Pacific American-News Journal
Kepakemapa - September 1996 Volume 2 Issue 9
Kumu Kaha NaluBody Surfing Basics
By Kai Keali`ikea`ehale O Kaholokai
Body Surfing or kaha nalu is the basic form of surfing.
Regardless of what kind of equipment used in surfing, it is
essential that an individual knows how to body surf. If these
items become separated from you while surfing, than body surfing
is your alternative form of surfing.
There has been little written on the subject. I now document
the basics of body surfing from the oral traditions of the past
and from my years of experience.
ANCIENT HAWAIIAN SURFING
Ancient surfing was an intricate part of our Native Hawaiian
religion. The creation of the Makahiki Festival, surfing
became recognized an an intricate religious ritual sport. The
ancient Hawaiian neo-feudal caste system emphasized surfing
uniqueness among the classes. The life style of surfing is
continued today from the oral traditions of our chants and
The Makahiki Festival was developed from the
collections of tributes, the time of peace, the creation of an
Olympic-style games, and finally the renewal of one's
relationship with the gods, nature and mankind. The Hawaiian
games, like surfing develop the unity of one's body, mind, and
The caste system, first, the Ali`i Class or aristocrats
were the ruling clan with established genealogy priority. The
prestige of the status of an Ali`i is maintained by the
expectation of becoming a proficient surfer. The elaborate
rituals in the consecration and usage of the personalized
surfboard of an Ali`i took upon a sacred status in itself.
Second, the Kahuna Class, were the trained and the
gifted specialist in the different arts. These were men and women
who created the design, shape and form of each personalized
surfboard. They established personalized surfing chants. Detailed
rituals were created around the construction of surfing heiau or
places of purification, preparation and psychic insight of
Third, the Maka`ainana Class or Native People were the
workers of the land and sea. As athlete surfers they had
competitive training contests for rewards of prestige, status and
favors of their chief for upward mobility.
The Maka`ainana Class and the other native tribes that
were surrounded by ocean swells, surfing was usually referred to
as a leisure expression. Whereas the Ali`i and Kahuna
Classes , surfing took on an intricate and elaborate
religious expression which demanded respect for the gods and the
power forces of nature.
The understanding of the basics of surfing is essential for us
today. We renew our relationship with nature as we continue the
life style of surfing. The things of the past help us to
determine the direction of the future. Mahalo to the old-timer
body surfers who share their love for the ocean.
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Copyright © 1996 Hale Pai Pacific American-News Journal
Last modified: February 28, 1998
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