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thrum's almanac : surf-riding, 1896 
Thrum's Hawaiian Almanac and Annual, 1896.
Surf-riding Culture.

Anonymous : "Hawaiian Surf-riding".
Thrum, Thomas G. (editor) : Thrum's Hawaiian Almanac and Annual for 1896.
Honolulu, 1896, pages 106 -113.

The introduction by Thrum states that the article's content was "prepared for the Annual by a native of the Kona district of Hawaii, familiar with the sport."
Apparrently originally written in Hawai'ian, he further notes that  the was "for assistance in translation we are indebted to by M. K. Nakuina, himself no stranger to the sport in earlier days."

Tim DeLaVega notes that this article was preceeded by a shorter entry:
"A89 Thrum, Thomas G (editor) : Thrum's Hawaiian Almanac and Annual for 1892. Honolulu, 1892. page 52."
This copy of this article is yet to be located.
He also notes that the 1896 edition features " 1 Illust., 2 Photos, One is a photograph of 3 boys paipo surf-riding."
This copy of the 1896 edition has rather two illustrations and one photograph of canoe surf riding, all reproduced below.

- DeLaVega: 200 Years (2004) page 28.

Since its publication, the article has imbedded itself in surfing literature, extensively quoted in a wide range of publications and highly praised by commentators.

Several sections of Thrum's article were quoted in Riding the Surfboard, attributed to Duke Kahanamoku and published in the first edition of the Mid-Pacific Magazine in1911.
The author, actually Alexander Hume Ford, declared it ""the best article ever prepared on ancient surfing."

- Kahanamoku (Ford): Riding the Surfboard, The Mid-Pacific Magazine,(1911) page 4.

In his seminal book on surfriding, Hawaiian Surfriders, self-published in 1935, Tom Blake quoted extensively from Thrum's article and cited it as a highlt valuable source:

"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." - page 72

He concluded :"I can detect only one error in the work ... (the) writer says the Olo board of wili wili was two or three feet wide." - pages 76-77.

While the title illustration has been reprinted in several books, one of the earliest being H. Arthur Klein's Surfing  in 1965, reproduction of the second illustration  is rare.
The canoe surfing photograph was previously printed in ??

- Klein: Surfing  (1965), Hawaiian Surf-riding, circa 1896 (accredited to the Public Archives), page 28.

An edited version of the article was reproduced as an appendix in Finney and Houston's 1996 reprint of their seminal work of thirty years earlier, Surfing – The Sport of Hawaiian Kings.

- Finney and Houston: Surfing – A History of the Ancient Hawaiian Sport (1996), Appendix E, pages 102 to105.

Tthe article appeared in an anthology by Patrick Moser in 2008, without Thrum's footnotes on page 107 and, consistent with the book's format, without the images.
In the introduction he decribed it as an "invaluable text" in describing "the particular practices, rituals, and tools of craftsmen who shaped the boards "

- Moser: Pacific Pasages (2008), pages 125-131.

Page 106


AMONG the favorite pastimes of ancient Hawaiians that of surf riding was a most prominent and popular one with all classes.
In favored localities throughout the group for the practice and exhibition of the sport, "high carnival" was frequently held at the spirited contests between rivals in this aquatic sport, to witness which the people would gather from near and far; especially if a famous surf-rider from another district, or island, was seeking to wrest honors from their own champion.

Native legends abound with the exploits of those who attained distinction among their fellows by their skill and daring in this sport; indulged in alike by both sexes, and frequently too- as

Page 107

 (i)n these days of intellectual development- the gentler sex carried off the highest honors.
These legendary accounts are usually interwoven with romantic incident, as in the abduction of Kalea, (a) sister of Kawaokaohele, Moi of Maui, by emissaries of Lo-Lale chief of Lihue, in the Ewa district of Oahu; the exploit of Laieikawa, (b) and Halaaniani at Keaau, Puna, Hawaii; or for chieftain supremacy, as instanced in the contest between Umi and Paiea (c) in a surf swimming match at Laupahoehoe, which the former was challenged to, and won, upon a wager of four double canoes; also of Lonoikamakahiki at Hana, Maui, and others.

How early in the history of the race surf riding became the science with them that it did is not known, though it is a well-acknowledged fact, that while other islanders may divide honors with Hawaiians for aquatic powers in other respects, none have attained the expertness of surf sport, which early visitors recognized as a national characteristic of the natives of this group. It would be interesting to know how the Hawiians, over all others in the Pacific, developed this into the skillful or scientific sport which it became, to give them such eminence over their fellows, for we find similar traits of character, mode of life, mild temperature and like coast lines in many another "island world of the Pacific."
That it became national in character can be understood when we learn that it was identified, to some extent at least, with the ceremonies and superstitions of kahunaism, especially in preparations therefor, while the indulgence of the exciting sport pandered to their gambling propensities.

The following descriptive account has been prepared for THE ANNUAL by a native of the Kona district of Hawaii, familiar with the subject.
For assistance in its translation we are indebted to M. K. Nakuina, himself no stranger to the sport in earlier days.

Surf riding was one of the favorite Hawaiian sports, in which chiefs, men, women and youth, took a lively interest.
Much valuable time was spent by them in this practice throughout the day.
Necessary work for the maintenance of the family, such as farming, fishing, mat and kapa making and such other household duties required of them and needing attention, by

a  Fornander's Polynesian Race, Vol. 2, pp 83-86.
b Laieikawai, Chapter XXI.
c Polynesian Race, Vol. 2, p 96.

Page 108

either head of the family, was often neglected for the prosecution of the sport.
Betting was made an accompaniment thereof, both by the chiefs and the common people, as was done in all other games, such as wrestling, foot racing, quoits, checkers, holua, and several other known only to the old Hawaiians.
Canoes, nets, lines, kapas, swine, poultry and all other property were staked, and in some instances life itself was put up as wagers, the property changing hands, and personal liberty, or even life itself, sacrificed according to the outcome of the match, the winners carrying off their riches and the losers and their families passing to a life of poverty or servitude.


There were only three kinds of trees known to be used for making boards for surf riding, viz.: the wiliwili (Erythrina monosperma), ulu or breadfruit (Artocarpus incisa), and koa (Acacia koa).

The uninitiated were naturally careless, or indifferent as to the method of cutting the chosen tree; but among those who desired success upon their labors the following rites were carefully observed.

Upon the selection of a suitable tree, a red fish called kumu was first procured, which was placed at its trunk.
The tree was then cut down, after which a hole was dug at its root and the fish placed therein, with a prayer, as an offering in payment therefor.
After this ceremony was performed, then the tree trunk was chipped away from each side until reduced to a board approximately of the dimensions desired, when it was pulled down to the beach and placed in the halau (canoe house) or other suitable place convenient for its finishing work.


Coral of the corrugated variety termed pohaku puna, which could be gathered in abundance along the sea beach, and a rough kind of stone called oahi were commonly used articles for reducing and smoothing the rough surfaces of the board until all marks of the stone adze were obliterated.
As a finishing stain the root of the ti plant (Cordyline terminalis), called mole ki, or the pounded bark of the kukui (Aleurites moluccana), called hili, was the mordant used for a paint made with the soot of burned kukui nuts.
This furnished a durable, glossy black

Page 109

finish, far preferable to that made with the ashes of burned crane leaves, or amau fern, which had neither body nor gloss.

Before using the board there were other rites or ceremonies to be performed, for its dedication.
As before, these were disregarded by the common people, but among those who followed the making of surf boards as a trade, they were religiously observed.

There are two kinds of boards for surf riding, one called the olo and the other the a-la-ia, known also as omo.
The olo was made of wiliwili - a very light buoyant wood - some three fathoms long, two to three feet wide, and from six to eight inches thick along the middle of the board, lengthwise, but rounding toward the edges on both upper and lower sides.
It is well known that the olo was only for the use of the chiefs; none of the common people: used it.
They used the a-la-ia, which was made of koa, or ulu. Its length and width were similar to the olo, except in thickness, it being but of one and a half or two inches thick along the center.


The line of breakers is the place where the outer surf rises and breaks at deep sea.
This is called the kulana nalu.
Any place nearer or closer in where the surf rises and breaks again, as they sometimes do, is called the ahua, known also as kipapa or puao.

There are only two kinds of surf in which riding is indulged; - these are called the kakala, known also as lauloa, or long surf, and the ohu, sometimes called opuu.
The former is a surf that rises, covering the whole distance from one end of the beach to the other.
These, at times, form in successive waves that roll in with high, threatening crest, finally falling over bodily.
The first of a series of surf waves usually partake of this character, and is never taken by a rider, as will be mentioned later.
The ohu is a very small comber that rises up without breaking, but of such strength that sends the board on speedily.
This is considered the best, being low and smooth, and the riding thereon easy and pleasant, and is therefore preferred by ordinary surf riders.
The lower portion of the breaker is called honua, or foundation, and the portion near a cresting wave is termed the muku side, while the distant, or clear side, as some express it, is known as the lala.

Page 110


During calm weather when there was no surf there were two ways of making or coaxing it practiced by the ancient Hawaiians, the generally adopted method being for a swimming party to take several strands of the sea convolvulus vine, and swinging it around the head lash it down unitedly upon the water until the desired result was obtained, at the same time chanting as follows:

Ho aei : ho ae iluna i ka pohuehue,
Ka ipu nui lawe mai.
Ka ipu iki waiho aku.


The swimmer, taking position at the line of breakers, waits for the proper surf.
As before mentioned the first one is allowed to pass by.
It is never ridden, because its front is rough.
If the second comber is seen to be a good one it is sometimes taken, but usually the third or fourth one is the best, both from the regularity of its breaking and the foam calmed surface of the sea through the travel of its predecessors.
In riding with the olo or thick board, on a big surf, the board is pointed landward and the rider, mounting it,  paddles with his hands and impels with his feet to give the board a forward movement, and when it receives the momentum of the surf and begins to rush downward, the skilled rider will guide his course straight, or obliquely, apparently at will, according to the spending character of the surf ridden, to land himself high and dry on the beach, or dismount on nearing it, as he may elect.
This style was called kipapa.
In using the olo great care had to be exercised in its management, lest from the height of the wave - if coming in direct - the board would be forced into the base of the breaker, instead of floating lightly and riding on the surface of the water, in which case, the wave force being spent, reaction throws both rider and board into the air.
In the use of the olo the rider had to swim out around the line of surf to obtain position, or be conveyed thither by canoe.
To swim out through the surf with such a buoyant bulk was not possible, though it was sometimes done with the thin boards, the a-la-ia.
These latter are good for riding all kinds of surf, and are much easier to handle than the olo.

Page 111


Various positions used to be indulged in by old-time experts in this aquatic sport, such as standing, kneeling and sitting.
These performances could only be indulged in after the board had taken on the surf momentum and in the following manner.
Placing the hands on each side of the board, close to the edge, the weight of the body was thrown ,on the hands, and the feet brought up quickly to the kneeling position.
The sitting position is attained in the same way, though the hands must not be removed from the board till the legs are thrown forward and the desired position is secured.
From the kneeling to the standing position was obtained by placing both hands again on the board

Page 112


and with agility leaping up to the erect attitude, balancing the body on the swift-coursing board with outstretched hands.


Kaha nalu is the term used for surf swimming without the use of the board, and was done with the body only.
The swimmer, as with a board, would go out for position and, watching his opportunity, would strike out with hands and feet to obtain headway as the approaching comber with its breaking crest would catch him, and with his rapid swimming powers bear him onward with swift momentum, the body being submerged in the foam; the head and shoulders only being seen.
Kaha experts could ride on the lala or top of the surf as if riding with a board.


Canoe riding in the surf is another variety of this favorite sport, though not so general, nor perhaps so calculated to win the plaudits of an admiring throng, yet requiring dexterous skill and strength to avoid disastrous results. .
Usually two or three persons would enter a canoe and paddle out to the line of breakers.
They would pass the first, second, or third surf if they were kakalas, it being impossible to shoot such successfully with a canoe, but if an ohu is approaching,

Page 113

then they would take position and paddle quickly till the swell of the cresting surf would seize the craft and speed it onward without further aid of paddles, other than for the steersman to guide it straight to shore, but woe be to all if his paddle should get displaced.
Canoe riding has been practiced of late years in mild weather by a number of the Waikiki residents, several of whom are becoming expert in this exciting and exhilarating sport.


1. Huia and Ahua, at Hilo, Hawaii, the former right abreast of Kai- palaoa, and the latter off Mokuola (Cocoanut Island).
Punahoa, a chiefess, was the noted surf rider of Hilo during the time of Hiiakaikapoli.
2. Kaloakaoma, a deep sea surf at Keaau, Puna, Hawaii; famed through the feats of Laieikawai and Halaaiani, as also of Hiiakaikapoli and Hopoe.
3. Huiha, at Kailua, Kona, Hawaii, was the favorite surf whereon the chiefs were wont to disport themselves.
4. Kaulu and Kalapu, at Heie, Keauhou, Kona, Hawaii, were surfs enjoyed by Kauikeouli (Kamehameha III), and his sister the princess Nahienaena, whenever they visited this, their birthplace.
5. Puhele and Keanini, at Hana, and Uo at Lahaina, Maui were surfs made famous through the exploits of chiefs of early days.
6. Kalehuawehe, at Waikiki, Oahu, used to be the attraction for the congregating together of Oahu chiefs in the olden time.
7. Makaiwa, at Kapaa, Kauai, through Moikeha, a noted chief of that island is immortalized in the old meles as follows:

"I walea no Moikeha ia Kauai,
I ka la hiki ae a po iho.
0 ke kee a ka nalu 0 Makaiwa-
0 ke kahui mai a ke Kalukalu-
E noho ia Kauai a e make."
"Moikeha is contented with Kauai
Where the sun rises and sets.
The bend of the Makaiwa surf-
The waving of the Kalukalu-
Live and die at Kauai."

Thrum, Thomas G. (editor) : 
Thrum's Hawaiian Almanac and Annual for 1896.
Honolulu, 1896.

Whereas this documentment has been highly valued by commentators for its unique material; its singularity presents some difficulties.
A considerable amount of the content is from earlier published sources, notably the accreditation of the Hawai'ian legends.

Originally uploaded in 2006, this analysis was extensively revised in 2013 following an exchange of emails with Ben Marcus, many thanks to Ben for his advise and comments.

1. I have not visited the Bishop Museum in Honolulu and examined their collection of ancient surfboards
2. Ben Marcus noted that Ian Masterson completed his master’s thesis on the Hawaiian olo, I have yet to access this work.

“The olo were a symbol of royalty, and the penalty for a commoner caught riding or even touching one of these boards was death by beheading. “
I assume this is an extension from Thrum's “It is well known that the olo was only for the use of the chiefs.”
The penalty is perhaps an exaggeration, and thinking laterally:

Did the chiefs have a retinue (of commoners) who prepared, serviced and stored their boards?

In the introduction, Thomas Thrum establishes the status of surf riding in Hawai'ian culture and details some of the ancient Hawai'ian legends that include surf riding exploits, noting that they "are usually interwoven with romantic incident, as in the abduction of Kalea."
The legends are accredited to Laieikawai (?) and Abraham Fornander's Polynesian Race (1878-1885), the later containing the Legend of Kalea which, following publication, appeared occassionally in an edited version in the Hawai'ian press.

- The Daily Bulletin, Honolulu, December 30, 1882, Supplement, page 3.

The Origin of Surfriding.
Thrum notes that while surf riding's origins are unknown, despite the comparable aquatic skills of other islanders of the Pacific, it reached its pinnacle in Hawai'i.
He was at a loss to explain why "the Hawaiians, over all others in the Pacific, developed ... eminence over their fellows" despite "similar traits of character, mode of life, mild temperature and like coast lines."

He failed to note that the Hawai'ian archipelago was the largest and most productive landmass in tropical Polynesia (excluding New Zealand) and supporting the largest population.
Thrum's assesmment that there were "like coast lines" was incorrect; as one of the youngest of the volcanic island chains in the Pacific the Hawai'an islands have early-phase coral reefs that lie offshore, but do not encircle the land, for example, as in Tahiti.
These intermittent reefs allow swell to reguarly reach the beach breaks and are themselves surfing breaks, facilitating surf riding over a wide range of swell size and direction.
Conversely, in Tahiti surfriding was commonly practised where there was an "opening of the reef."

- Ellis: Polynesian Researches (1829), Volume 1, pages 223-224.
- Moerenhout: Travels (1837), pages 359-360.
- Wheeler: Memoirs (1842), pages 273-274.

The Authors
The article purports to dicuss "ancient surfriding," that is, at the least, before the ending of the kapu system in 1819.
Clearly, in 1896 none of Thrum's authors were old enough to personally recall events before the end of kapu.

This in marked contrast with the accounts by other native Hawai'ians, David Malo and John Papa Ii, both who experienced the pre-kapu period.
In particular, David Malo was a court official who originally published his book in 1838, but only in native Hawaiian, the English translation was not published until 1903.

- Malo: Antiquities (1838)
- I'i: Fragments (1870)

Thomas Thrum

His Almanac was above all a promotional publication for the Hawai'ian tourist industry.

The Native of the Kona district of Hawaii.
The failure to identify the "author" beyond "a native of the Kona district of Hawaii, familiar with the subject" is unfortunate.
Without further information it is difficult to assess the extent of knowledge or experience of the correspondent.
Itis unclear if "the native" provided an original manuscript or whether this was material contributed to one of the hawi'ian language newpaersof the period.

M. K. Nakuina

M. K. Nakuina is accredited as "the translator .. himself no stranger to the sport in earlier days"
In 1901, Moses K. Nakuina gave an insight into the preparation of the Annual , following his dismissal as a government official by Thrum for "reading  newspapers in office hours."
Nakuina  noted that he completed the translation of the surf-riding article, amoung others, during office hours, while he was employed by Thrum on government pay.

- Evening Bulletin, Honolulu, August 2, 1901, page 6.

- Malo: Antiquities (1838)
- Il: Fragments (1870)

Presumably, the original manuscript was written in native Hawa'ian, hence the translation, as made by " M. K. Nakuina, himself no stranger to the sport in earlier days."
It is unclear if Nakuina performed a faithful translation, or made some adjustments based on his personal knowledge, and to what extent Thrum subsesquently edited the English transcription.
There is a remote possibility that the original article was published in an native language paper of the preriod.

The Kona native wrtites of surf riding as enjoyed by all classes, gender and ages, often to the detriment of domestic needs.
Several commentators note the abandonment of productive activity by whole villages in pursuit of surfing, however they usually associate this with various religious festivals.
It is more likely that these occasions were prompted by the arrival of quality surf, if this coincided with a festival, all the better.

He also notes that surf riding was a focus of gambling where goods and personal liberty were waged on the "outcome of the match."

"There were only three kinds of trees known to be used for making boards for surf riding, viz.: the wiliwili (Erythrina monosperma), ulu or breadfruit (Artocarpus incisa), and koa (Acacia koa)."
The Latin names were, no doubt, added by Thrum.

The earliest description of the timber used for Hawai'ian surfboards is William Ellis' "very light sharkboards," on Kauai in 1778.
Rev. William Ellis reported "erythrina" (willi-willi) on Hawaii in 1825 and David Malo recalled  both willi-willi and koa in 1838.
Breadfruit was recorded as the timber of choice for the surfboard riders at Hilo by Nordhoff and Bird in 1873.
In 1892, William Brigham, an early curator of the Bishop Museum, noted that surfboards were "usually made of koa," and "sometimes ... of very light wi-Ii wi-Ii."
He inferes that willi willi is only used for the "narrow, o-lo."

Tom Blake (1935) quotes extenstively from the article ( pages 44 to 47) and concludes ...

I can detect only one error in the work.
That writer says the olo board of wili wiIi 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.
I also infer, from that error, the writer to be unfamiliar with the wiIi wili, or chief's board.
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 surfrider, 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.

Rather than finding the reported Olo width questionable, this inconsistancy may be the result of ineffective translation and/or transcription from the original source.
Possibly, the translation may have also required the calcuation of the dimensions into feet and fathoms (approximately six feet) from a different method of measurement.

Two traditional Hawaiian measurements were (note these lack full Hawaiian punctuation) ...
po'ae'ae : 1. the distance from the armpit to the finger tips of the outstretched arm. (Kalokuokamaile)
2. Armpit (PE).  (Approximately 30 inches or 760 mm).
kiko'o : the distance between the extended tips of the thumb and forefinger  of one hand, used to measure the depth of a canoe. (Emerson; PE) (Approximately 8 inches or 200 mm).
- Adapted from Holmes (1993), Glossary, pages 172 to 179.

If these traditional measurements are substituted, then the approximate dimensions would be 16 to 24 inches wide (two or three kiko'o) and 90 inches - 7 foot 6 inches long (three  po'ae'ae).
Existing ancient Alaia dimensions would be close to this - but not for the Olo.

f Blake is correct in his inference that the writer is "unfamiliar with the wiIi wili, or chief's board", then the accuracy of other aspects of the article may be called into question.

Also note that the report indicates the for the Alaia  "a-la-ia ... length and width were similar to the olo except in thickness, it being but of one and a half or two inches thick along the center."

That is the only difference between these designs is the timber and the thickness..
The Olo is made of "wili wili"  and the Alaia "of koa, or ulu."
The Olo is "from six to eight inches thick", the Alaia "one and a half or two inches thick".

The reported length of the two designs is identical, that is "three fathoms long (18 feet), two to three feet wide."
This does  not correspond with any other report, or an existing example, of the Alaia.

Further consider ....

"In riding with the olo or thick board, on a big surf, the board is pointed landward and the rider, mounting it,  paddles with his hands and impels with his feet to give the board a forward movement"

Given the reported length of an Olo (and Alaia) in this report is apprroximately 18 feet ("some three fathoms long"), then the technique of kicking ("impel") with the feet at take-off would appear highly inefficient and does not correspond to contemporary experience.

Details in the report on Trees and the Mode of Cutting deserve further consideration.

1.  "The uninitiated were naturally careless, or indifferent as to the method  of cutting the chosen tree."
Were the "uninitiated" those not of the royal caste?
Were they a majority?

2.  "The tree trunk was chipped away from each side until reduced to a board approximately of the dimensions desired (a billet), when it was pulled down to the beach and placed in in the 'halau' (canoe house) or other suitable place for its finishing work. "

billet  - Crude timber or polyurethane foam block from which a board is shaped. Common usage ‘blank’.

 Timber source ;

The comment  "it was pulled down to the beach" , is devoid of practical information.
As discussed below the account does not indicate a required curing period either before of after transportation.

The account of the finishing process that follows does not indicate a curing or seasoning period.
While cutting and shaping the board from freshly cut green timber would be easier work, the result would probably be a board prone to splitting and warping, as well as being significanlty heavier than a cured board.

No available early surfboard building reference accounts for the need for a curing time.

For canoe construction, Holmes (1993) notes...
"Menzies observes that rough hewn canoes, 'after laying some time ... to season, were dragged down in that state to the seaside to be finished ' ". Page 38.

Expanding on the process he adds...

"Usually the log was left to season in a shaded place  'on logs to prevent it from warping' , anywhere from several months to several years.
This served to  minimize the tendency of 'koa' to split, check or crack."  Page 40.

One would expect that successful surfboard construction would require an intial felling and rough shaping into a billet, followed by a a similar extended seasoning period.

3. "Upon the selection of a suitable tree, a red fish called kumu was first procured, which was placed at its trunk.
The tree was then cut down, after which a hole was dug at its root and the fish placed therein, with a prayer, as an offering in payment therefor.

Before using the board there were other rites or ceremonies to be performed, for its dedication.
As before, these were disregarded by the common people, but among those who followed the making of surf boards as a trade, they were religiously observed".

Although detailed and explicit, Thrum's often quoted account of the required religious ceremony closely resembles more detailed reports relating to canoe construction.
See Holmes (1991), pages 30 to 42..

Certainly the report by "a native of the Kona district of Hawaii" is of a long past era', is it tainted by the more extensive formal ceremonies associated with the canoe builders?

And, were such reported ceremonial actives reserved only for craft that had specific cultural significance?

4. "The tree trunk was chipped away from each side until reduced to a board approximately of the dimensions desired ".
This corresponds with most similar construction notes of the period, howerver some technical considerations may have insight.

1. Shaping a board from a round log is a lot of work, although this would not be a major impediment to a skilled adzeman.

2. Such a method does result in a massive loss potentially valuable timber, producing a large pile of woodchips or shavings.

3. Canoe builders selected trees that best replicated their intended designs, those with bends or curves that allowed for the shaping of significant rocker into the craft.
If surfboards were built along the similar principles, then we would expect similar design features to be exhibited in the surfboard design.
This assumes that minimal rocker was not simply a design preference.

4. Indeed, if the board was shaped from an individual log, there is no technical reason why the design could not even include a keel or fin.
This assumes that such a feature on the bottom  would not be considered as significantly increasing the potential danger - a reason given by some finless riders in the 1940s.
Some pre-contact paddle blades have small extensions on their tips (their pupose is unclear), illustrating that such design features were possible.

"Thrum also noted a thanks-giving ritual in which a red fish called kumu was buried among the roots of a tree selected and felled to make the boards."
This is actually David Malo's 1840s account of canoe construction (chapter 24), appropriated as an account of ancient surfboard construction by Thrum's authors.
While there were some parallels, there are considerable differences highlighted by several inconsistancies in Thrum's report.

As such, its accuracy is highly questionable.

5. If surfboard design and construction can be related to another Hawaiian maritime products, then it more closely resembles the production of paddles, rather than canoes.

My connention, based only on cognitation, is that paddles and surfboards were probably shaped from timber beams, split from logs using a combination of wedges, adzes and hammers.
I would note that..
1. Splitting the timber on site would greatly assist transport to the coast.
2. Splitting the timber would maximise the timber available from a log.
3. Pre-contact boards feature a minimal rocker (contrast canoes) that would appear to fall within the parameters of a split beam.
4. Although I can not confirm that Hawaiians used split timber in any other form of construction, I am assuming that a technology that was able to split stone to construct fine edged tools was also able to successfully split timber.
5. Split timber would have a faster seasoning process, which may and allow a more regulated loss of moisture producing a lighter board and a reduction in the tendency for future splits or cracks.
6.Split timber would be structurally stronger, improving potential board life.

A critcal point.
In describing the riding of the olo, Thrum states "This style was called kipapa."
Pukui and Elbert's Hawaiian Dictionary (1986) defines kipapa as:

"nvi. Prone position on a surfboard; to asume such," page 154.
As the idea of the chiefs of Hawai'i riding their olo boards lying down is somewhat at odds with modern perceptions, this rather inconvenient statement appears has been overlooked by most (all?) commentators.

Given the olo board's narrow width, thickness, and domed deck, I think this is highly possible.


Thomas George Thrum. (1842-1932). Brought from Australia by his parents in 1853, at the age of 11. In 1875 published the first Hawaiian Almanac and Annual (known as "Thrum's"), and continued to publish it until 1932. He edited Ka Nupepa Kuokoa in 1883; started Paradise of the Pacific, a monthly magazine in 1888 with James J Williams (it later became Honolulu Magazine). Thrum located and listed 500 heiau, collected and published numerous Hawaiian folk tales, and completed and published Fornander's Collection of Hawaiian Antiquities and Folklore.

Background and historical significance of KA NUPEPA KUOKOA
by Joan Hori, Hawaiian Collection Curator,
    Special Collections, Hamilton Library, University of Hawaiÿi at Mänoa

Evening Bulletin.
Honolulu, August 2, 1901, page 6.

                                        Answer to Mr. Thrum's letter of dismisal.

Thos. O. Thrum, Registrar of Conveyances.
Sir: In view of the charge you made against me as to my habit of reading  newspapers in office hours, allow me to explain.
Is it not a fact that you have employed me, a government official, during office hours to translate the following article for your
annual, viz.
Story of the Menehune, Surf-riding, Canoe-making. Kuula-fish-god  (First Part).
All of which is now published, also the translation of the second part of the Kuula story which is now in your possession, and not
paying for the same as private work?
Respectfully yours,

Chronicling America
Evening bulletin. (Honolulu [Oahu, Hawaii) 1895-1912, August 02, 1901, Image 6
Image and text provided by University of Hawaii at Manoa; Honolulu, HI
Persistent link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82016413/1901-08-02/ed-1/seq-6/

Also printed concurrently in The Hawaiian Star, August 2, 1901, page 5.

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Geoff Cater, (2006-2013) : Thrum's Hawaiian Almanac and Annual, 1896.

This invaluable text was the first written source in English to describe surfriding's place in the traditional Hawaiian religion-what the editor, Thomas G. Thrum (1842-1932), termed "the ceremonies and supersti- tions of kahunaism"-and the particular practices, rituals, and tools of craftsmen who shaped the boar6s. Appearing in the Hawaiian Alma- nac and Annual for 1896 (a reference book for travelers and the local business community), we learn from an anonymous "native of the Kona district of Hawaii" distinctions between surfboards and their riders, the names of different parts of waves and types of rides, how surfriders tried to raise swells during flat periods, and why 010 boards were often ferried out on canoes. The appearance of such information, along with referenc- es to Hawaiian surf spots and the legends associated with them, shows the increasing interest by the haole community in native culture (Thrum himseifwould put out a number of books on Hawaiian legend in the fol- lowing decades) and offers a unique look at a Hawaiian cultural tradition that, within a decade, would undergo an explosion of popularity not seen since the 1820s, when William Ellis described "fifty or a hundred persons riding on an immense billow."