Unfortunately, the molds were lost and no more will be made. I don't lament that AHI never became a commercial success. I consider it to be one of the great creative efforts of my life. It is unique in that its entire purpose and motivation is pure fun. To this day, when I look at AHI Board it makes me smile. On an inner level, it connects to the child in many people in that same way.
- Dennis A. Shanelec
The resurrection of the AHI came about when Matt Van Dyk aka "MVD" stumbled upon an original Ahi board. There was no logo or anything that could identify the make or model of this mysterious board. The board was simply a white foam board with a unique shape that blew him away. He showed his long time friend and surf partner Aaron Foster aka "Johnny" who was equally blown away by the design (legend has it there was an over excited chest bump to celebrate). Matt's first question was "why aren't these things on the market"?
Matt decided to dig down and do some research about this one of a kind board. To make a long story short, he found out that Dennis A. Shanelec, a Santa Barbara resident was the creative genius behind the boards. This was great news since both Matt and Aaron also live in Santa Barbara. Understanding the coincidence Matt quickly contacted Dennis.
Dennis was more than willing to speak with Matt about the entire process, history, design, and methodology behind the boards with great enthusiasm. Dennis mentioned that he was still holding onto the dream that he would once again try to get the AHI board back into the market. Unfortunately, Dennis passed away before he was able to recreate this magical board.
Matt and Aaron tried to figure out a way to recreate the AHI for over a year without success. They spend hours trying to hand shape prototypes from blocks of foam and testing them out on large, cold, blown out, and unforgiving surf at Jalama Beach. After multiple attempts and constant failure they eventually decided to put the process on hold.
Five years later and with the help of technological advancements they were able to get all the information needed to produce an exact replica prototype. Doors began to open and the entire process seemed to line up without any of the road blocks they experience when they first started their journey.
With the help and blessing of Suzanne Shanelec (Dennis Shanelec's wife) they have been able fulfill the dream of a passionate surfer, ocean lover, and overall great man.
"To this day, when I look at AHI Board it makes me smile. On an inner level, it connects to the child in many people in that same way". - Dennis A. Shanelec
Dennis A. Shanelec
Matt Van Dyk and Aaron "Johnny" Foster