SPOTLIGHT – In the House of Kamehameha
By Adam Waldie | 16 February 2010
Hawaii became the 50th state of the USA in 1959, but her history goes back oh so much further. The first waves of Polynesian settlers from The Great Crossing arrived around 300 BC. Whilst versions of surfing arose in Tahiti, Samoa and Tonga, it was in Hawaii that the pastime became an art, an art known as he’e nalu – waves sliding. Ancient Hawaiian culture peaked in the 1800’s under King Kamehamaha the Great who unified the islands and established a dynasty that lasted until the European era in the 1870’s. The last Hawaiian Queen died in 1917, but Kamehameha’s house and his lineage still cast a long proud shadow over the land, no more so than on Oahu’s North Shore – you carry on like an arsehat here either on land or in the water and you watch what happens.
Today, Hawaii maintains it’s role as the cultural pulse of surfing and The Banzai Pipeline is host to the annual endgame of the ASP calendar (except when Kelly Slater wins five events in a row and wraps the comp up in Europe)
I remember a quote on surfing once that went: “In Indonesia you are considered alright in the water until you prove yourself to be an arsehole…In Hawaii you are considered an arsehole until you prove otherwise”
The Hawaiian islands have played host to some of the most spectacular dramas and seminal moments in the history of surfing; from the reinvigoration of the sport in the early 1900’s to it’s dissemination around the globe from 1914 to the1960’s. The prodigal sons returned from Australia and South Africa in the winter of 1975 ushering in the true professional era and changed the shape of surfing forever. It all happened here on the islands of Hawaii.
There's a lot more to Hawaii than pipeline and Pineapples.
The North shore of Oahu remains the ultimate proving ground of the sport. International competitions at Pipeline, Sunset, Haleiwa and Waimea have produced some of the most recognisable moments in surfing but there is so much more to Hawaii.
Hundreds of islands and offshore reefs make up the entire Hawaiian Island chain. Many of them have never been surfed. Of the 8 main islands, it is Oahu, Maui, The Big Island and Kauai that offer the best selection and ease of travel for visiting surfers. Roughly speaking, the northern sides of the islands work best from Nov-Mar whilst the southern coasts break best from Mar-Sep – that’s a 12 month swell window, it doesn’t get any better. The northern coasts are fuelled by massive bombs descending from the Aleutians and generally offer far more intense waves. Maui’s north shore is home to Pe’ahi (Jaws) and a host of other tow in only breaks. South side swells come from long range trans Antarctic energy trains and whilst always smaller than northerly juice, can light up superb points and reefs on all of the islands. Oahu’s Waikiki the most famous of these, with some real gems such as Acid Drops (Kauai) and Kaalualu Point (Big Island) only just coming onto the radar now.
Your equipment selection is really going to depend on what you are looking for in the islands. To really compete with a solid North shore Oahu swell you are looking at a chunky gun up to 7 feet or more depending on the size of the swell you are happy to push into. The east and west coast of all of the islands offer more sheltered and fun options to ride in macking swells so most surfers get by in bringing their regular shorty, something a few inches bigger and a dedicated gun. Don’t bother with the hassle of bringing a longboard unless you plan on doing that your whole trip, it’s very easy to rent one out and do the Waikiki thing and then hand it back. You will have no problems in picking up a board here is you need to, Hawaii is home to some of the best shapers in the world; Wade Tokoro, Dick Brewer and Donald Takayama just to name a few so breaking a board here isn’t the end of the world – in fact if you don’t break one then …you’re just not trying hard enough Haole.
By Adam Waldie // surfingatlas.com