pods for primates : a catalogue of surfboards in australia since 1900
home catalogue history references appendix

Return to History Menu surfresearch.com.au 
ancient hawaiian surfboards: 1940 
ancient surfboard design and construction
part 6: 1930-1940

6. REPORTS OF HAWAIIAN SURFBOARDS 1930 TO 1940.
6.1 Thomas Edward Blake published The Hawaiian Surfboard in1935. (1)
The seminal work in surfriding literature, Blake's work has been extensively quoted by many subsequent surfing historians and journalists. (2)
Of these, the work of Ben Finney (1959,1960,1966, 1996) has significantly added to Blake's analysis. (3)
Blake revised some his original work on ancient surfboards in his 1961 publication, Hawaiian Surfriding - The Ancient and Royal Pastime. (4)
 

Tom  Blake (1902-1982?) probably compiled some of his academic research for the book at the Bishop Museum, Honolulu following his restoring the museum's two large olo boards, circa 1925. (5)
His historical account of the constuction and use of ancient Hawaiian surfboards identifies and extensively quotes from several of the sources discussed above.
Despite access to the exensive resources of the Bishop, some of the earliest material, for example the accounts by Cook's crew (see part 2), probably was not available.

Unlike previous commentators (6), Tom Blake's analysis was assisted by an wealth of practical surfriding experience (7), evident in Blake building and riding a reproduction of an ancient design. (8)
An adult 'convert' to surfriding (9), Blake enthusiastically promoted the activity in the press (10), print (11) and importantly, water photography. (12)
His enthusiasm was further fuelled, but not dominated by, a commericial interest apart from the financial benefits of of publication (13), principally the sale of his surfboard designs.14
In some repects, this enthusiasm may have led Blake to over-state or embellish his work.
Surfriding was a royal  ancient Hawaiian sport, however it was not the only one (15) and it was not the exclusive preserve of the nobility as in some european contexts. (16)

Tom Blake attended High School but did not attend colledge to complete his education.(17)
It is likely that Blake had copies or access to a significant number of surfriding articles published in Hawaiian newspapers, several of which he wrote himself. (18)
These may contain some of the original sources later included in The Hawaiian Surfboard, along with selections from Blake's articles. (19)
It is also possible that Bishop Museum staff were able to direct Blake in locating suitable sources.
In his account of restoring Paki's boards, Tom Blake writes of consultations with "Mr. Bryan, curator of the museum' (20)
While Tom Blake did not read Hawaiian, no doubt some Bishop Museum staff were available to translate any early documents written in the native language, post 1800. (21)

Blake initially approached the National Geographic Magazine in 1930 with a x,000 word article and a selection of surfriding photographs.
While the editor was interested in the images, the article was rejected and a 2,000 word alternative requested. (22)
In 1930 Tom Blake published the first of two magazine articles (23), probably culled from his original draft intended for the National Geographic. (24)
Both the articles would later be incorporated into The Hawaiian Surfboard. (25)

Apparently the second article forwarded to the National Geographic was not acceptable either, although a selection of the photographs, with Blake's explanatory captions, was eventually printed in May 1935. (26)
The editor was able to link Blake's photographs with another article on American aviatrix  Emelia Earhart's  stop-over in Hawaii on her attempt at crossing the Pacific.
The surfriding images included one with Earhart riding in a canoe.(27)
While some of the published images dated back to before 1930, this was certainly a comtemporary photograph.

6.2 The first chapter is a compliation and analysis of ancient Hawaiian legends with a surfriding theme, although there are numerous digressions on associated topics.
If this style was carried over from the article prepared for the National Geographic, it might be one of the reasons for that document's rejection.
On page 18, Blake identifies two ancient surfboard designs by quoting Fornander (5.9). (22)
Blake notes that the two designs, apart from the variation in structural features, are intended for different surfriding conditions.

"This passage (Fornander) shows the different boards best suited to different kinds of waves." (23)

He developes this basic report into detailed descriptions, apparently collated from various sources.

"The alaia as the thin board was called, ranged from a few feet, a child's size, to about twelve feet long for adults.
The larger one being about one and one half inches thick through the center, levelling off on both top and bottom to about one-quarter inch at the edges.
<...>
The comparatively small size of the alaia board made it easy to handle in such waves.
It was made of the hardwood of the koa and breadfruit tree.

The Olo, indicating the longer boards, was of wili wili wood, a porus light wood like balsa, in fact, wili wili is Hawaiian balsa, just as koa is Hawaiian mahogany, of which there are sixty-seven different kinds in the world." (24)

Blake's rigorous distinction between the timbers suitable for each design may be contradicted by Ellis' (3.5) report of 1825:
"a board ...generally five or six feet long ... usually made of the wood of the erythrina (willi willi)" (25)

 He argues strongly, for boards of considerable length, that structual limitations of willi willi timber were a major factor in adopting the thick design.

"An alaia designed board of wili wilIi would not be strong enough, therefore, the Olo type was about six inches thick maximum, down the center of the board, and made of convex top and bottom so the edges beveled off to about one-half inch all around." (26)

The two olo examples held by the Bishop museum are examined and Blake appears to concede that as they are made of koa, there is apparently confict with the analysis above.

"The Hawaiian chief, Pakai, was a famous surf rider around the 1830 period.
His two great surfboards are now in the Bishop Museum.
Although these two boards are of Olo design, long and thick, and of heavy koa wood, I feel that koa was second choice for the making of this long board.
Wili wilIi being generally used.' (21)

Olo boards were made of willi willi, unless they were made of something else. (22)
To confuse the issue further, Blake subsequently claims exclusive royal use for the willi willi olo board.

I also believe that while the wili wili board of Olo design was reserved for the use of the chiefs, the koa board of Olo design was not restricted to the alii (chiefs), but was for general use because of the scarcity of wili wili wood and plentiful occurrence of koa." (23)

The koa wood olo boards require Blake to substantially modify Thrum*'s emphatic1896 report (see 5.2)

"It is well known that the olo was only for the use of the chiefs" (24)

A detailed discussion of the olo board's riding charareterics are discussed later in Blake's book (and in this paper).

"How the Olo long board was especially adaptable to the swells or unbreaking wave, will be clearly brought out in a later discussion on modern surfing." (25)

In contrast to Blake's somewhat unsatisfying account of the olo board, the reported response from Duke Kahanamoku is probably closer to the mark.

"Duke Kahanamoku's answer to the reason for the old wili wilIi boards being reserved for the chiefs is that it was a very scarce and valuable wood.
Therefore, the chiefs had wili wili boards for the same reason that a man has a Rolls-Royce automobile today, that he is wealthy and can afford it." (26)

6.3 On page 30 Blake investigates the religious ceremonies associated with surfboard construction, first outlined by Thrum* in 1896.
Note that it has been previously argued that Thrum's* account bears significant similarities to accounts of ceremonial rites identified with ancient Hawaiian canoe building, see 5.2.
His inital assumption is probably correct, to a degree:

"The routine of surfboard making was similar, no doubt, if the board belonged to a chief, to that of canoe building." (27)

At best, these rites would only apply to a small percentage of all boards ever constructed.
Futhermore, to assume an equality of status between the surfboard and the canoe in ancient Hawaiian culture is questionable.
Despite the ancient Hawaiian's committment to surfriding documented in their legends, certainly the canoe held the premier position in this maritime culture.

Blake selectively quotes David Malo to illustrate the canoe building process.

"Malo says: ' The building of a canoe was an affair of religion.
They took with them to the mountains as offerings, a pig, coconuts, kuma (red fish), and awa.
Having come to the tree they sacrificed these things to the gods with incantations and prayers and there they slept.
The kahuna alone planned out and made the measurements for the inner parts of the canoe.
The inside was finished off by means of the adze (made of lava or other stones).
The ceremony of lolo?, was consecrating the canoe, in which the diety was again approached in prayer.
This was done often after the canoe had returned from an excursion at sea.' " (35)

As noted in 3.5, given the status of Malo's account as from one who grew up under the tradional culture and its early composition, it is important what he did not say about surfboards.
In an extensive list of 30 items ranked in importance, tilted The Valuables and Possessions of the Ancient
Times (Chapter 22, Pages 76 to 81), he does not specifically include surfboards.
Canoes are rated very highly (points 7 and 8), immediately following items of royal or religious significance,
Malo provides a six page account of the construction process and the accompanying religious ceremonies, from which Blake selectively quotes.

6.4 Blake returns to ancient board design on page 30, with a quotation credited  "Kealakakua Bay ... of 1783 vintage, by Ellis, Captain Cook's historian." (37) and he concludes :

"The boards used by these natives were undoubtedly of the aleia or thin type.
The Olo, or long thick board, would not be practical on so short a surf, and rocky a shore.
The long surf and unbroken swells are better suited to the Olo board." (38)

Blake might also have noted that the report is from a southern coast in the lee of the prevailing swells.
For a detailed discussion of the location of Cook's reports, see 2.8.

A further quotation by "Archibald Campbell, in his work, Voyage Around the World, 1806-1812"  (39) follows without discussion or analysis, see 3.1.
Another quotation, credited as by "Ellis, in a work of 1823 ", is an edited version of  the Rev. William Ellis' account of surf-riding at Waimanu, published 1831. (40)
See 3.5
Note that the quotation does not include Ellis' report, noted above 6.2, that appears to conflict with his analysis.

"a board ...generally five or six feet long ... usually made of the wood of the erythrina (willi willi)" (41)

It is possible, but unlikely, that the full text was not available to him.
Blake directs his comments to Ellis' account of juvenile surfriders and the drying, oiling and storage of the board:

"I can say that many children, boys of about eight years old, can ride the waves on a surfboard.
True, they stay near shore, but master the same technique as their older brothers.
The great regard of the ancient Hawaiian for his surfboard, displayed by his care in drying and oiling it and even wrapping it in 'tapa and hanging it in his house, gives some idea of the value and high place the surfboard had in his life." (42)

6.5 Next, Blake quotes the full entry by Malo on surfboards (43) and emphasises his historical significance.
" the work of Malo, the Hawaiian historian, with translations by Emerson.
Malo was born in 1793, was known to be writing in 1832, and died in 1853.
An honest, conscientious writer, he devotes but a short chapter to surf riding as practiced by the old Hawaiians.
However, his work is invaluable in building the chain of surfboard customs." (44)

Blake notes Emerson's objection to the extreme length  of "four fathoms or even longer" suggested by Malo, and suggests a plausible interpretation.

"Emerson found him over estimating distances or sizes on two occasions.
I believe Malo meant yards when he used fathoms.
How many of you know how long a fathom is? Six feet." (45)

Emerson's notes do refer to this one case of over-estimating, Blake must have identified another instance somewhere in the book.
Blake's suggestion appears reasonable, the adjusted lengths attributed to Malo would then cover a range of 3 feet to longer than 12 feet, however full agreement probably requires further evidence.
Blake's analysis of design features of the olo board, previously established by reference to Fornander circa 1910 (5.9 ), is now 'confirmed' by Malo circa 1839 and once again the status of Paki's boards is apparently side-lined.

"Malo's statement that a 'narrower board was made from the wili wili,' bears out my theory that the Olo, or long type board, was not usually made of the hardwoods from koa and breadfruit trees, but of the soft, light wood of the wilIi wili tree.
Those koa boards of chief Paki's in the the Bishop Museum, are really a bit too heavy, although handling well in the water, and riding the big swells in a good manner.
I choose, for the big waves, a hollow board weighted with lead to make it steady. I find seventy pounds a good weight for a hollow board for big surf." (46)

6.6 The notes confirm Blake's extensive experiments with these designs, apparently building and riding a reproduction model in the process of developing his hollow designs. (47)
A detailed account of the restoration of Paki's boards follow, an unprecedented and unique opportunity for Blake's research. (48)
It is reproduced here in full:

"I recently had the privilege, and hard work, of restoring Paki's museum boards to their original condition.
For twenty years or more they had been hanging or tied with wire against the stone wall on the outside of the museum, covered with some old reddish paint and rather neglected.
My inquiries into the art of surfriding disclosed to me the the true value of these two old koa boards. They are the only two ancient surfboards of authentic Olo design known to be in existence today.
I made an appeal to Mr. Bryan, curator of the museum, to restore the boards to their former unpainted finish and begged a more worthy location for their display in the museum.
Permission was refused by the directors on the grounds that I might injure the evident antiquity of Paki's boards.
After two years, I made a second appeal, and was granted permission to restore them and given promise of a more suitable location inside the building to keep them.
In the restoration of Paki's old boards, I discovered that they are undoubtedly much older than anyone suspected.
In fact, they were probably already antiques when Paki acquired them.
I shall give my reasons for this inference.
Underneath the old red paint was several coats of blue paint. and underneath, that were hard layers of a sand colored paint, and underneath that in many spots was marine deck seam compound filling in worm eaten parts of the board.
On the largest board, the tail, in part, was rebuilt of California redwood to give the board its original shape.
Paki, according to Stokes, was born on Molokai in 1808, and lived until 1855.
It was probably around 1830 when Paki was man enough to handle these big boards.
The old whaling ships were sometimes seen in Honolulu harbor then and the several kinds of paint beneath the old red surface, also the ship's deck seam compound and redwood tail patch were available even before 1830.
Therefore, I assume that Paki dug up these two fine old discarded worm-eaten boards, had the redwood patch put on one, the deck caulking compound and paint on both, and painted them, so he could use them himself.
In their restored condition, the worn holes and patches show clearly under the varnish finish.
Two fine examples of a now extinct design are these two old board on which Chief Paki once rode the Kalahuewehe surf at Waikiki.
It is said that Paki would not go surfriding unless it was too stormy for anyone else to go out.
His reputation of going out only in big surf is the natural thing when a man gets beyond his youth. Today, it takes big waves to get the old timers out on their boards." (49)

Blake's estimated history of Paki's boards indicates their construction possibly  pre-dates Cook's visits in 1778 and 1779.
Elements of Blake's reconstructed board history appear to parallel in detail and date a first person report by Chester Lyman from Waikiki in 1846. (50)
See 4.2
Blake undoubtedly did not identify this account, it is inconceivable he would not have used it if available.
Specifically, Lyman notes:

"The young chiefs are all provided with surfboards, which are kept in the house above mentioned.
They are from 12 to 20 feet long, 1ft wide, & in the middle 5 or 6 inches thick, thinning towards the
sides & ends so as to form an edge.
Some of these have been handed down in the royal family for years, as this is the royal bathing place." (51)

Lyman describes the thick olo board (although the narrow width is unusual), makes the earliest assocciation between this design and Hawaiian royalty and identifies Waikiki as a royal surfing location.
Unfortunately, he does not identify the timber used to build these boards or their relative weight.
Blake's assumption  "that Paki dug up these two fine old discarded worm-eaten boards" appears a weaker, if more dramatic, option to Lyman's reported "handed down in the royal family for years".
Lyman continues:

"None of these belonging to Kamehameha 1st are now left, but one used by Kaahumanu & others belonging to other distinguished Chiefs & premiers are daily used" (52)

Malcom Gault Williams notes Kaahumanu (1768-1832) was the favorite wife of the noted surfrider Kamehameha the Great (1753?-1819) and served as regent from 1824 to1832 (53)
Lyman's claim that one of the boards was  "used by Kaahumanu"  would possibly date the board's construction around 1800-1810, likely her mature surfriding years, but it may be older.
He also notes:

"according to ... I'i, they liked to surf Kooka, a break located at Pua'a, in north Kona"(54)

I am unable to identify the specific island or the location in Finney and Houston (1996). (55)

6.7 Blake extensively quotes, and occassionally paraphrases, John Caton's report from Hilo in 1880 (see 4.9) between pages 41 and 42 to forceably argue that ancient Hawaiians:

"slide the wave to get away from the break"
and
"stood upon the surfboard in olden times just as we do today" (56)

Although some earlier accounts, with judicious reading, imply that standing riders slid diagonally across the wave face, this detailed account  is notable for the empirical data (by noting the rider's motion relative to the compass points) that dramatically illustrates that the rider is transversing the wave face.
Until this point the paper has successfully avoided discussing the complex nature of surfboard riding mechanics.
Suffice it say, Blake's histrorical analysis confirming that ancient Hawaiians rode waves transversely while standing is correct.
It may be possible to extend Blake's argument to more extreme conclusions. (57)
Blake writes:

"Caton describes these boards as being about one and one-half inches thick, seven feet long, coffin shaped, rounded at the ends, chamfered (beveled) at the edges; about fifteen inches wide at the widest point near the forward end, and eleven inches wide at the back end." (58) page 42

Blake's commentary claims the boards are constructed of koa (Acacia koa) or breadfruit (ulu) (Artocarpus incisus), but is unclear if this is further paraphasing Caton or Blake's conclusion.

"Clearly, boards of the aliea, or thin design, were usually made of koa or wood of the breadfruit tree." (59)

His conclusion, with or with-out confirmation by Caton, is probably correct.
His comparison of Caton's alaia with the boards of his day is difficult to resile with the performance of contemporary (2007) surfboards.
"At Waikiki, today, a board of the above dimensions is used only by children up to twelve years old. (60)

Blake notes that Caton (probably for the first time in surfriding literature) raises the question of how surfboards "work" or, more formally, the dynamics of surfboard mechanics.

"Caton found the natives could not explain why they were propelled shoreward with such astonishing speed, nor could Mr. Caton explain it himself, nor could his friends. He hoped that someday, someone would study the question and find an answer to it." (61)

Blake writes that "the answer is relatively simple" (62), however the opposite is the more likely case.
There are several "simple" difficulties with Blake's analysis.

"Gravity does the trick.
The front slope of the wave on which one slides presents a down-hill path, while the friction of the slippery board against the water is very small." (63)

The friction on the board on the water is significant - overwise the board would sink.
Futhermore the friction, or controlled drag, allows the rider to control the board and maintain direction.

"It's the same as skiing on a snow-covered hill, and there is no doubt as to what makes one slide down a hill on skis.
However, in skiing, one can start down hill from a stationary position, while in surfriding some
momentum must first be attained , to catch up with the incoming swell.
This is accomplished by paddling the board with the hands and arms." (64)  - Blake(1935) page 43.

The notion that the rider must "catch up with the incoming swell ... by paddling the board with the hands and arms" is a common misunderstanding, even by some experienced surfriders.
Technically the wave "catches" the rider.
While the wave face ("slope") is an essential component of successful surfriding, the analysis does not account for wave speed, wave height or the complex conical shape of the breaking wave (which is different from a white-water wave- "a wave of translation").
Blake does not explain the unique dynamics of transversing of the wave face, which he has previously established on pages 41 and 42. (65)

6.8 The next section is of historical interest, its impact stretching beyond surfboard design
A discussion of body surfing technique paraphrases Duke Kahanamoku:

"Duke Kahanomoku calls attention to the fact that to catch a wave for "body surfing," in the true Hawaiian manner, it is necessary to swim before the breaker using the modern crawl stroke, with a flutter kick.
As a boy, Duke 'body-surfed' and swam the crawl stroke before the world had a name for it.
Also the ancient Hawaiians, adapt at "body surfing," swam the crawl stroke as part of the sport; therefore, the origin of the so-called new crawl swimming stroke dates back to antiquity.
The crawl kick was also used in conjunction with the short three-foot surfboards used at Waikiki beach around the 1903 period." (66) page 43

Essentially, the argument proposes a direct relationship between ancient prone board propulsion and the 'modern' swimming style identified by swimming commentators as the Crawl. (67)
The argument is a strong one. (68)
Simple observation demonstrates the overarm action of board paddling is exactly the motion of the Crawl swimming stroke, likewise the 'flutter-kick' corresponds directly the method used by prone board riders.
The swimming stroke is essential for successful bodysurfing, which undoubtedly pre-dates European exploration of the Pacific.

6.9 Blake quotes from an 1891 article by Dr. Henry Bolton  based on his research, surfing photography and personal surfriding experience on Niihau.
Originally presented as a lecture with "projections from the original photographs" in 1890, the text quotes and compares Jarves, Bird and Cummings. (69)
It is presently unclear if Blake is directly quoting Boulton, or Boulton quoting his sources.

"In 1891, Bolton wrote: 'The sport of surf riding, once so universally popular, and now but little seen.'
As seen on the Island of Niihau, Bolton describes surf riding:
'Six stalwart men assembled on the beach, bearing with them their precious surfboards.
These surfboards, in Hawaiian, 'papahee- nalu,' or 'wave sliding boards,' are made from the wood of the veri veri (willi willi), or breadfruit 'tree.
They are eight or nine feet long, fifteen to twenty inches wide, rather thin, rounded at each end, and carefully smoothed.
The boards are stained black, are frequently rubbed with coconut oil, and are preserved with great solicitude, sometimes wrapped in cloths.
Children use smaller boards.'
...
Here we find the same kind of surfboard, the aliea type used in Niihau, as seen by Caton in Hawaii, at the other end of the group of Hawaiian Islands." (70)

While Blake's conclusion that the boards are "aliea type" is correct, note one of the suitable timbers for this design is "veri veri" - possibly willi willi.
If so, this is in apparent contradition with Blake's contention:

"An alaia designed board of wili wilIi would not be strong enough" (71)

6.10 Thrum's* article is extensively quoted, cited by Blake as a reliable source:

"In the 'Hawaiian Annuals', published in 1896, is an account of ancient surfriding, prepated by a native of the Kona district of Hawaii, familiar with the subject.
The valuable work was translated by Nakoina, a former surfrider.
I feel this to be the finest contribution on old surfriding in existence and am sure the 'native from Kona' knew the art of surfriding well." (72)

Following Thrum's* report on staining and oiling of the finished surfboard, Blake quotes Emerson's (or Alexander's) notes to Malo's account of canoe building, but ommits the writer's personal contribution:

"I can vouch for it as an excellent covering for wood." (73)

Blake adds an oral report of a sealing process, apparently not recorded in any surfboard or canoe building context.

"I am told by Cottrell (74), who saw the performance, that a surfboard made of wili wili wood was buried in mud, near a spring, for a certain length of time to give it a high polish.
I should say that the mud entered the porous surface of the wilIi wili board acting as a good 'filler' for sealing up the surface.
When the board was then dried out the mud surface became hard and was polished and oiled to a fine waterproof finish." (74)

At first glance this seems a practical and relatively easy waterproofing process.
Indeed, a smooth surface approaching the finish of the modern fibreglassed board might be possible.
However, with some reflection the question of 'grip' arises, particularly if the board was to be ridden in a standing position.
Surely, before the application of parrafin wax circa 1935 (75) a suitable compromise between a smooth shape and fine timber grain providing a suitable friction with the rider was necessary.

6.11 Unlike this paper, Blake finds only one fault with Thrum's* analysis,  the extreme width of "two or three feet wide".

"I can detect only one error in the work.
That writer says the Olo board of wili wili was 'two or three feet wide.'
This makes the board too wide to paddle comfortably and also too wide to give a good performance.
The width of the Olo board was from one to two feet wide, instead of from two to three." (76)

While this objection is valid (see 5.2), the following inference is confusing:

"I also infer, from that error, the writer to be unfamiliar with the wiIi wili, or chief's board." (77)

If Thrum* is "unfamiliar with the wili wili, or chief's board", then not "only one" but all the details relating to this design are questionable.
It is dificult to see how Blake's subsequent conclusions can be supported in this context, however he does indicate a contemporary case in conflict with the general consensus.

"It is also evident from his writing that the Olo, or long thick board, was not made of koa and ulu, but of only wili wili.
Therefore, Paki's boards of Olo design and made of koa are an exception and not the rule.
They really are too heavy to please the average surfrider.
On the other hand, we have today an enthusiastic and skillful surf rider, Northrop Castle, who has a board weighing more than either of Paki's.
Castle's board weighs about two hundred pounds, and he likes it." (78)

6.12Blake's next reference is unclear in its source and its importance.

"In the American Anthropologist, 1889, ...
Andrews (79) gives the names Olo and wili wili, for a "very thick surfboard made of wili wili," and o-ni-ni as a "kind of surfboard," also "pa-ha" as a name for a surfboard.
In Andrew's mind there evidently was established the belief that the wili wili wood was the accepted wood for making the Olo or long thick surfboard." (80)

If the reference is the Hawaiian Dictionary of 1880, then the entries are probably sourced from any number of the earlier accounts of surfriding.
It is unlikely Andrews devoted a great deal of thought in determining the timber suitable for Olo construction.

Similarly, Blake quotes Brigham (5.1) to support his thesis. (81)
As previously discussed (5.1), only Brigham's description of the common surfboard is based on observation and the notes on the Olo and on reported dimensions are likely drawn from Malo.
Blake's conclusion overstates the case.

"There again, we have an entirely different writer, who actually says that the Olo, or narrow board, was made of the light wili wilIi wood and up to eighteen feet in length." (82)

6.13   Hawaiian Surfboard has a selection of photographs,  the third set between pages 48 and 49, includes  Jacques Arago's (engraving by Alphonse Pellion) :"The Houses of Kraimokou, circa 1819" with a caption by Blake (83), discussed in 3.7 above.
This third set also includes a photograph of a selection of four surfboards, image right. 
Unfortunately the printed image crops the tails of all the boards and the nose of Paki's board.
The white scar on the left appears to be damage to the page in the book from which this 1983 edition was copied. (84)

Although only two of the boads are ancient, the comparsion between the relative weights of the boards is informative.
In particular, the ancient alaia and Kahanamoku's 1910 board are or similar volume, the breadfruit model is noticeably lighter than the redwood.

 

Blake's caption reads:
"...surfboards, ancient and modern. ..
The long board at the left is one of Chief Paki's and of olo design.
It is made of koa wood over 16 feet long, 6 inches thick, with convex top and bottom, 18 inches wide and weighs 168 pounds.
The next board is of ancient alaia design, made of wood of the breadfruit tree; it is 12 feet long, 20 inches wide, 1 1/2 inches thick down the center and weighs about 50 pounds.
The third board is Duke's, built around 1910 and representing the style of board in vogue until 1929.
It is made of California redwood, 10 feet long, 3 inches thick, and 23 inches wide and its weight is 70 pounds.
The last board to the right is the new stream-lined hollow design which is now gaining favor at Waikiki beach.
It is 12 feet 10 inches long, 22 inches wide maximum, 5 1/2 inches thick maximum, and weighs 44 pounds.
It is slightly covex on the bottom.
-Photo by Hosoka" (85)

6.14 In Chapter 4, "Modern surfriding", on page 59, Blake returns to the subject of ancient surfboards as previously promised, see 6.2 above. (86)
Quoting from one of his previously published magazine article (87), Blake writes of his recreation and testing the ancient olo design.

"In another magazine, 'The Pan Pacific', an article called 'Surf- riding- The Royal and Ancient Sport', by this writer, discloses the motif (sic?) for trying to change the then popular and satisfactory type of surfboards.
Written in 1930, the article reads in part:
'Strange as it may seem, three old-style Hawaiian surfboards of huge dimensions and weight have hung on the walls of the Bishop Museum -in Honolulu for twenty years or more without anyone doing more than wonder how in the world these great boards were used, and were they not too long and heavy to be practicable;'".
"I too, wondered about these boards in the museum, wondered so much that in 1926 I built a duplicate of them as an experiment, my object being to find not a better board, but to find a faster board to use in the annual and popular surfboard paddling races held in Southern California each summer.
This surfboard was sixteen feet long and weight 120 pounds" (88)Page 59.

After detailing the success of the board in paddling races, a significant wave riding characteristic of the design is noted.

"What pleases me most is the way the board can catch the ground swells on the reef so much farther out to sea than the ordinary surfboard.
So my faith in the ideas of the old Hawaiians has been rewarded by the performance of a board designed by them thousands of years ago." (88) Page 59-60

Blake had shown that boards of ancient olo dimensions did have a practical use, specifically riding waves with a gentle sloping face.
For the next twenty years Tom Blake's hollow board, derived from these experiments, was a world wide popular alternative to the solid wood board (which closely resembled the ancient alaia). (90)
An (obsure) reference dates the last of the olo riders as around the turn of the century.

"I have some notes relative to the 1900 period written by Wm. A. Cottrell (91), one of the early surfriders at Waikiki.
He says: "Princess Kaiulaini was an expert surf rider around 1895 to 1900.
She rode a long Olo board made of wiIi wili.
She apparently was the last of the old school at Waikiki.' " (92) Page 60


ancient surfboard design and construction part 7

END NOTES
REPORTS OF HAWAIIAN SURFBOARDS 1930 TO 1940.
1. Blake, Tom:  Hawaiian Surfboard
Paradise of the Pacific Press, Honolulu, Hawaii. 1935.
95 pages of text with hand drawn illustrations (unaccredited).
46 ? sepia photographs with extensive captions in four sets without page numbers.
Introduction by Duke P. Kahanamoku
The initial printing was hard cover with a dust jacket, followed by an imprinted cloth cover and two editions in tapa cloth.
One copy is known to exist in a blue soft cover.
"The most important publication in the surfing canon."
DeLa Vega (2004) page 37.
The larger illustrations are apparently signed "M. B. Christian" .

Reprinted in 1983 by Bank Wright as
Blake, Tom: Hawaiian Surfriders 1935
Mountain and Sea Publishing, Box 126 Redondo Beach California 90277 1983
Embossed hard cover with adhesive image.
DeLa Vega (2004) notes "Joel Smith's edition was used to create these plates.", page 38.

2. "Blake's work has been extensively quoted by many subsequent surfing historians and journalists."
To detail a complete inventory would be pointless - almost every surfing book or surfing magazine article that discusses ancient Hawaiian surfing either quotes Blake directly or his sources.
The following works, excluding those of Ben Finney detailed below, are readily available.
Nat, Warshaw, Lueras, Carroll,
Also Lynch: Blake 1, 2 & 3.

3. Ben Finney originally prepared his research for a masters thesis in anthropology.
The quality of his work has set the benhmark for all following historians of surfriding.
Finney, Ben: Surfing in Ancient Hawaii
The Journal of Polynesian Society
December 1959 Volume 68 Number 4  pages 327 - .347.

Finney, Ben: The Development and Diffusion of Modern Surfing
The Journal of Polynesian Society
 December 1960 Volume 69 Number 4   pages 314 - .331

Finney, Ben and Houston, James D. : Surfing The Sport of Hawaiian Kings
 Charles E. Tuttle Company Inc.
 Rutland, Vermont and Tokyo, Japan. 1966.
Second printing 196?, Third printing 1971.

Finney, Ben and Houston, James D. : Surfing A History of the Ancient Hawaiian Sport
 Pomegranate Books
 P.O. Box 6099 Rohnert Park, CA 94927. 1996
 Soft cover, 117 pages, 20 b/w photographs, 24 b/w illustrations,  Appendices, Notes, Bibliography.

4. Blake, Tom: Hawaiian Surfriding
 Nothland Press, Flagstaff,Arizona, 1961
Soft cover, 41 pages - without page numbers.

5. Lynch, Gary and Gault-Williams, Malcom:
Tom Blake : The Uncommon Journey of a Pioneer Waterman
 Published by the Croul Family Foundation
 Corona del Mar, California. 2001. Page ?

6. Note Thrum's native reporter as the one possible example, but untestable.

7. Blake contest record

8. Blake pages ?

9. Lynch and Gault-Williams: Op. cit., Chapter 1

10. Lynch and Gault Williams, clipps files

11. The above books, plus a series of design articles in magazines, almost certainly with Blake's input.

12. National geographic 1935.

13. "a commericial interest" , apart from the possible financial benefits of publication.
Most authors hope for some financial return from their work, even if sales only indicate a public interest.
The publishers of the various surfriding articles in Hawaiian newspapers, which are unfortunately  not available for this paper, possibly had some commercial interest in promoting Hawaii as a tourist destination.
In Blake's case, it appears the financial rewards from The Hawaiian Surfboard were not great.
The initial printing was hard cover with a dust jacket, followed by an imprinted cloth cover (probaly original without the dust jacket) and two editions in tapa cloth dust jackets..
Lynch and Gault Williams, pages?

14. This is indicated with Chapter 4 of HS.
Also see Lynch and Gault Williams, pages?
Garry Lynch interviewed Tom Blake in at Washburn, Wisconsin, on 16th April 1989.
Blake's comments included this assessment of the success of his commerical surfboard building ventures:
"And I never did make any money on it.
When royalties  would mount up to thirty-forty dollars, or maybe a hundred, I'd take out a few boards and use them for myself, or give them to friends.
That's the way it was then."
Garry Lynch: Tom Blake Interview, Washburn, Wisconsin,16th April 1989.
Notes forwarded by Garry Lynch, with many thanks, by email, April 2007.

15. Sleding, qualifies. see Buck and Finney?

16. European royal sports Falcons, Hounds, Yatching, ???
In Japan, there were even strict restrictions on who could hunt which sorts of animals and where, based on rank within the samurai class
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falconry

17. Lynch and Gault Williams

18. The emphasis on scripture by Protestant missionaries saw the rapid development of a written Hawaiian language to provide translated Biblical texts.
By the late 1800s, the written Hawaiian language had expanded into cultural and commerical life.
Isabella L. Bird reported in 1873:
"There are four newspapers: the Honolulu Gazette, the Pacific Commercial Adverttser, Ka Nupepa Kuokoa (the ''Independent Press "), and a lately started spasmodic sheet, partly in English and partly in Hawaiian, the Nuhou (News)."
Bird,  Isabella L.: Six Months in the Sandwich Isles
John Murray, London, 1875. Pages 179.

DelaVega notes numerous articles.

19. This would be an interesting exercise, unfortunately I currently do not have access to the original articles.

20.  Blake (1935): Op. cit., Page 37.

21. In response to an inquiry as to whether Tom Blake could read Hawaiian, Garry Lynch replied:
"Tom only knew a few Hawaiian words and phrases.
He was constantly in touch with the people at the Bishop and all others who had information and could translate any information that was out there.
He knew most of the scholars at the time."
Garry Lynch: email correspondence, April 2007.
With thanks for the contribution.

22.
23.
24.
25.
26.

16. Fornander, Abraham: Forlander Collection of Antiquities and Hawaiian Folk Lore : Translations by Thomas G. Thrum.
Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, 1919-1920.
Memoirs of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Volumes 4, 5 and 6.

DeLa Vega (2004) notes "Tom Blake considered this collection one of the most comprehensive looks at the legends and chants of ancient Hawaii.", page 19.
Unfortunately, Blake's quotation is the only copy of this report currently located for this paper.
Blake: Op. cit., Page 16
.
The quotation, fully discussed at 5.9,  is:
'Here are the names of that board and the surfs.
The board is alaia, three yards long.
The surf is kakala, a curling wave, terrible, death dealing.
The board is Olo, six yards long.
The surf is opuu, a non-breaking wave, something like calmness."

17. Blake: Op. Cit., Page 16.

18.Blake: Op. Cit., Page 16.

19. Ellis: Op.Cit.,

20. Blake: Op. Cit., Page 16.

21. Blake: Op. Cit., Page 16.

22. Drift logs!!!

23. Blake: Op. Cit., Pages 16-17.

24. Thrum: Op. Cit.,
Finney and Houston: Op. Cit.,  Page 102.?

25. Blake: Op. Cit., Page 17.

26. Blake: Op. Cit., Page 17.
 

37. I am unable to identify the published source of this quotation.
 It is obviously an edited and rewitten version of King, as edited by Douglas, see 2.7.
The source is possibly (as suggested by Blake) is  a history of the voyage written by "Ellis" and published in 1783, the original report (or reports) certainly dated 1778-1779.
It may be an official publication, hurried into print to maximise sales.
The report cleary is not a first person account and  is basically King/Douglas.
It has not been considered previously  as a reputable report.
Blake's quoted text reads
"Native men, and women alike, enjoyed it.
In Kealakakua Bay (Hawaii) the waves broke out about one hundred and fifty yards.
Twenty or thirty natives, each with a narrow board with rounded ends, would start out together from the shore and battle the breaking waves to a point out beyond.
The surfers would then lay themselves full length upon the boards and prepare for the swift return to shore, They would throw themselves in the crest of the largest wave, and be driven towards shore with amazing rapidity.
The riders must ride through jagged opening in the rocks, and, in case of failure, be dashed against them."

38. Blake: Op. Cit., Page 30.

39.Archibald Campbell, in his work, Voyage Around the World, 1806-1812"
"They often swam several miles offshore, to ships, sometimes resting upon a plank shaped like an anchor stock -and paddling with their hands, but more frequently without any assistance what- ever. Although sharks are numerous in those waters, I never heard of any accident from them, which, I attribute to the dexter- ity with which they avoided their attacks."

40. Ellis, Rev. William: Polynesian Researches, During a Residence of Nearly Eight Years in the
Society and Sandwich Islands, Volumes I to IV..
Fisher, Son and Jackson, London, 1831. Pages 368 to 372.
Reproduced in
Finney, Ben and Houston, James D.: Surfing A History of the Ancient Hawaiian Sport. 1996.
Appendix C. Pages 98 to 99.

Blake's (edited) quoted text reads:
"There are few children who are not taken into the sea by their mothers the second or third day after their birth, and many can swim as soon as they can walk."
I can say that many children, boys of about eight years old, can ride the waves on a surfboard. True, they stay near shore, but master the same technique as their older brothers.
The great regard of the ancient Hawaiian for his surfboard, displayed by his care in drying and oiling it and even wrapping it in tapa and hanging it in his house, gives some idea of the value and high place the surfboard had in his life."

41. Ellis: Op.Cit.,

42. Blake: Op. Cit., Page 30.

43. Malo, Op. Cit.,

44. Blake: Op. Cit., Page 30.

45. Blake: Op. Cit., Page 30.

46. Blake: Op. Cit., Page 30.

47. Lynch and Gault-Williams: Op. Cit., Page

48. Tom Blake is often credited with many notable achievements - the hollow board, the water-proof camera housing, the torpedo buoy, and others.
His work on the ancient boards of the Bishop Museum definitely qualifies him as the "Father of surfboard restorers".

49. Blake: Op. cit., Pages 37 - 38.

51. Lyman, Chester S. (1814-1890): Around The Horn To The Sandwich Islands And California 1845
-1850.
New Haven: Yale University Press 1924) Chapter II, page 73.
Travel diary in 1846 notes.
Quoted in DelaVega (ed, 2004): Op. cit., page 22

51. Lyman: Op Cit., Travel diary in 1846 notes. Chapter II, page 73.
Quoted in DelaVega (ed, 2004): Op. cit., page 22

52. Lyman: Op Cit., Travel diary in 1846 notes. Chapter II, page 73.
Quoted in DelaVega (ed, 2004): Op. cit., page 22

53. Gault Williams: Op. cit., page 181.

54. Gault Williams: Op. cit., page 181.
The reference in I'i is
page?

55. Finney and Houston : 1996. Pages
Reproduced in
Gault Williams: Op. cit., Pages 55 to 62.

56. Blake: Op. cit., Page 42.

57. Also tubed, certainly prone. Rode large waves.

58. Blake: Op. cit., Page 42.

59. Blake: Op. cit., Page 42.

60. Blake: Op. cit., Page 42.

61.Blake: Op. cit., Page 42.

62.Blake: Op. cit., Page 42.

63.Blake: Op. cit., Pages 42- and 43.

64.Blake: Op. cit., Page 43.

65. see Surfboards Dynamics

66. Blake: Op. cit., Page 43.

67. There is some dispute amoung swimming commentators as to the origin of the Crawl as illustrated by the commonly used alternatives: 'the American Crawl' or 'the Australian Crawl'.

68. List alternative claiments.
Note Polynesian connection to Australia,

69. DelaVega (ed, 2004): Op. cit., page 12

70. Blake: Op. cit., Page 44.

71. Blake: Op. Cit., Page 16.

73. Malo: Op. Cit., Pages 133 and 134.?

74. Blake: Op. Cit., Pages 45 and 46.
No idea who Cottrell is.

75. A claim for the first use of parrafin wax was made by Alfred E Gallant (Letters, Longboard Magazine, USA, 1999).
Post 1935, he noticed the grip of his damp feet after his mother recently applied floor wax.
She then advised use of paraffin sealing wax  for his surboard.

76.Blake: Op. cit., Page 47.

77.Blake: Op. cit., Page 47.

78.Blake: Op. cit., Page 47.

79. Andrews,
Noted in dela Vega
 

80.Blake: Op. cit., Page 48.

81. Blake's quotation reads
"Brigham, in Preliminary Catalogue, says: 'Surfboards were usually made of koa, flat with a slightly convex surface, rounded at one end, slightly narrowing towards the stern, where it was cut square.
Sometimes, the 'pa-pa' (surfboard) was made of a very light wi Ii wili and then made;ooQ1Q. (narrow).
In size, they varied from three to eighteen feet in length and from eight to ten inches in breadth, but some of the ancient boards were said to have been four fathoms long."
Blake: Op. cit., Page 48.

82. Blake: Op. cit., Page 48.

83. Blake's caption reads
" ...the surfboard of wili wili wood was reserved for the Chiefs. ..
The oldest picture of a surfboard in existence.
From a drawing by a French artist Pellion in 1819.
The man in the picture is evidently a Hawaiian Chief because of his helmet and feather cape.
The woman in the picture is pounding tapa of which they fashioned their simple clothes.
The great size of the surfboard lying in the yard is in keeping with Chief Paki's museum boards. -Photo by Baker "
Blake: Op. cit., Illustrations, Third set, between pages 48 and 49, Plate 4.

84. Blake: Op. cit., Illustrations, Third set, between pages 48 and 49, Plate ? ,
For 1983 publishing details, see Endnote 1 above.
85.
86.
87.
88.Page 59-60
89. Possibly Knute Cottrell, a comtemporary of Duke Kahanamoku and a founding member of  the Hui Nalu
club, circa 1908.
90. Page 60



In another magazine, The Pan Pacific, an article called "Surf- riding-The Royal and Ancient Sport," by this writer, discloses the motif for trying to change the then popular and satisfactory type of surfboards. Written in 1930, the article reads in part:
"Strange as it may seem, three old-style Hawaiian surfboards of huge dimensions and weight have hung on the walls of the Bishop Museum -in Honolulu for twenty years or more without anyone doing more than wonder how in the world these great boards were used, and were they not too long and heavy to be practicable;
"I too, wondered about these boards in the museum, wondered so much that in 1926 I built a duplicate of them as an experiment, my object being to find not a better board, but to find a faster board to use in the annual and popular surfboard paddling races held in Southern California each summer. This surfboard was sixteen feet long and weight 120 pounds. When I appeared with it for the first time before 10,000 people gathered for a holiday and to watch the races, it was regarded as silly. Handling this heavy board alone, I got off to a poor start, the rest of the field gaining a thirty-yard lead in the meantime. It really looked bad for the board and my reputation and hundreds openly laughed. But a few minutes later it turned to applause because the big board led the way to ,the finish of the 88O-yard course by fully 100 yards.
"My dream was to introduce, or revive, this type of board in Hawaii where surfboard racing and riding is at its best. This seems to have materialized, for, quoting Dr. D'Eliscu of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 'The old Hawaiian surfboard has again made its appearance at Waikiki beach modeled after the boards used in the old days. A practice trial was held yesterday at the War Memorial Pool, and to the surprise of the officials, the board took several seconds off the Hawaiian record for one hundred yards.' This was the racing model. The riding model, 'Okohola,' came a month later, December, 1929.
"What pleases me most is the way the board can catch the ground swells on the reef so much farther out to sea than the
Page 59.

ordinary surfboard. So my faith in the ideas of the old Hawaiians has been rewarded by the performance of a board designed by them thousands of years ago.
"Dad Center, kamaina and famous surf rider, says that when he was a boy on the Island of Maui, a native took a long board out in storm surf and rode the swells till they broke near shore. So there we have a complete substantiation of what the museum type board suggests. Dad continues, 'That was in the '90's and was about the finish of the long board on that island. They were occasionally used, however, more as a novelty at Waikiki, until around 1900.
I "Around 1900 the art of surfriding was almost obsolete. Even at Waikiki beach there was very little as most people lived in Honolulu and it was difficult to get to Waikiki. Interest revived and in 1907 a group of prominent men, led by Alexander Hume Ford, organized and formed the Outrif{ger Canoe Club. The
charter reads: 'We wish to have a place where surfboard riding' may be revived and those who live away from the water front
may keep their surfboards. The main. object of this club being. to give an added and permanent attraction to Hawaii and make
the Wajkiki beach the home of the surfrider'."
I have some notes relative to the 1900 period written by Wm. A. Cottrell, one of the early surfriders at Waikiki.
Possibly Knute Cottrell, a comtempoary of Duke Kahanamoku, and founding member of  the Hui Nalu club, circa 1908.
He says: "Princess Kaiulaini was an expert surf rider around 1895 to 1900. She rode a long 010 board made of wi Ii wili. She apparently was the last of the old school at Waikiki.
"About 1903 we used a short board a few feet long, rather thin and wide, like a washboard. From 1903 to 1908 marks the true revival of the sport. encouraged by the following old timers: Wm. Dole, Dudie ¥iller. Duke Kahanamoku, Harold Castle, Geo. Freeth. Dad Center, Kauha, Ho1stein, Jordan, Lishman, Atkin-. son, "Steamboat" Bill, Winter, Brown. Kaupipko, Mahelona, Kea- wamaki, May, Curtiss, Hustace, Roth, Aurnolu and McKenzie. Some of these men are riding today. Many of the above men were members of ,the first club, called the 'Waikiki Swimming Club'; the charter members were Duke Kahanamoku, Knute Cot- rell, and Ken Winters. This club was an incentive which influenced the foundation of the Outrigger Canoe Club in 1907 and the Hui Nalu along about the same time."
Page 60.



END NOTES
EARLY 20th CENTURY ANALYSIS OF HAWAIIAN SURFBOARDS : BLAKE
Introduction
1. Blake, Tom:  Hawaiian Surfboard
Paradise of the Pacific Press, Honolulu, Hawaii. 1935.
95 pages of text with hand drawn illustrations (unaccredited).
46 ? sepia photographs with extensive captions in four sets without page numbers.
Introduction by Duke P. Kahanamoku
The initial printing was hard cover with a dust jacket, followed by an imprinted cloth cover and two editions in tapa cloth.
One copy is known to exist in a blue soft cover.
"The most important publication in the surfing canon."
DeLa Vega (2004) page 37.
The larger illustrations are apparently signed "M. B. Christian" .

Reprinted in 1983 by Bank Wright as
Blake, Tom: Hawaiian Surfriders 1935
Mountain and Sea Publishing, Box 126 Redondo Beach California 90277 1983
Embossed hard cover with adhesive image.
DeLa Vega (2004) notes "Joel Smith's edition was used to create these plates.", page 38.

2. Blake, Tom: Hawaiian Surfriding
 Nothland Press, Flagstaff,Arizona, 1961
Soft cover, 41 pages (without page numbers), 58 black and white plates, 3 black and white ???

3. Blake's work has been extensively quoted by many subsequent surfing historians.
To detail a complete inventory would be pointless - almost every book or magazine article that discusses ancient Hawaiian surfing either quotes Blake directly or his sources.
The following works (excluding those of Ben Finney) are readily available.
Nat, Warshaw, Lueras, Carroll,

4. Ben Finney originally prepared his research for a masters thesis in anthropology.
The quality of his work has set the benhmark for all following historians of surfriding.
Finney, Ben: Surfing in Ancient Hawaii
The Journal of Polynesian Society
December 1959 Volume 68 Number 4  pages 327 - .347

Finney, Ben: The Development and Diffusion of Modern Surfing
The Journal of Polynesian Society
 December 1960 Volume 69 Number 4   pages 314 - .331

Finney, Ben and Houston, James D. : Surfing The Sport of Hawaiian Kings
 Charles E. Tuttle Company Inc.
 Rutland, Vermont and Tokyo, Japan. 1966.
Second printing 196?, Third printing 1971.

Finney, Ben and Houston, James D. : Surfing A History of the Ancient Hawaiian Sport
 Pomegranate Books
 P.O. Box 6099 Rohnert Park, CA 94927
 Soft cover, 117 pages, 20 b/w photographs, 24 b/w illustrations,  Appendices, Notes, Bibliography.

5. All reproduced text is in Bell 14 point and not in quotation marks or italics.
My text is in Arial 12 point.
For screen clarity, the reproduced text and my own work has been adjusted to my standard online format.
Paragraphs are indicated by a spaced line (replacing indentation) and each sentence takes a new line.

Page 17
1. Fornander, Abraham: Forlander Collection of Antiquities and Hawaiian Folk Lore : Translations by Thomas G. Thrum.
Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, 1919-1920.
Memoirs of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Volumes 4, 5 and 6.
DeLa Vega (2004) notes "Tom Blake considered this collection one of the most comprehensive looks at the legends and chants of ancient Hawaii.", page 19.

2. "alaia, three yards long"
One yard equals three feet, 36 inches or 92 cm.
The reported alaia is approximately 9 feet or 275 cm long.
This conforms with existing examples of the board.

3. "kakala, a curling wave, terrible, death dealing."
The wave is characterised by its steep face and hard breaking curl.
It is typically found in the common beach break.

4. "Olo, six yards long."
One yard equals three feet, 36 inches or 92 cm.
The reported Olo is approximately 18 feet or 550 cm  long.
This reasonably conforms with two know existing examples of the board, hower both are in koa wood..

5. "opuu, a non-breaking wave, something like calmness."
The wave is characterised by its gentle sloping face.
A noted feature of surfing conditions at Waikiki, Ohau, it is favoured by canoe surfers.

6. "This passage shows the different boards best suited to different kinds of waves."
Although this is generally correct, the performance of any surfboard is a function of the rider's statue and skill.

7. "The alaia as the thin board was called, ranged from a few feet, a child's size, to about twelve feet long for adults."
Buck (1959)  notes "The Bishop Museum collection consists of 25 boards ranging from a child's board of breadfruit wood (Bishop Museum catalogue number C. 5966), 34.25 inches long, weighing 2 pounds 10 ounces to a modern redwood board, 17 feet 2 inches long, weighing 174 pounds." Page 384.
While Blake chiefly characterises the alaia as "the thin board" with a wide range of lengths and widths, Buck (1957) and Finney (1959) make a distinction based on riding position -  prone ("body-board') or standing models ("true surfboards"), based largely on length.
Buck (1957) page 384
Finney (1959) pages 331 and 333.
This distinction presents several difficulties.
1. Firstly, it requires the observer to determine the riding position of any particular board based on their surf riding experience.
As noted above, the performance of any surfboard is a function of the rider's statue and skill.
2. While early reports indicate that solid board riders did ride in the standing position, it is unclear if this was practised as an exclusive preference.
The ancients may have ridden a particular wave in a variety of positions - prone, kneeling, drop-knee, sitting and standing - adjusting to changes in the wave's shape and velocity.
3. There is no such distinction in the early literature.
Commentators, such as Malcom Gault-Williams (2005) have used the term paipo (page 95) to indicate prone boards, but this word does not appear in any list of ancient Hawaiian words.
See Finney and Houston (1996) Appendix A, pages 94 to 96.
4. The principal feature for a board to be ridden in a standing position is possibly the width.
5. All these commentators fail to note the major advantage of a board with larger volume - a significant improvement in padding speed and distance.
It is probably reasonable to assume that, regardless of the statue and skill of the rider, that smaller boards were mostly used at surfing breaks close to shore, while larger boards had the potential to ride waves breaking  a considerable distance from shore.

8. "The larger one being about one and one half inches thick through the center, levelling off on both top and bottom to about one-quarter inch at the edges."
This indicates that the maximum thickness for the alaia was one and one half inches, considerably thinner than all subsequent surfboard designs.

9. "The kakala, indicates a wave that steepens up and crashes over the shallow coral."
As noted, this type of wave is typically found in the common beach break.
Surfing breaks occuring on coral reefs are generally limted to equatorial regions.

10. "koa" (Acacia koa)
Tommy Holmes' authorative work, The Hawaiian Canoe (1981, 1993), writes extensively about koa and its use of  by ancient Hawaiian canoe builders.
Significant sections are of interest in a discussion of ancient Hawaiian surfboards.
Holme's work is fully referenced, however his notes are not included in this paper.
Holmes, Tommy : The Hawaiian Canoe - Second Edition
Editions Limited, PO Box 10558 Honolulu, Hawaii 96816.
First Edition 1981. Second Edition 1993. Second Printing 1996.

Koa
A magnificent and totally unexpected gift awaited discovery by the settlers reaching Hawai'i.
The islands were blessed with extensive forests of what would come to be called koa, trees of extraordinary size that were found nowhere else in the world.
These trees would provide wood of remarkable durability out of which the Hawaiian would shape his canoes.
For some 1500 years the Hawaiian people lived in delicate balance with their environment, the trees they used being replaced by natural regeneration.
Contact with the west shattered this fragile balance; in the span of a few decades koa began a radical decline that has continued even to the present day.

"Their huge trunks and limbs cover the ground so thickly that it is difficult to ride through the forest, if such it can be called," writes E.F. Rock in 1913 of a once beautiful koa forest in Kealakekua, South Kona.
Rock, a botanist, goes on to note of this macabre forest scene that "90 per cent of the trees are now dead, and the remaining 10 per cent in a dying condition."
In 1779, a little over one hundred and thirty years before Rock's observations, Lt. Charles Clerke who was with Captain Cook tells of wandering through the koa forest above Kealakekua: "Some of our Ex- plorers in the woods measured a tree 19 feet in the girth and rising very proportionably [sic] in its bulk to a great height, nor did this far, if at all, exceed in stateliness many of its neighbours; we never before met with this kind of wood."
Similarly, Archibald Menzies in 1792 describes the same area: "The largest trees which compose this vast forest I now found to be a new species of mimosa [koa]. ..I measured two of them near our path one of which was seventeen feet and the other about eighteen feet in circumference, with straight trunks forty or fifty feet high. ..as we advanced, the wood was more crowded with these trees than lower down where both sides of the path had been thinned of them by the inhabitants."
Page

Acacia koa, once undisputed monarch of the forests of Hawai'i, probably evolved from seeds hitchhiking to Hawai'i in the bowels of some storm-blown bird or through some other capricious act of the winds and seas.
In an environment that was comparatively free of competitors and predators, koa proliferated to where it was once-after 'ohi'a- the second most common forest tree in Hawai'i.
It has been estimated that today there is standing probably not much more than ten percent of the amount of koa that existed at the time of Cook's arrival; presently non-native species make up the majority of the forests of Hawai'i.
Page

Koa sometimes reaches massive proportions.
Tall, straight koa trees up to 20 feet in circumference were seen by a number of Europeans visiting Hawai'i in the late 1700's and early 1800's.
One legend reputes a koa tree with a straight trunk as high as 120 feet, and Emerson notes ten men were required to encompass another mammoth koa tree from which a canoe was to be hewed. Though these dimensions are probably exaggerated, there undoubtedly were some quite large koa trees.
Straight trunks in excess of 70 feet were not unheard of; and while never plentiful, one can still find today an occasional 50- t060-foot straight-trunked koa tree.
In 1977 a 62-foot log was felled in the Honomalino forest above Kona, from which a ten-man, 58-foot canoe has been made.
Of old, certain areas such as the mountains above Hilo and Kona and the slopes of Haleakala produced such an abundance of high quality canoe logs that a very disproportionate amount of the total number of canoes throughout the islands came from these sites.
At Keauhou Ranch on the island of Hawai'i there stands what is considered to be the largest koa tree in the world. Its trunk measures some 12 feet in diameter and 371/2 feet in circumference.
Though the trunk only rises about 30 feet before branching, its topmost branches tower 140 feet above the ground.
The tree is probably four hundred to five hundred years old.
Page

Koa For Canoes
Early Hawaiians, and canoe builders in particular, possessed an especially detailed knowledge of differing physical characteristics of woods, primarily of Acacia koa.
In the absence of modern-day botanical classification techniques, the canoe builder devised his own very sophisticated system for classifying koa.
Through analysis of a tree's trunk shape and dimensions, bark, grain, and branching patterns, a canoe builder was able to identify each koa tree as being of a certain type.

Beyond the obvious gross physical characteristics of a koa tree, the ancient canoe builder was most concerned with the grain, for well he knew that each tree possessed distinct grain characteristics. While today's botanist will tell you that Acacia koa is Acacia koa, he will observe that there is, besides the more obvious differences in physical characteristics, a remarkable range in the density from one tree to the next, and from one stand to the next.
The density of koa ranges from a low of about 30 pounds per cubic foot to a high of 80 pounds per cubic foot.
In some cases there will even be a significant range of grain density within the same tree.
It was apparently this maverick and obscure feature of koa wood that most plagued the canoe builder.
Page 29

While the Hawaiian did not think in terms of pounds per cubic foot, he did develop a system of grain classification that was for all practical purposes comparable to a botanist's grain density scale.
Low density koa (roughly 30 to 45 pounds per cubic foot) was to the canoe builder generally soft, lightweight, and yellowish.
He called it koa la' au mai' a (banana- colored koa) and valued it for its lightness as wood for paddles, but rarely used it for canoes.
Another name for this type of koa wood was koa' awapuhi, literally, "ginger koa," which was regarded as female by the Hawaiians.
Mid-range density koa (40 to 60 pounds per cubic foot), reddish to brown, was overwhelmingly favored for making canoes, primarily because of its durability, and strength-to-weight relationship. Koa at the high end of the density range (60 to 80 pounds per cubic foot) was almost black in color and extremely heavy.
The wood of this type of tree was called koa 'i'o 'ohi'a (hard 'ohi'a-like grain) and was usually avoided for canoes because the wood was heavy and hard to work.
On the occasion when a canoe was made of this kind of koa it was said that it "will never lose its heaviness until. it is smashed."
This contrasts to the typical koa canoe that over the years loses weight due to water loss from the wood.
Noting the tendency of koa to crack and check, canoe builder Z.P.K. Kalokuokamaile said that the canoe maker of old had "to be very careful for the grain of some trees lie [sic] all in the same direction."
(Note that one would expect "the tendency for koa to crack and check" to be an important concern to the builder using this timber for surfboards, it is not mentioneed in any of the traditional sources.)

Further identification of a tree was made through its bark.
Unfortunately, only two types are recorded.
Kaekae was a whitish bark that generally covered a tall, handsome tree, indicating a straight grain of the la' au mai' a variety.
This type of tree, according to Kalokuokamaile, made "a very light canoe and floats well after it is built and put into the sea."
Maua on the other hand, was a dark red bark that typically sheathed the tough, heavy, black-grained ~i'o 'ohi'a, of which "the grain of the wood twists forward and back.
This is hard to make into a canoe."
Trunk shape and dimensions, and branching patterns provided the canoe builder with his most common means of identifying different types of koa.
Holmes then records a list of twenty-one terms still known that were used in identifying koa wa'a (koa for canoes).
Page 30

10. "breadfruit tree."(ulu) (Artocarpus incisus)

11. "wili wilIi wood" (Erythrina sandwicensis)

In a section titled Other Woods, Holmes discusses the use of breadfruit and willi willi in canoe building.

Fornander notes that besides koa, "three other kinds of wood were used in the olden time for building canoes, the wiliwili, kukui (candle-nut tree), and ulu (breadfruit tree).
The wiliwili is yet being used.
The kukui is not much seen at this time.
The ulu is used for repairing a broken canoe
" Handy comments that the early Hawaiian settlers found kukui "to be one of their most valuable assets, perhaps the chief of which lay in the fact that the trunks of large trees could be hollowed into superb canoe hulls."
Soft, light and easily worked, breadfruit, kukui and wiliwili were especially favored as play or training canoes particularly for young aspiring canoeists or women.
The "baby" or training canoes rarely exceeded 20 feet in length and usually were in the 10 to 15 foot range.
Of the light woods, breadfruit was apparently least used; not only was the breadfruit tree fairly rare and needed as a food source, the one variety available to the Hawaiians was usually unsuitable in girth and height for making canoes.
Holmes' comments probably account for the restricted use of breadfruit for surfboard building, certainly for larger boards.
Of wiliwili, Fornander notes that "it was also made into canoes, provided a tree large enough to be made into a canoe can be found; but it is not suitable for two or three people, for it might sink in the sea.
But it must not be finished into a canoe while it is green; leave it for finishing till it has seasoned, then use it."
The essential requirement that the timber be seasoned before finishing is not reported in any of the accounts of early surfboard construction.
Emerson says of softwood wiliwili canoes that: "If not sufficiently durable and resistant to the powerful jaws of the shark, they were at least easily manipulated and very buoyant, and made a cheap and on the whole a very serviceable canoe for ordinary purposes."
Degener, in his book Flora Hawaiiensis, noted that in the early part of this century canoes of wiliwili were not in "favor because of the belief that sharks preferred to follow this particular wood." The limited literature on canoes made from softwoods tends to support the ancient Hawaiian's concern for the greater vulnerability of light wood canoes to occasional shark attacks.
These beliefs might seem to conflict with the many reports of the use of willi willi for ama (outrigger floats).
Note that such beliefs would certainly appear a disincentive to use willi willi for surfboard building and there is no consideration of this in the available literature..
Wiliwili canoes are almost always referred to in the literature as near-shore, play or training canoes. I'i notes that as a young boy he "had learned a little about paddling a canoe made of wiliwili wood that his parents had provided for him."
The restriction of willi willi to "near-shore, play or training canoes" is possibly a reflection on the low strength of the timber, the ancient Hawaiians distrustful of its performance in the open sea conditions.

Wiliwili, by some accounts, was never very plentiful.
Kalokuoka- maile notes that "in the olden days. ..there were very few places in which this tree grew." This is somewhat at odds with botanist W. E. Hillebrand, who wrote that wiliwili was "much more common formerly than now."
It was said by some that Ka'u was the best place for wiliwili.
Today wiliwili can be found flourishing in certain areas.
The author has visited a grove of wiliwili above the Makena area on Maui that comprises several hundred acres.
Many of the trees are 3 to 4 feet in diameter with trunks often rising 15 to 20 feet high before branching.
Other sizeable stands of wiliwili dating from precontact times can still be found in the Pu'uanahulu, Pu'uwa'awa'a and KaIapana areas of Hawai'i.
Smaller populations are also found on Kaua'i behind Kekaha, in west O'ahu, south and west Moloka'i, Kaupo on Maui, Ka'u on Hawai'i and on Kaho'olawe.

Emerson makes an intriguing reference to a certain kaukauali'i (mi- nor chief) who, in the time of Kamehameha I, constructed a vessel (moku) out of a single huge wiliwili tree.
He named this craft after himself, 'Waipa'.
It was partly covered or decked over, but had no outrigger, being kept upright by ballast.
It had a single mast and sailed with Kamehameha's fleet to Oahu." It is not unlikely that such a craft was built.
After contact there were a number of Hawaiians experimenting with new types of craft.
By way of reference, the largest wiliwili tree known, located on Pu'uwa'awa'a Ranch is, at breast height, almost thirteen feet in circumference, and fifty-five feet high.
Kenneth Emory, dean of Pacific anthropologists, records an informant who told him in 1937 of the Hawaiians training wiliwili trees to grow tall and straight before crowning by constantly trimming off side branches.
Page 23.

Holmes also includes a discussion of the use of non-native timbers, washed ashore on the Hawaian islands.
The use of such timber by ancient surfboard builders can not be discounted.
Drift Logs
The gods must surely have smiled on the Hawaiian people, giving them yet another special source of canoe logs: giant redwood, fir, pine and other kinds of tree trunks that drifted from the northwest coast of America to the shores of Hawai'i.
W. T. Brigham, one-time curator of the Bishop Museum, notes that "many of the largest and most famous double canoes of the Hawaiians were hewn from logs of Oregon pine brought to the shores ofNiihau and Kauai by the waves.
I myself saw dozens of such logs in 1864, some of great size, some bored by Teredo, others covered with barnacles, along the shores ofNiihau."
Similarly James Hornell notes that, "in Hawaii giant logs of Oregon pine occasionally drifted ashore; these were greatly prized, for they were often so large as to serve as entire hulls without the need of raising the sides by means of planks sewn on; the difficulty was to obtain a pair of approximately equal size; sometimes a log was kept for years before this aim was achieved."
It was as if nature had compensated for the chronic canoe log shortage on Kaua'i and Ni'ihau, for that was where most of these drift logs landed.
Captain George Vancouver notes that "the circumstance of fir timber being drifted on the northern sides of these islands is by no means uncommon, especially in Attowai [Kaua'i], where there then was a double canoe, of a middling size, made from two small-pine trees, that were driven on shore nearly at the same spot."
The log belonged to whatever chief ruled over that stretch of coastline where it happened to be beached.
Menzies, -Vancouver's surgeon and naturalist, while crossing the Kaua'i Channel later reported "the largest single canoe we had seen amongst these islands, being about sixty feet long and made of one piece of the trunk of a pine tree which had drifted on shore on the east end of the island of Kauai a few years back..
She had sixteen men on her and was loaded on the outriggers with a large quantity of cloth, spears, two muskets, and other articles, which they were carrying up to Mau

Page 24.
 
 



1000 The Alaia

The Polynesians arrived in Hawaii with an unequalled maritime knowledge and skills to the finest surfing location on the planet. Not only was there consistant swell and a tropical climate, but a previously untapped store of timber. Unihabited for X0000 million years, the Hawiian Islands had produced a massive store of surfboard building materials - trees large enough to build sixty foot canoes.

Dimensions vary between 6 feet and 12 feet in length, average 18 inches in width, and  between half an inch and an inch and a half thick. The nose is round and turned up, the tail square. The deck and the bottom are convex,  tapering to thin rounded rails. This cross-section would maintain maximum strength along the centre of the board and the rounded bottom gave directional stability, a crucial factor as the boards did not have fins.

Any discussion of the performance capabilities is largely speculation. Contemporary accounts definitely confirm that Alaia were ridden prone, kneeling and standing; and that the riders cut diagonally across the wave. Details of wave size, wave shape, stance and/or manouvres are, as would be expected, overlooked by most non-surfing observers. Most early illustrations of surfing simply fail to represent any understanding of the mechanics of wave riding. Modern surfing experience would suggest that high performance surfing is limited more by skill than equipment. It is a distinct probablity that ancient surfers rode large hollow waves deep in the curl - certainly prone, and on occassions standing.

By 1000 A.D these principles were confirmed...
13. Large waves are faster than small waves.-  a larger board is easier to achieve take off.
14. Steep waves are faster than flat waves.- a smaller board is easier to control at take off.
15. Control is more important than speed
16. Surfboards are precious.



1300 The Olo

Very large boards whose use was restricted, by tradition, to royalty. This may have been due to a heirachical social structure, but it would also to restrict access to certain surfing locations and to the largest available trees. Although there are reports that wlli willi was the preferred timber, the only two examples from this period are koa. As in the case of the Alaia, it's light weight of made it unlikely that  willi willi  boards would  survive until the 20th century. The only other known example, acquired  from the collection of Prince Kuhio in 18xx, is imported pine.

There are no contemporary accounts of how the boards were ridden, but it is most likely that the design was specifically for riding large swells on outside reefs, rather than on breaking or curling waves. In 1961, Tom Blake suggested that the Olo may have been ridden prone.

In the 1920's, Tom Blake and Duke Kahanamoku reproduced the design  in a hollowed version to radically reduce the weight. See #5xx, below
This third set also includes a photograph of a selection of four surfboards and the caption
...surfboards, ancient and modern. ..
The long board at the left is one of Chief Paki's and of olo design. It is made of koa wood over 16 feet long, 6 inches thick, with convex top and bottom, 18 inches wide and weighs 168 pounds. The next board is of ancient alaia design, made of wood of the breadfruit tree; it is 12 feet long, 20 inches wide, 1 Yz inches thick down the center and weighs about 50 pounds. The third board is Duke's, built around 1910 and representing the style of board in vogue until 1929. It is made of California redwood, 10 feet long, 3 inches thick, and 23 inches wide and its weight is 70 pounds. The last board to the right is the new stream-lined hollow design which is now gaining favor at Waikiki beach. I t is 12 feet 10 inches long, 22 inches wide maximum, 5Yz inches thick maximum, and weighs 44 pounds. It is slightly covex on the bottom. -Photo by Hosoka
Illustrations, Third set, Plate , between pages 48 and 49.
The image, right, is as reproduced in the 1983/1985/1996 reprint of Hawaiian Surfboard, retitled as Hawaiian Surfriders 1935.
The image crops the tails of all the boards and the nose of Paki's board.
The white scar appears to be a tear in the page from which the later edition was copied.


Image left
Bishop Museum Surfboard Collection, circa 1959.
Photograph: Star Bulletin.

HISTORIC COLLECTION (Figure 1)
At the Bishop Museum, secure in a vault-like room of heavy concrete along with countless other artifacts of early Hawaiian culture, is this collection of surf- boards.
The prehistoric models show a clear-cut distinction between the Alaia and those of Olo design. 
However, no examples of the Olo board made of Wili Wili wood are here, or seem to be in existence. 
Several of these boards are links in the evolution of design from 1900 to the 1930 period.
The museum has not room to display this full collection.

 


Image right
Alia board and Paki's Olo, Bishop Museum Collection, circa 1959.
Photograph: Star Bulletin

SURFBOARDS OF ANCIENT TIMES (Figure 2)
Of interest to every surfrider and on display in the Bishop Museum of Honolulu are these two authentic models of the Ancient Royal Hawaiians. 
The one at the left is an Alaia, made of wood of the Breadfruit tree. 
It is an inch and one half thick maximum, and weighs about 70 pounds and was used by the commoners of Hawaii. 
The Board on the right of a similar shape, called Olo, is about six inches thick at the center. 
Both boards have a convex top and bottom and fairly sharp edges. 
The long one is made of Hawaiian Koa wood, but the chieftains favored a light, balsa-like wood called Wili Wili, native to Hawaii, but now scarce. 
This Olo model weighs 168 pounds. 
One made of Wili Wili wood might weigh 60 pounds. 
It is believed they were generally ridden in a prone position on big waves while the thin one has good steering qualities for small surf and was easily ridable in a standing position.




ancient surfboard design and construction part 7
Return to History Menu
home catalogue history references appendix

One instantly dashed in, in front of, and at the lowest declevity (1) of the advancing wave, and with a
few strokes of hands and feet, established his position (on the wave - Blake).
Then, without further effort, shot along the base of the wave to the east-ward with incredible velocity.
Naturally, he came towards shore with the body of the wave as he advanced, but his course was
along the foot of the wave, and parallel with it, so that we only saw that he was running past with the
speed of a swift winged bird.
He kept up with the progress of the breaking crest, which moved from west to east (2), as successive
portions of the wave took the ground (broke in shallow water - Blake).

As the big seas chased each other in from the open ocean, the west end first reached the rocky bed,
and the instant the bottom of the wave met this obstruction, its rotary motion was checked, and
immediately, the comb on the top was formed, so that, the foamy crest seemed to run along the top of
the wave from west to east, as successive portions of it reached the rock bottom.

As soon as the bather had secured his position, he gave a spring, and stood upon his knees upon the
board, and just as he was passing us, when about four hundred feet from the little peninsula point
where we stood, he gave another spring and stood upon his feet (3), now folding his arms upon his
breast, and now swinging them about in wild ecstasy, in his exhilarating flight.

Here Blake paraphrases Caton, rather than quote him directly, and I have adjusted the text to highlight what I
think is Caton's input ...

 ... these boards as being about one and one-half inches thick, seven feet long, coffin shaped, rounded
at the ends, chamfered (beveled - Blake) at the edges; about fifteen inches wide at the widest point
near the forward end, and eleven inches wide at the back end. (4)

... boards of the aliea, or thin design, were usually made of koa or wood of the breadfruit tree.

The surf bathers ... stripped to their breach cloths or malos, before going in the water. (5)

... the natives could not explain why they were propelled shoreward with such astonishing speed, nor
could  I (Mr. Caton) explain it myself (himself), nor could my (his) friends.
He hoped that someday, someone would study the question and find an answer to it. (6)

To continue the narrative, Blake goes on to suggest a, not altogether satisfactory, solution ...
The answer is relatively simple. Gravity does the trick.
The front slope of the wave on which one slides presents a down-hill path, while the friction of the
slippery board against the water is very small. (7)
It's the same as skiing on a snow-covered hill, and there is no doubt as to what makes one slide down
a hill on skis.
However, in skiing, one can start down hill from a stationary position, while in surfriding some
momentum must first be attained , to catch up with the incoming swell.
This is accomplished by paddling the board with the hands and arms. (8) - Blake (1935) page 43.