Recalling the Past
It seems silly not to talk a little about the past when our paepo are inspired by it. So read up if you want to learn
Traveling by the stars, the Polynesians found the Hawaiian Islands around the year 500. In their canoes they brought tools for creating a new life, and on the shores, they found a land of waterfalls, lush valleys and copious waves.
Back then, everybody surfed. To the Hawaiians this act wasn’t just a way to enjoy the ocean, it was an integral way of life and woven into their culture. Masters of the sport, they handcrafted boards of all different lengths and styles and would enjoy the surf in various ways.
KĪPAPA (prone) NOHO (sitting) KUKULI (kneeling) KŪ (standing)
Generations after generations rode the waves of Hawai'i and when the foreigners arrived in the late 1700's they were quite amazed by the Hawaiians and their connection to the sea.
"There are perhaps no people more accustomed to the water the the islander of the pacific; they seem almost a race of amphibious beings. Familiar with the sea from their birth they loose all dread of it and seem as much at home in the water as on dry land" - Missionary in 1831
This discovery put the Hawaiian Islands on the map. Soon after this, merchants and business men started using the islands as a connection on their trade routes, and on the heels of these men, the missionaries.
This was the beginning of the end of old Hawai'i. With this influx of foreigners came disease and with a span of a century native Hawaiian population was reduced by approximately 40,000. This combo of disease, and determination from the missionaries to covert the people, lead to the decline of the Hawaiian culture and with that - the sport of surfing itself.
Time passed, people kept coming, and though the Hawaiians fought hard to preserve their Kingdom, 1893 Hawai’i was illegally overthrown.
Moving into the 19th century, we see surfing take off around the world when Hawaiian natives began to travel and show their skills abroad. Ironically, at the same time surfing falls from such a central position in the lives of the Hawaiians, it's welcomed on the mainland.
During this time, Dr. Emerson, a Hawaiian Scholar writes:
"The sport of surf-riding possessed a grand fascination and for a time it seemed as it had the vitality of its own as a national pastime. There are those living who remember a time when almost the entire population of a village would at certain hours resort to the sea side to indulge in or to witness this magnificent accomplishment. We cannot but mourn its decline."
Little did they know at the time, but surfing would soon be "Hawai'i's gift to the world" Surfings resurgence was just beginning. Fueled further by men like Duke Kahanamoku who were in the national spotlight.
Around these early days in Waikiki surfing is making a major come back. This is when the word PAEPO'O or PAEPO is coined by the Hawaiian surfers.
n. To bodysurf; or to surf with a small wooden bodyboard. Lit., To ride to shore headfirst. Often shortened to paepo in everyday conversion // Pronounced pai-po
These small wooden boards used in old Hawaii now had a new name and were rode frequently by men and women of all ages. This was a simple way to connect with the ocean and to the roots of surfing itself.
With the decades that followed, we see surf board design progress and different materials discovered. Balsa boards turned to foam and fiberglass and old wood boards soon became out of style.