Aloha Authentic: History of surfing

Aloha Authentic

HONOLULU (KHON2) — KHON2’s weekly “Aloha Authentic” segment highlights various roadways across the pae ʻāina so the meaning of their names can be uncovered.

It is time to bring attention to the shoreline to learn about the ocean.

In the ahupuaʻa of Waimānalo, which lies in the moku of Koʻolaupoko on Oʻahu, stands a street named after something made famous by Hawaiians.

That street is Nalu Street.

The Hawaiian word Nalu has a few meanings, with one being “wave,” or “surf,” as a noun.

But if you were speaking to the action of surfing, the phrase used is then “heʻe nalu,” which literally translates to “wave sliding.”

Surfing is a global sport, but it once had a lot of spiritual meaning in the islands. The activity was for everyone, despite some myths saying that surfing was only for Hawaiian royalty.

In old Hawaiʻi, a surfer would make their own wooden board while following cultural processes and protocol.

There were, however, certain surfboards and surf spots reserved for chiefs, and even rules that needed to be followed when they surfed.

For example, the Olo was a long but narrow board used by royalty. Its size showcased their mana, their power.

Commoners used other surfboards such as the Alaia, a smaller, thin yet heavy board usually made from koa wood.

The surfing of today stems back to a Kīkoʻo style board, which was the style commonly used by Duke Kahanamoku, the full-blooded Hawaiian credited for being the “Godfather of Modern-Day Surfing.”

Did you know? Now you do!

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