Water (or wai) has always played an integral role in Hawaiian culture and lifestyle. Historically, wai was believed to be sacred and the earthly manifestation of the great spirit of Kane, the most highly revered of the four ancient Hawaiian gods.
Ancient Hawaiians believed that water, along with land, belonged only to the gods and therefore could not be owned – not even by the highest ranking. Water was upheld as an essential source of life and key contributor to the prosperity of the Hawaiian people.
Today, the culture and lifestyle of Hawaiian’s still centres around water – recreationally and spiritually to name just a few.
During the ambassador trip, we tried our hand at SUP (stand-up paddleboarding), traditional canoe and surfing. I mean, who could resist riding the waves with Diamond Head as a backdrop?!
But it got me thinking… what is surfing, why is it so popular and did ‘big wave surfing’ really originate in Hawaii?
What is surfing?
The earliest written account of surfing (or “hee nalu”), was by Lieutenant James King in 1779 just months after Captain Cook’s death. He described Native Hawaiians riding a wood plank on the swells of Kealakekua Bay: “… they seem to feel a great pleasure in the motion that this exercise gives.”
It’s believed that surfing originated in ancient Polynesia before later thriving in Hawaii. It was once a sport reserved for Hawaiian Royalty (“alli”) which is why surfing is often called the “sport of kings.”
In the early 1900’s, surfing was revitalized on Waikiki Beach. Duke Kahanamoku, who grew up surfing these south shore waves, was a Waikiki Beach Boy, spreading aloha by teaching visitors how to surf and canoe.
Duke later became a multiple gold-medal winner at the Olympics as a swimmer; and became known as the “father of modern surfing,” spreading the popularity of the sport to mainland U.S. and Australia.
Today, a bronze statue of Duke welcomes visitors to Waikiki where first-time surfers are still learning to catch their first waves today.
Did big wave surfing begin in Hawaii?
Hawaii is the birthplace of big wave surfing. Big wave season in Hawaii happens roughly between November and February on Hawaii’s north shores. And some of the best surfing competitions in the world are held on Oahu’s North Shore in November and December including the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (the Super Bowl of surfing).
Where can I take a surfing lesson?
You can take surfing lessons on almost every island, and Waikiki Beach has no shortage of instructors. Lessons run between 1-2 hours and are taught by experienced surfers in gentle breaks. Longboards are used to make it even easier for first-timers and a push from your instructor will help you get started.
You need to get yourself to Global – Waikiki Beach is still one of the best spots in Hawaii to get on your feet and ride your first wave!
Surfing not for you? Try your hand at SUP!
Stand-up paddle boarding is a variation on surfing that is becoming very popular in the islands (and worldwide). SUP riders stand upright on wider, longer boards and use a paddle to maneuver. It’s great for a core muscle workout, and is often used for fitness rather than for riding waves!
About the Author
Becca is an avid traveller, a trained copywriter and one of Australia’s leading video marketers. As a creative content producer she’s pumped to be engaging, entertaining and intriguing the FCTG nations with written and visual communications in the run up to Global.