Hawaii surfing is one sporting activity that attracts millions of vacationers from around the world to visit the Hawaiian Islands. The waves enjoyed by surfers in Hawaii are without compare, and can reach staggering heights, with untold twist and turns that can make even the most experienced of surf enthusiasts in awe of the force produced by the oceans of Hawaii.
The mystery and aura of Hawaii surfing dates back to the times of early Polynesian voyagers who explored the Pacific Ocean and ultimately settled the Hawaiian Islands. Surfing was a very spiritual affair for ancient Hawaiians, and often included ceremonial rituals to pray for good surf, ride a surfboard as well as surf the waves themselves. Surfing was not only a recreational activity, but was a rigorous form of training for Hawaiian chiefs and competitions often served as a sportsmanlike way for conflict resolution.
In ancient Hawaii, there were two kinds of surfboards, one called an “Olo” which was exclusively built for and ridden by Hawaiian noblemen, known as “Aliii”, and another kind of surfboard called an “Alala” which was created for and ridden by the commoners. Hawaiian surfboards were usually made from three exotic types of Hawaiian hardwood, namely Wili Wili, Ula, and Koa tree wood. The boards were handcrafted, extremely heavy and usually ranged anywhere from 10 feet to 16 feet in length depending on the social class of the individual whom the surfboard was being carved. Ten to twelve foot long surfboards were used for commoners and fourteen to sixteen foot long surfboards were crafted for the noblemen and chief of the local tribes. Many of these large solid wood surfboards can be seen at surf shops around Hawaii, as well as in miniature form as surfboard decorations.
In the late eighteenth century, during the arrival of Captain Cook up to the time of the mid-19th century when Western missionaries colonized Hawaii, surfing as a spiritual form and sport almost died out completely in the Hawaiian Islands, due to the influence of the settlers and their desire to eliminate many of the local customs and traditions of the islanders. Fortunately, soon afterward, various European and American settlers of Hawaii reintroduced the ancient practice of surfing as well as the local industry to handcraft surfboards for everyone to use. This was a time of great experimentation within the surfing community, as a variety of surfboard materials including such as redwood, and a variety of board lengths, including short boards as small as 6 feet in length, were crafted and used by surfers throughout the islands.
This period of renaissance within the Hawaiian surfing culture lasted through the early 20th century, at which time other much lighter materials were use to build surfboards. For example, while many surfboards in ancient Hawaii were built from heavy tropical woods, lightweight woods such as balsa, from South America were being implemented in the 1900s because it gave surfers the ability to carry their board with greater ease as well as maneuver the waves easier due to employing much lighter equipment to practice their sport. In fact, while surfboards crafted in ancient Hawaiian times often weighted 100 pounds or more, lighter surfboards crafted during the 20th century often weighed only 30 to 40 pounds. This change in surfboard weight help fuel an explosion within the sport of surfing worldwide, as now weekend warriors and newbies to surfing could partake in this exciting sporting activity, without being required to have the physical stamina and strength that ancient Hawaiians obviously had to have in order to carry and ride much heaver surfboards.
Surfboards nowadays are made in an even lighter variety of materials, including synthetic materials such as fiberglass, that are able to withstand the tremendous force of the ocean waves, while providing a smoother ride, a lighter form of surfboard, as well as ones that can be decorated with detailed paintings and designs that will withstand the elements of the salty Hawaiian surf.
Due to the ever-growing popularity of surfing throughout the world, and especially on Hawaii, surf culture has been revitalized in recent years to also include the incorporation of surfboard shape designs for a multitude of other aesthetics products that invoke the surfing spirit of Hawaii and are used as a form of personal adornment or tropical decor for the home. Today, a variety of miniature Hawaii surfboards are created in the form of wooden pen sets, wall hangings, surfboard pendant jewelry, and even surfboard clocks, for Hawaii visitors, world travelers and surf culture enthusiasts to enjoy.