COURTESY KAMEHAMEHA SCHOOLS
That afternoon the wind rose as the kilo had foretold. Great waves rushed into the bay and, until moonrise, commoners were free to enjoy them. Small children splashed at the water's edge. Young swimmers ventured out, threw themselves before an oncoming wave and were carried headlong up the beach. Some older people, too, were bodysurfing. But nearly everyone else, from boys and girls to grandparents, used surfboards.
Swimming with their long narrow boards of wiliwili or koa wood, Kaiki and his friends reached the place where an oncoming wave broke before rushing to the beach. Kaiki stood holding his board. "Here comes a big one!" Noe shouted and every boy threw himself flat on his board. One was just too late to catch the wave, one tried to stand and tumbled, but the rest came with a glorious rush all the way to the beach.
"Look out!" and the boys scattered before a canoe racing in from the outer edge of the reef. "I long to do that!" Noe remarked enviously, watching the young men paddle out once more.
"Yes," Kaiki replied absently, "but what I want now is to stand up on my board. Let's all try!"
Again they paddled out, each lying flat on his surfboard. A great wave came and, as he rushed toward shore, Kaiki tried to scramble to his feet. He slipped and found himself underneath the board as he struck the sand. "I couldn't stand at all!" said Noe. "But Pai did."
"They fell!" said Pai, laughing. "Let's go and watch the men who come in among the rocks. Those are the best surfers."
Climbing high the boys watched a group of young men paddling out, some on koa boards. When they reached a line of breakers each slipped off his board and dived under the splash and swirl of breaking wave, then paddled on. The group reached the first line of surf where great ocean rollers broke, then paused, waiting for the right wave. "There!" Noe shouted as a huge one neared the men. "Now they're off!"
Many of the young men had caught the wave. Small distant figures, they rose to their feet and came thundering toward shore. At the second line of breakers one fell off but the rest rushed on. How beautiful they looked! Like images carved from wood! Kaiki thought. I want to surf like that!
Through the third line of breakers the young men came. Now they were close, headed for the rocks. Noe was dancing with excitement and Kaiki felt shivers of delightful fear go up and down his back. Skillfully the young men turned from the rocks and reached a narrow strip of beach, while two of them slipped underwater and swam to safety, still clinging to their boards.
Before the boys could draw an excited breath, another group came flashing in on the next wave. Oh, glorious sport!
For hours the villagers played -- surfing, racing, splashing. Now and then a group gathered on the sand to rest while they told jokes and riddles, then back again to surf. At sunset they scattered to their homes, hungry for food.
"Surfing" is from "Stories of Life in Old Hawaii," by Caroline Curtis and illustrated by Oliver C. Kinney. Published by Kamehameha Schools Press, © 1970 and 1998 by Kamehameha Schools. Reprinted by permission.
"Hawaiian Folklore" is presented Mondays through the Star-Bulletin's Newspapers in Education program.