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duke : surfboard riding, part 1, 1911

Duke Paoa Kahanamoku : Riding the Surfboard, 1911.

Kahanamoku, Duke Paoa: Riding the Surfboard, Part 1.
The Mid-Pacific Magazine
Published by Alexander Hume Ford, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii,
Volume 1, Number 1, January,1911, pages 2 to 10.

Hathi Trust$c175728

This first issue of The Mid-Pacific Magazine was subtitled the "Surfing and Coastal Number"  and surf riding predominates the publication with numerous photographs including the cover and back page, see below.
Although the following article is formally attributed to Duke Paoa (Kahanamoku), the introductory remarks are considerably less specific: "Duke and the members of the Hui Nalu ... have supplied the material."
In what  is possibly the earliest published reference to the Hui Nalu, it is as designated as "an organization of professional surfers."

In July 1911, the Hui Nalu, was admitted to the local branch of the A.A.U. and described in the Honolulu press as "Waiklki rowers and swimmers, composed chiefly of Hawalians,"
This new club was largely an offshoot or a faction of the Outrigger Club, those previously identified as Outrigger members included Duke
Kahanamoku, Vincent Genoves, Kenneth Winter and Curtis Hustace.
On the 5th August, the Hui Nalu added twelve new members, making a total of 27.

Patrick Moser noted:

"Ford is clearly the author of the article.
The Mid-Pacific was his magazine, and surfing his pet project.
If we needed further proof, we could look to his correspondence (housed in the Huntington Museum) with Jack and Charmian London, some fifteen letters in all that detail his troubles running the magazine.
On January 10th, 1913, he wrote: I . . . write half the articles myself under assumed names, and beg, borrow or steal the others."

- Patrick Moser: Revival, Kurungabaa. Posted on February 25, 2011 by Clifton Evers, viewed 24 June 2012.

Unfortunately, a large section of the text reproduces sections of an article from Thrum's Hawaiian Almanac and Annual for 1896, which despite Kahamoku's recommendation as "the best article ever prepared on ancient surfing", has a number of significant difficulties.

See Source Documents:
1896 Thrum* : Hawaiian Surfriding.

The initial surfriding image is accredited to A.R. Gurrey Jr. who was one of the first to excel at surf photography.
Note the photograph on page 133 (below) of the Pioneer Adv. Company billboard for "CYKO -The Modern Photographic Paper" available at Gurrey's Ltd.
This page, Bill Boards in Honolulu, was regularly reproduced in subsequent editions.

The issue also featured an article on skiing in Australia that made brief mention of surfboard riding at Manly in Sydney.

See Source Documents:
1911 Percy Hunter : July Skiing in Australia.

During the next decade The Mid-Pacific Magazine printed a large number of surfboard and canoe surfing articles and photographs.

See Source Documents:
1911 Alva L. Eakin : The Passing of Old Hawaii.
1911 H. F. Alexander : Water Sports of the South Sea Islands.
1911 William Contrell : The Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Club.
1911 Lord Byron : Childe Harold.
1911 John M. Giles : Surfing - a poem.
1911 Alexander Hume Ford : The Passing of the Outrigger Canoe.
1912 Francis Campbell Carter : Building an Outrigger Canoe.
1912 Mid-Pacific Magazine : Photographs.

Page 2

Copyright 1910 A.R. Gurrey Jr.

Page 3
(Photograph, page 3, Diamond Head.)

Duke Paoa was born on the island of Oahu, within sound of the surf, and has
spent half of his waking hours from early childhood battling the waves for sport.
He is now 21 years of age, and is the recognized native Hawaiian champion surf rider.
Duke and the members of the Hui Nalu, an organization of professional surfers at Waikiki,
have supplied the material for this article on the national sport of Hawaii.

I have never seen snow and do not know what winter means.
I have never coasted down a hill of frozen rain, but every day of the year, where the water is 76, day and night, and the waves roll high, I take my sled, without runners, and coast down the face of the big waves that roll in at Waikik!.

How would you like to stand like a god before the crest of a monster billow, always rushing to the bottom of a hill and never reaching its base, and to come rushing in for half a mile at express
speed, in graceful attitude, of course, until you reach the beach and step easily from the wave to the strand?
Find the locality, as we Hawaiians did,- here the rollers are long in forming, slow to break, and then run for a great distance over a flat, level bottom, and the rest is possible.

Perhaps the ideal surfing stretch in all the world is at Waikiki beach, near Honolulu, Hawaii.
Here centuries ago was born the sport of running foot races upon the crests of the billows, and here bronze skinned men and women vie today with the white man for honors in aquatic sports once exclusively Hawaiian, but in which the white man now rivals the native.

I mastered the art of riding the surf-board in the warm Hawaiian waters when I was a very small child, and I never gaze out upon the ocean in any part of the island that I do not figure out how far each wave, as it comes rolling in, would carry me standing on its crest.

There are great, long, regular, sweeping billows, after a storm at Waikiki that have carried me from more than a mile out at sea right up to the beach; there are rollers after a big kona storm that sweep across Hilo Bay, on the Big Island of Hawaii, and carry native surfboard riders five miles at a run, and on the Island of Niihau there are even more wonderful surfboard feats performed.

A surfboard is easy to make.
Mine is about the size and shape of the ordinary kitchen ironing board.
In the old days the natives were wont to use cocoanut logs in the big surf off Diamond Head, and sometimes six of them ...

Page 4

... would come in standing on one leg, for, of course, the bigger and bulkier the surfboard the farther it will go on the dying rollers; but it is harder to start the big board, and, of course, on the big logs one man, the rear one, always had to keep lying down to steer the log straight with his legs.
At Waikiki beach, Queen Emma, as a child, had a summer home, and always went out surfing with a retainer, who stood on the board with her.
Today it is seldom that more than one person comes in before the wave on a single board, although during the past year some seemingly wonderful feats have been attempted.
I have tried riding in standing on a seven-foot board , with a boy seated on my shoulders, and now I find it not impossible to have one of my grown companions leap from his board, while it is going full speed, to mine, and then clamber up and twine his legs about my neck.
Lately I have found a small boy, part Hawaiian, who will come in with me on my board, and when I stand, he stands on my shoulders, and even turns round.
But as this is as nothing when we read in Thrum's annual for 1896, of the feats of the old Hawaiians, and as this is about the best article ever prepared on ancient surfing, I shall quote from it:

Among the favorite pastimes of ancient Hawaiians that of surfriding 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 car- nival" 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. Necessary work for the maintenance of the family, such as farming, fishing, mat and kapa making and such other house- hold duties required and needing attention, by either head of the family were often neglected for the prosecution of the sport.
Betting was made an accompaniment thereof, both by the chiefs and the common people.
Canoes, nets, fishing 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, ...

(Photograph, page 4b, Headstand.)

Page 5

The Old Impossible Way 

This tinted version from 
George: Surfing Life (1990) page 20.

Anonymous :
"Surf-riders at Waikiki, circa 1890s."


... according to the outcome of the match in the waves.

There were only three kinds of trees known to be used for making boards for surfriding, viz.: the wiliwili (Erythrina monosperma), ulu, or bread-fruit (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 lahors 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 the 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 root of burned kukui nut.
This furnished a durable glossy black finish, far preferable to that made with the ashes of burned cane 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, and, among those who followed the making of surf-boards as a trade, they were religiously observed.

There are two kinds of boards for surfriding; one is called the olo and the other the a-la-ia, known also as i 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 was similar to the olo, except in thickness, it being but of one and a half to two inches thick along its center.

The line of breakers is the place where the surf rises and breaks at ...

(Photograph, page 5b, Four Boardriders, Diamond Head.)
The Real Thing.

Page 6


... deep sea.
This is called the kulana nalu.
Any place nearer or closer in where the surf rises and breaks again, as it sometimes does, 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 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 a beach to the other. This, at times, forms in successive waves that roll in with high, threatening crest, finally falling over bodily.
The first of a series of surf waves usually partakes 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 it 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 tremed the muku side, while the distant, or clear side, as some have expressed it, is known as the lala.

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.

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 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, 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, ...

A Small Boy Paddling Out on a Big Board.

Page 7

Taking It Easy.

... to land himself high and dry on the beach, or dismount on nearing it, as he may elect.
This style of riding 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 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.
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 the position and, watching his opportunity, would strike out with ha;nds 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.
I hope I shall be forgiven if I quote ...

(Photographs, page 7b, 7c, Diamond Head.)
In the Big Surf.

Page 8

(Photograph, page 8a.)
Two on a Board.

... largely from the writings of others, as I am not a writer myself, but know when I read a description of surfing whether or not it is correct.

Surfboard riding is an art easy of accomplishment to the few and difficult to the many.
It is at its best when the rollers are long in forming, slow to break, and, after they do, run for a great distance over a flat, level bottom, such as the coral beds at Waikiki, which is perhaps the all-year-round ideal surfboarding bit of water in the whole world.
There are three surfs at Waikiki: the "big surf" toward Diamond Head, in front of Queen Liliuokalani's summer residence, where the most expert surf-board riders and the native boys disport themselves; the "canoe" surf, nearly in front of the Moana Hotel, where the majority of those who stand on the board dispute rights with the outrigger canoes that come sliding in from a mile out at sea before the monster rollers; and the beginners, or cornucopia surf - a series of gentle rollers before the Outrigger Canoe Club's grounds and the Seaside Hotel.
Here, as a rule, beginners learn the art of balancing on the board.
The water for several hundred yards out is but waist deep, so that the malihini (new-comer) can stand beside his board, wait for a wave, give his board a forward push, jump on, and race in toward the beach before the foaming crest.
He quickly learns, lying down, to guide the board by moving his legs, like a rudder, from one side to the other.
There is nothing difficult in mastering this portion of the art of surfing, but out in the deep water it
is quite another proposition.
There you have no foothold from which to gain a start, which must now be given the board by the power of the hands.
It is half a mile out to the big waves, or "nalu nui," and a long "hoe," as the overhand windmill stroke that takes you out is termed.
The intending surfer launches his board by grasping it in both hands by the edges, so that it balances, rushes down the slightly sloping beach, and throws himself upon the board as he casts it upon the waters with a forward movement that gives it a good start and sends it beyond the first row of little breakers.
Then begins that constant, steady, windmill movement of the arms, the hands acting as paddles, and the six or seven-foot plank of light wood swiftly glides out to sea.
To the beginner the exercise soon tires to exhaustion; the neck and back ache, and the points of the ribs that touch the ...

(Photograph, page 8b.)
Climbing Up.

Page 9

(Photograph, page 9a.)
A Double Ride.

... board seem to cut through the flesh.
Perseverance, however, overcomes all obstacles, and after a few days new muscle is developed and the stiffness is forgotten.

Out in the deep surf, the board goes outward under the waves, a diving tip being given the board just as it bucks each onrushing breaker.
Once out where the waves foam, the surfer sits on his board, which, of course, sinks until only an inch or so of the tip is above water, and waits for THE wave.
Several may pass, then afar off he notices the one he wants.
It is coming onward, a great green roller with a ridge of almost imperceptible spray along its entire length.
This is the wave that will curl and break to perfection, then rush on for hundreds of yards - a Niagara of foam.
The line of surfers prepares, and as the base of the mountain of water reaches them, there is vigorous and deft paddling with all the strength that skill can put into trained arms, and the great effort is made.
Some rise rapidly to the crest of the billow and sink behind it; they have lost the wave.
Others keep down in the hollow just before the wall of green.
It breaks, and these fortunates are lost in the foam, rise through it, standing on their board, are lifted to the top of the white crest, and by skillful balancing, and guiding their boards with their feet, send them down in the bias until once more they are in front of the on-rushing mass of water.
Some of the boards, of course, are divorced from their owners and go sailing in the air, while the surfer dives involuntarily toward coral.
Few, however, are the accidents of surfing, and it is doubtful if anyone has ever been seriously injured at this sport which has come down to the "haole" from the old kings of Hawaii.

For several years past the sport of surfing had been on the decline, for as the vacant lots facing the beach at Waikiki were taken up by private ownership, the small boy of Honolulu was forced to give up his favorite sport.
It was on account of this injustice to the small boy that the Outrigger Club was formed in April, 1908.
The Club soon numbered several hundred members.

New members were taught to ride standing upon the surfboard, and so popular became the revival of the old Hawaiian sport that even the ladies began to take a deep interest in it.
A number of young girls have learned to stand upon their boards, riding the waves, and together with their mothers and older sisters have organized an auxiliary club.
Neither surfboarding, nor driving the big native canoes safely before the ...

(Photograph, page 9b, Headstand.)
The Crowning Stunt.

Page 10

Three Pictures in One.
... roughest waves are accomplishments beyond the acquirement of the "haole" or white man.
There are white boys fully as expert as any Hawaiian youth, both in the canoe and on the surfboard.
A white lad was the first to win a cup at a carnival of surfriders.

Mark Twain tried to master the art of riding the surfboard, many, many years ago.
He describes in vivid pen pictures the Hawaiian boys and girls who danced upon the tips of the biggest breakers, and how his board, started by a big kanaka, caught a wave and shot with express speed toward the beach, while he shot with equal rapidity down toward the coral bed beneath the waters of Waikiki bay.

(Concluded in February Mid Pacific)

(Photograph, page 10b, Two riders.)

Page 133

Bill Boards in Honolulu.

Pioneer Adv. Company

On Top ...
The Modern Photographic Paper

Developing and Printing
Gurrey's Ltd.
Fort Near Hotel

Reproduced in many subsequent editions.

The Mid-Pacific Magazine
Volume 1, Number1.
Published by Alexander Hume Ford, 
Honolulu,  Territory of Hawaii, 
Volume 1, Number 1,

The Mid-Pacific Magazine
Published by Alexander Hume Ford, 
Honolulu,  Territory of Hawaii, 
Volume 1 Number1.
Rear Cover.

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Geoff Cater (2011-2019) : Duke Kahanamoku : Riding the Surfboard, 1911.