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Hawaii Surfing

Hawaii surfing: Oahu wave

Hawaii is known not only as the best surfing destination, but aso as the place, where surfing appeared. No one can say for sure when it began, but there is no doubt that long before the 15th century this sport was absolutely perfected by people of the Sandwich Isles.

He'enalu (that means "wave-sliding" in Hawaiian) was popular both among men and women. Surfing achieved a special status and respectability in ancient Hawaii. Renowned surfers were celebrated in song and dance and often enjoyed special privileges in royal circles.

Aristocracy and chiefly class had their own prayers, board shapers and beaches where they alone could surf with others of similar rank. No one dared to drop in on their wave, not a chance, because that meant death, or at least a near death experience.

Hawaii surfing: old surf rider

Hawaiian surfboards

Hawaiians used for surfing three types of surf boards: the olo, the kiko'o, and the alaia. Today you can see these boards in the Bishop Museum, Honolulu.

The olo is thick in the middle and grows thinner toward the edges. It is a good board for a wave that swells and rushes shoreward but not for a wave that rises up high and curls over.

The kiko'o reaches a length of 12 to 18 feet and is good for a surf that breaks roughly. This board is good for surfing, but is hard to handle.

The alaia board, which is 9 feet long, is thin and wide in front, tapering toward the back. Because it tends to go downward and cut through a wave it does not rise up with the wave as it begins to curl over.

Making of a surfboard required the experienced craftsmanship of professional native "shapers". Only three types of tree were used to make the ancient surfboard; the wiliwili, the ulu (or breadfruit), and the koa. The construction and shaping of a surfboard was treated with great respect and followed ancient ritual.

Surf prayers

Hawaiians attached great mystique to the ocean and her moods. And if conditions were not good for surfing and distant storms didn't generate suitable waves, surfers would invite a kahuna, or priest, and literally pray for surf.