Surfers in Hawaii- the birthplace of surfing, agree that there is something irreplaceable about standing on top of a wave. To them, the sport represents freedom and nature’s beauty. However, if you were to ask five different people what makes Hawaiian surfing so special you would most likely receive five different answers—the best answer would be that there is no way to describe it. Many say that the unique and powerful break of the waves near Waikiki Beach sets this region apart from other surfing spots. Others argue that family and culture represent key elements of Hawaiian surfing more than any particular wave or style. Yet, everyone agrees that Hawaii surfing is more spiritual than sport.
The History of Surfing in Hawai’i:
“Surfing was already part of the culture of some of these peoples, but it was Hawaiians who really took surfing to heart and made it part of their everyday lives. By the time Captain Cook arrived in 1778, Hawaiians were riding waves with grace and skill.”
“They would lay on their boards flat like a plank, paddling with their hands on both sides. The boards had no fins, so they were hard to steer. Hawaiians stayed on their boards all day, catching wave after wave. They never took off their woven coconut-fiber skirts while they were riding because it was considered disrespectful.”
Today you won’t see people surfing in the traditional style; instead, modern surfboards, wetsuits, and leashes have replaced the old. This sport has been perpetuated through generations by Hawaiians who developed a unique way of life that is unlike any other culture in the world. In fact, most surfers say that this sport has made them more spiritual than ever before.
Surfing in Hawaii is more than a recreational activity. A group of surfers called “The Out Crowd” are out to point that out. Unconventional in its own way, this subculture is breaking new ground within the surfing community. They are getting away from mainstream thinking by taking up non-nocturnal practices and engaging more with the arts, including music, writing, filmmaking, and painting.
“We don’t want to get caught up in the competition of surfing,” explains Kala Alexander, one of the founders of The Out Crowd. “We have a very strong focus on family and friends, and we prefer to spend our time outside—not in a bar or club.”
It is certainly true that surfing has always been part of Hawaiian culture. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s that surfing became a sport rather than an activity practiced by Hawaiians for fun. It all started when Duke Kahanamoku—Olympic gold medalist and the father of modern surfing—introduced this sport to California’s coast thus becoming known as The Beach Boys’ godfather. At that time, surfers in California attached swim fins to the bottom of their boards to help them stay afloat.
Surfing in Hawaii is a spiritual and cultural experience with deep roots in the Aloha Spirit. “Aloha,” in fact, means both “hello” and “good-bye” in the Hawaiian language. To many Hawaiians, it also means love, peace, and compassion; all values that are embraced by the surfing lifestyle.
If this sport has developed and survived for so long, it is because it represents much more than a sport to Hawaiians. Surfing in Hawaii is part of the way of life of native people, who have always believed that nature must be respected and revered as sacred.