Waves of Resistance: Surfing and History in Twentieth-Century Hawaii
240pp. April 2011
Waves of Resistance: Surfing and History in Twentieth-Century Hawaii
Author: Walker, Isaiah Helekunihi;
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. In Waves of Resistance Isaiah Walker argues that throughout the twentieth century Hawaiian surfers have successfully resisted colonial encroachment in the po‘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—a haoles (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 the po‘ina nalu revises 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 of haole ideas 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 terrorized haole surfers on the North Shore. Yet Hawaiians contested, rewrote, or creatively negotiated with these stereotypes in the waves. The po‘ina nalu became a place where resistance proved historically meaningful and where colonial hierarchies and categories could be transposed.

25 illus.

A finely crafted book. . . . [Walker’s] points are very well-researched, finely attributed (he has an excellent index and bibliography), and more importantly, break down commonly accepted portrayals of both surfing and Hawaiian history that have often been overlooked by both academics and mainstream narratives. Heʻe nalu is more than recreation, or a sub-culture to beappropriated. In a sense Waves of Resistance is like the A People’s History of the United States for surfing in the way that Walker eagerly attempts to correct years of non-Hawaiian dominated potrayals which consciously or not have suppressed Hawaiian culture and identity, and marginalized the importance of Hawaiians surfing and controlling their own waters.” —Hawai‘i Book Blog (7 May 2011); read the full review at http://www.hawaiibookblog.com/articles/book-review-event-waves-of-resistance/.

“The po‘ina nalu is a significant space where Hawaiian men exercised their cultural, territorial, social, and political prerogatives. The story of their resistance to the inundation of Hawai‘i by European, American, and other invasions is one that has long awaited a good telling. This work provides context and details underlying a theater of contestation not previously addressed by scholars, giving voice to an aspect of Hawaiian resistance deserving attention.” —Carlos Andrade, associate professor and director, Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, Hawai‘inuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, University of Hawai‘i
Author: Walker, Isaiah Helekunihi;
Isaiah Helekunihi Walker is assistant professor of history at Brigham Young University–Hawai‘i, located on O‘ahu’s North Shore.
Read the Introduction (PDF).

1. He‘e Nalu: A Hawaiian History of Surfing
2. Colonial Violence and Hawaiian Resistance
3. Hui Nalu, Outrigger, and Waikiki Beachboys
4. Unmanning Hawaiians: Producing “Ideal Natives” via Tourism, Hollywood, and Historical Writings
5. The Hawaiian Renaissance and Hawaiian Surfers
6. The Hui O He‘e Nalu
7. Hui in American Media: “Terrorists” on the North Shore