Oahu Hawaii, The Birthplace Of Surfing, Still Shreds

by Terry Reim - Date: 2007-07-09 - Word Count: 734 Share This!

Hawaii, especially the island of Oahu, has long been considered the birthplace of surfing. The first written description of he'e nalu - the Hawaiian term for surfing - is described in a journal entry of Captain James King in March 1779, three months after the death of Captain James Cook, credited with first discovering the Hawaiian Islands in 1778:

"Twenty or thirty of the natives, taking each a long narrow board, rounded at the ends, set out together from the shore. Their first object is to place themselves on the summit of the largest surge, by which they are driven along with amazing rapidity toward the shore."

The Ancient Hawaiian Tradition of Surfing

Surfing permeated every aspect of Hawaiian society, including social structure, myth and religion. Native Hawaiians surfed on long, hardwood boards lying down, sitting or standing. Hawaiians left older, more picturesque evidence of their sport in the form of petroglyphs of surfers carved into the lava rock, and chants that tell the stories of great surfing feats, some dating to 1500.
As an integral part of traditional Hawaiian culture, surfing was included in the code of kapu (taboos) that regulated all social interaction in prehistoric Hawaii. The Kapu system maintained a society that was stratified into royal and common classes. These taboos extended into the surf zone, specifying beaches and reefs where the ali'i (chiefs) surfed, and those where the maka ai nana (commoners) were allowed.

The Death of Surfing

After the arrival of Christian missionaries in the 1820s, who imposed a work and puritanical ethic surfing, along with hula and other "play" activities faded from Hawaiian culture. With the help of converted Hawaiian Queen Ka'ahumanu (Kamehameha the Great's favorite wife), the ancient kapu system was overturned and the beaches and waves were freed to all - but there was no one left to surf them for over 150 years.

The Rebirth of Surfing

At the turn of the 20th century, surfing underwent a renaissance, thanks to 3 men - none of who was Hawaiian. Surfer George Freeth began amazing visitors with his surfing stunts on the waves of Oahu's Waikiki Beach. About the same time, the writings of author Jack London exposed the sport to an international audience. Alexander Hume Ford helped establish the Outrigger Canoe Club on Waikiki, the first modern club dedicated to the perpetuation of wave riding. Freeth was also brought surfing to California, when he surfed in an exhibition at Redondo Beach in 1907.

Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, a Waikiki beach boy and Olympic swimming champion, was already famous as a surfer and world-record holder in the 100-meter freestyle, when he helped found the Hui Nalu Club in Waikiki. Duke took the sport of surfing to Australia when he was invited to surf in Sydney in 1912.

1960s, especially in the U.S - new materials, new technologies and new board design created a renewed swell of interest in the ancient Hawaiian sport and surfing began to move into popular culture in the U.S. establishing its own genre of music culminating in The Beach Boys, and various popular movies including Gidget and Endless Summer. It has become a multi-billion dollar worldwide industry that includes equipment, accessories, surf wear, surfing, books magazines, films, music and adventure vacations.

Oahu's Big Wave Competition

The Quiksilver, Big Wave Invitational In Memory of Eddie Aikau, takes place each winter at Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu. Created in 1985 to honor legendary Hawaiian waterman Eddie Aikau, this event gathers 24 of the most accomplished paddle-in big wave riders from around the world. "The Eddie," as it is also known, spans up to 3 months - waiting for ideal, 30-foot plus waves. The competition itself occurs on a single day when conditions are just perfect.

Edward Ryan Aikau was a Hawaiian surfer and lifeguard, whose strength, knowledge, skill and courage have become legendary. In 1978, Eddie was lost at sea when he set off alone on his surfboard to help save fellow crewmembers aboard the foundering ship Hokule'a on her maiden, solo voyage to Tahiti. Since then, "Eddie Would Go," has become a common saying throughout the Hawaiian Islands...

Oahu is Still King of Surfing

With year-round water temperatures from 70 to 80 degrees F, more than 1700 mapped surf sites, and some of the world's best waves - from gentle Waikiki rollers to the massive 40-foot body crushers of Maui's Jaws and Oahu's Northshore - Hawaii, and most especially Oahu, remains one of the best places on earth to surf, year round.

Related Tags: golf courses, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, helicopter tours, oahu activities, oahu tours, hawaii activities, luau shows, whale watching


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