BY ELPIDIO R, ESTIOKO
Hawaii’s exploration and enjoyment of its natural resources continues, as we come to a close to our 10-day vacation. In fact, Hawaii’s beautiful beaches we went through last week are only the beginning, I found out. From enjoying the gentle waves of Waikiki Beach to playing with family and close friends under water, there’s never a dull moment in the Hawaiian Islands. My daughter Tweety and husband Jonathan, kept on encouraging us to surf the waves and snorkel in the deep recesses of the sea.
Yesterday, while the children went for an hour hike to the lighthouse and the shoreline, we went to an area of the beach where surfing is being conducted. I was told, surfing originated in Hawaii because of its huge waves as captured by its TV program Hawaii Five-O. I was reminded of my visit to Bondi Beach in Australia, three years ago, referred to as the surfing capital of the world, which taught me to love the ruggedness and gentleness of the sea. Here in Hawaii, you don’t need to be a member of an outdoor organization, just like the Philippine Nomads, to appreciate and commune with nature because all the locals are a community of nature lovers themselves… by nature.
History validates that surfing was born in Hawaii which is deeply rooted and intertwined with its history and culture. There’s no doubt, if one dreams of riding the waves, there’s no better place to learn how to surf and truly commune with the ocean, than in Hawaii. I’ve always wanted to learn about the origins of surfing in Hawaii and find out where I can watch the pros or take a surfing lesson during our visit. I had the opportunity this time, although briefly, during our 10-day visit.
The earliest written account of surfing, or hee nalu in Hawaiian, I was told, 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 on the island of Hawaii. King saw the fun the sport brought, so he wrote, “… they seem to feel a great pleasure in the motion that this exercise gives.”
Surfing is believed to have originated long ago in ancient Polynesia, but later thrived and popularized in Hawaii. Also, the locals whom we’ve met told us that it was once a sport only reserved for alii (Hawaiian royalty), which is why surfing is often called the “sport of kings.” They explained that King Kamehameha himself was known for his surfing ability.
But… with the end of the Hawaiian kapu (taboo) system in 1819, commoners or ordinary villagers who don’t belong to the royalty, were allowed to freely participate in the sport as the hula dance also became popular. However, when western missionaries arrived in the 1800s, they discouraged Hawaiian customs like dancing the hula and surfing.
Temporarily, that was set back for the natives of Hawaii because in the late 1800s, the “Merrie Monarch” King Kalakaua, one of the last reigning monarchs of the Hawaiian Kingdom, revived the hula, signaling the return of Hawaiian cultural pride. Then in the early 1900s, surfing was revived and was revitalized on Waikiki Beach. During this era, Duke Kahanamoku, who grew up surfing the south shore waves, was a Waikiki Beach Boy who taught visitors how to surf and canoe. Duke later won multiple Olympic gold medals for swimming, and eventually became known as the “father of modern surfing.” Today, a bronze statue of Duke welcomes visitors to Waikiki, where first-time surfers are still catching their first waves. The statue reminds everyone of the history of surfing in the country.
Surfing is rampant during the big wave season in Hawaii roughly between November and February on Hawaii’s north shores. On every island, one can watch surfers, but some of the best surfing competitions in the world are held on Oahu’s North Shore in November and December, which includes the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. If you’re planning to watch the surfing professionals in action during these events, be sure to get to the North Shore early because traffic can be heavy and messy.
During the winter, the islands’ north shores generate big swells, while in the summer, the south shores enjoy a bump in size. Oahu’s North Shore is a legendary surf spot featuring viewer-friendly beaches at Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach and the Banzai Pipeline.
Almost every island offers surfing lessons where one can learn the basics of the sport. Lessons run from one to two hours and are taught by experienced surfers in gentle breaks. Longboards are used to make it even easier for first-timers to learn, and a push from your instructor will help you get started. Waikiki Beach is still one of the best spots in Hawaii to get on your feet and ride your first wave, I was told.
A substitute for an honest-to-goodness sea surfing, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is becoming very popular in Hawaii. It is a variation of surfing where riders stand upright on wider, longer boards and use a paddle to maneuver. This is great for a core muscle workout because SUP is often used more for fitness rather than for riding waves. Locals highly recommend SUP for one’s safety and for the safety of fellow beachgoers and surfers.
As we move on nearing our 10-day vacation, we visited more beach resort areas/parks and continue feeling and enjoying the healthy environment of the sea and the fresh air supplied by the mountains spanning the islands. We maximized the opportunity Hawaii has offered to us. The children enjoyed Turtle Beach, explored Mermaid Caves and most of all Waimea Bay for cliff jumping.
My fraternity brother from the University of the Philippines in Diliman who retired from the University of Hawaii treated us for a Hawaiian lunch at the Highway Inn in Honolulu. He is the incoming president of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association in Hawaii.
After all we went through, it made us more healthy and stronger. We flexed our muscles and we strengthened our bonding with one another, as a family, as a community of nature lovers.
Indeed, exploring Hawaii’s natural resources is healthy!
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