he’e nalu

Photo Credit: paultries.blogspot.com

By: Rob Veale

Wave sliding, as it’s translated into English, was first described by a naturalist/botanist in 1769 during one of the infamous voyages of James Cook.  By the time this discovery was made however, it had been a central part of Hawaiian culture for many, many, many waves.  Predating European contact, all ancient Hawaiian’s would he’e nalu.  he’e nalu was an art form which often was ritualized from the making of the board to entering the ocean.  Often times, Hawaiian’s might call upon a kahuna.  kahuna’s were priests that would help you pray for better surf and even conduct a ceremony for making your board.  Probably where that expression came from, “that dude has kahunas.”

The best surfers were the Ali’i or the chiefs.  They were the most skilled, had the best boards and surfed the best beaches in Hawaii.  Funny how the best surfers ruled!  We will come back to that in a later article when talking about surf etiquette.  Surfing back then, like now, required a great amount of skill and etiquette.  In Hawaii at that time you had 3 styles of boards to make from a few popular trees, all weighing over 100 pounds and up to 24 feet in length with the minimum being 9 feet in length.  Imagine walking 3 blocks from your car to the beach with that! Ancient Hawaiian’s had 3 styles of boards to choose from and over a dozen of places to surf in the Hawaiian archipelago.  Today, we have many more styles, designs, volumes, dimensions, thrusters, quads, waxes, wet suits, geography, ideas, philosophy, etc, which makes it difficult to make the right decision on a board, where you might surf, based on your level of aptitude.

The 3 styles were the “Olo, kiko’o, and the alaia.  The only style that survives today in mainstream surf culture is the alaia.  Available today from 5′-12′, it was reintroduced in 2006 and has become popular again, due mainly to pro surfers using the style.  Today you have many choices to make when entering a surf shop.  The style of board and fins come to mind when I chose my first board.  I didn’t realize that I had a lot more to consider though, being a grommet.  Below you will see a video of how to choose your board.  There are 3 major things to consider when choosing a board and this video explains it perfectly.


Nicholas Mukhar
About Nicholas Mukhar 6 Articles
I’m a northern California native, ghostwriter, editor, columnist, public speaker, and lifelong supporter of all Bay Area sports teams. As a @usfca alum, I began covering sports as a beat writer for USF’s soccer and basketball teams.
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