Held by the Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Catalogue
Images : Margan
and Finney, page 23
The board was ridden at Wakiki in the 1830's
by high chief Abner Paki, however Tom
Blake estimated that the boards may be much older.
He initially encountered the boards in
the mid-1920's, covered in red paint and hung by wire, outside the Bishop
Museum, Honolulu, were they had been for over 20 years. After several requests
to the museum's curator, Mr. Bryan, Tom Blake was allowed to remove the
boards and restore them to their original unpainted condition. This proved
to be a more work than anticipated - the red paint covered several
layers of blue paint, and below that layers of a sand coloured paint. Underneath
the layers of paint, worm holes had been filled with a marine deck seam
compound and on the largest board the tail section had been replaced with
Blake concluded that the boards were probably
already antiques by 1830, when Paki had them repaired to ride.
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
Chief Kalaimoku of Hawai'i,
his wife, houses and possessions, dominated
by an large Olo in the foreground.
Engraving from a drawing by Pellion,
Originally printed in
Freycinet : Voyage Around the World,
and Houston page 37
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.