Hawaiians invented the sport of surfing, and, let’s face it, we own it still and always will. Such is the perfection of our legacy and our peerless coral-shaped, long fetch waves. In olden days, those golden days of Waikiki, even before Kamehameha III erected his summer house at legendary Helemoa, the confluence of streams, every man, woman and child got license to pau hana when the surf was up. The kahunas at the–dig it–surfing heiau of Papa ‘ena ‘ena, up on the slopes of Diamond Head where La Pietra stands now, would raise a flag and commoners and alii alike would grab their boards and run to the sea.
This indispensable history of traditional Hawaiian surfing, collected by former lifeguard John R. K. Clark, unrolls from an ingenious source: the accounts of surfing written by native Hawaiians in the Hawaiian-language newspapers of the 1800s. From there, it moves down the line, providing a complete Hawaiian-English dictionary of surfing terms, references from the 19th century publications, and a special section of Waikiki place names iconic to surfing present and past.
All forms of waveriding are catalogued and elucidated: Hee Nalu (board riding), Pakaka Nalu (outrigger canoe surfing), Kaha Nalu (bodysurfing) and Pae Poo (bodyboarding). Then there’s the sexy sounding, octopus-inspired Hee One (sand sliding) and Hee Pue Wai (river surfing). There’s also a section on sensuous surf.
Next time you’re stuck in the lineup with some bonker kayakers and teeny bopper droppers who keep paddling in the periphery of your vision when you’ve got priority and you’ve just plain got it, already, try one of these traditional surfing chants and summon your aumakua–the shark, natch.
You’ll learn plenty from this wonderful book, including lists of traditional surf sites throughout our archipelago. Stoked? You will be, guaranteed. Check it out at the Historic Haleiwa Gymn, across from the post office, Friday Nov. 4 from 7-9 p.m. where author Clark will be giving a talk and signing this rad, bitchin’ book.