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Waves of Resistance

Waves of Resistance: Surfing and History in Twentieth-Century Hawai`i

Isaiah Helekunihi Walker
Copyright Date: 2011
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    Waves of Resistance
    Book Description:

    Surfing has been a significant sport and cultural practice in Hawai'i for more than 1,500 years. In the last century, facing increased marginalization on land, many Native Hawaiians have found refuge, autonomy, and identity in the waves. InWaves of ResistanceIsaiah Walker argues that throughout the twentieth century Hawaiian surfers have successfully resisted colonial encroachment in thepo'ina nalu(surf zone). The struggle against foreign domination of the waves goes back to the early 1900s, shortly after the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom, when proponents of this political seizure helped establish the Outrigger Canoe Club-ahaoles (whites)-only surfing organization in Waikiki. A group of Hawaiian surfers, led by Duke Kahanamoku, united under Hui Nalu to compete openly against their Outrigger rivals and established their authority in the surf.

    Drawing from Hawaiian language newspapers and oral history interviews, Walker's history of the struggle for thepo'ina nalurevises previous surf history accounts and unveils the relationship between surfing and colonialism in Hawai'i. This work begins with a brief look at surfing in ancient Hawai'i before moving on to chapters detailing Hui Nalu and other Waikiki surfers of the early twentieth century (including Prince Jonah Kuhio), the 1960s radical antidevelopment group Save Our Surf, professional Hawaiian surfers like Eddie Aikau, whose success helped inspire a newfound pride in Hawaiian cultural identity, and finally the North Shore's Hui O He'e Nalu, formed in 1976 in response to the burgeoning professional surfing industry that threatened to exclude local surfers from their own beaches. Walker also examines how Hawaiian surfers have been empowered by their defiance ofhaoleideas of how Hawaiian males should behave. For example, Hui Nalu surfers successfully combated annexationists, married white women, ran lucrative businesses, and dictated what non-Hawaiians could and could not do in their surf-even as the popular, tourist-driven media portrayed Hawaiian men as harmless and effeminate. Decades later, the media were labeling Hawaiian surfers as violent extremists who terrorizedhaolesurfers on the North Shore. Yet Hawaiians contested, rewrote, or creatively negotiated with these stereotypes in the waves. Thepo'ina nalubecame a place where resistance proved historically meaningful and where colonial hierarchies and categories could be transposed.

    25 illus.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6091-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    Shortly after the dramatic 1976 Hawaiian winter surfing season, thirty to thirty-five Native Hawaiian men and a handful of non-Hawaiian locals from the north and east sides of the island of O‘ahu gathered in a home under the green, jagged hills behind Sunset Beach to form an organization centered on a Hawaiian cause.² After naming themselves the Hui O He‘e Nalu (or Club of Wave Sliders), they outlined their chief objectives. Their primary goal was to preserve Native Hawaiian control over the waves of the North Shore. At meetings held in succeeding months, they voiced their concerns about an endangered...

  5. CHAPTER 1 He‘e Nalu: A Hawaiian History of Surfing
    (pp. 14-41)

    In 2004, Sony Pictures Classic released Stacy Peralta’sRiding Giants, a historical documentary of surfing and big-wave riding in particular. It was one of only a few surf films to play in mainstream theaters across the United States. The film starts with surfers from ancient Hawai‘i, where chiefs and kings developed the sport over centuries. Then, after quoting eighteenth-century voyagers who confirmed Hawaiian expertise on the waves, the film explains that Calvinist missionaries banned the sport, thus causing its extinction. “Fortunately,” the script continues, “the extinct Polynesian pastime was then re-introduced in the early twentieth century by Alexander Hume Ford,...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Colonial Violence and Hawaiian Resistance
    (pp. 42-56)

    While an identity crisis has contributed to conflict on the North Shore over the last several decades, contemporary solutions to confrontation are stifled by the historian’s inability to connect Hawaiian surfers to their past. The stories of the Hui Nalu, the Hui O He‘e Nalu, and other Hawaiian surfers are interwoven with a larger story of conquest and occupation in Hawai‘i. In order to understand Hawaiian surfers, we must analyze them in the context of their colonial history. These surf hui were born and shaped from the colonial violence that preceded them. Hawaiian surfers have also drawn from age-old historic...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Hui Nalu, Outrigger, and Waikīkī Beachboys
    (pp. 57-82)

    In the decade following the annexation, he‘e nalu surged among Hawaiians, especially in the community of Waikīkī. Although some have attributed this rise in participation to a slow but growing tourist industry, I believe the popularity of surfing increased among Hawaiians because the surf offered escape and autonomy for Kanaka Maoli in an unsettling time. While a number of Native Hawaiian surfers flocked to the waves on a regular basis in the early 1900s, there was also a burgeoning community of haole who learned to surf from Hawaiians during this period. Shortly after being taught he‘e nalu, some of them...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Unmanning Hawaiians: Producing “Ideal Natives” via Tourism, Hollywood, and Historical Writings
    (pp. 83-104)

    Throughout most of the twentieth century, Hawai‘i’s tourism industry has over-promoted Hawai‘i as a safe place for visitors to experience paradise. Unfortunately, they accomplished this by emphasizing docile and sexualized Native bodies. Most commonly, Hawai‘i’s tourism industry used sexualized images of island women to sell the islands. Over time, such tourist and Hollywood images (most commonly Native women as hula girls) became so popular that they still are synonymous with Hawai‘i. These images were especially popular in the middle of the twentieth century, when American postwar politics heralded global decolonization and Hawai‘i was incorporated as the fiftieth U.S. state.¹ During...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Hawaiian Renaissance and Hawaiian Surfers
    (pp. 105-126)

    Several Hawaiian historians have marked the 1970s as the beginning of a Hawaiian renaissance. While Native pride burgeoned in Hawaiians during this time and their frustrations toward American control over the islands increased, the Hawaiian renaissance reinvigorated Kanaka Maoli (and advocates) to restore and preserve Hawaiian culture and language. This era is not only characterized by projects of preserving culture, but also of political activism and protest.

    Although not often recognized, many of the Hawaiian strategies of protests in the 1970s were born out of a 1960s environmental group called Save Our Surf (SOS). Organized by a Marxist-trained local-haole surfer...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Hui O He‘e Nalu
    (pp. 127-152)

    The predominantly Native Hawaiian North Shore organization, Hui O He‘e Nalu, was formed in reaction to a burgeoning, predominantly haole professional surfing industry that started on the North Shore in 1976. For Hui members, this industry threatened a Hawaiian pastime, social sanctuary, and cultural identity. The Hui O He‘e Nalu was first created by a group of North Shore Hawaiian surfers at a home near Sunset Beach. As their membership grew in the late 1970s and early 1980s, their purpose remained the same: to resist the exploitation of the North Shore by haole surfers and the surfing industry. They challenged...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Hui in American Media: “Terrorists” on the North Shore
    (pp. 153-172)

    As the Hui’s popularity spread, they became a subject of interest in American media. Hui surfers had been covered in newspapers and magazines, shown in Hollywood movies, and represented in syndicated American reality television since the late 1970s. The stereotype is clear in all of these. In movies and on television they are tough guys who beat up haole surfers for no reason, but more seriously, various newspapers often, and outright, deemed them “terrorists.” For example, in July 1987 Honolulu newspapers ran stories like “‘Reign of Terror’ on the North Shore told,” and “Threats forced him to hire ‘terrorists,’ Hemmings...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 173-200)
  13. Glossary
    (pp. 201-204)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 205-214)
  15. Index
    (pp. 215-226)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-228)