The History of Surfing

Surfing originated in Polynesian and was first described in 1769 when Captain James Cook arrived in Tahiti. In Hawaii, surfing was considered an art form as much as it was a sport and recreational activity. Temples were dedicated to surfing and Hawaiians would call upon their Priests to pray for good waves.

Everybody surfed in Hawaii including women and children, but the best waves and beaches were open only to the ruling class. When missionaries arrived in the 1820s they sought to transform Hawaiian culture including getting rid of surfing where nearly naked men and women mingled freely instead of working. Surfing went into decline until the early 20th century when it was revived by Alexander Hume Ford and Jack London. Ford was living in Waikiki trying to promote Hawaii as a tourist destination and realized that surfing could become a selling point. When Jack London arrived in Waikiki he was already a famous author. Ford introduced the sport to London and he immediately fell in love. In 1907 London wrote “A Royal Sport: Surfing in Waikiki” which was published in several magazines and garnered much attention. In 1908 Ford petitioned the trustees of the Queen Emma Estate to set aside a parcel of land next to the Moana Hotel in Waikiki for a surfing and canoeing club. In Ford’s fund-raising manifesto he described a club that would “give an added and permanent attraction to Hawaii and make Waikiki always the Home of the Surfer, with perhaps an annual Surfboard and Outrigger Canoe Carnival which will do much to spread abroad the attractions of Hawaii, the only islands in the world where men and boys ride upright upon the crests of waves.” Ford’s petition worked and the trustees of Queen Emma’s Estate founded the Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Club, the first modern club dedicated to the perpetuation of wave-riding.

A few years later Hawaii’s most famous waterman and Olympic swimming champion, Duke Kahanamoku, spread the sport abroad by giving demonstrations as he traveled the globe. Kahanamoku is widely credited with surfing the longest wave in history, a wave near Waikiki that carried him for more than a mile.

There are many great surf breaks in Hawaii. Our Hawaii iPhone app’s point these out as you drive around the island.

Volcanoes National Park at Night

Did you know Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day? The first time we visited the park, we arrived late at night. Not knowing anything about the park or Volcano, I confidently assured my wife that we simply needed to drive until we see glowing red magma. The night was pitch black and we had no idea how enormous the park actually was (it is really big). Not seeing anyone else on the road, we were becoming leery. Every now and then we would pass some foggy steam and noxious gasses. Where was the lava and magma? I envisioned a massive cauldron.

Alas, Volcanoes National Park is not like that (at the moment at least). The lava is flowing underground into the ocean. And the current eruption site is not easily accessible. But if you know where to look you can at least see gasses illuminated by underground lava. This photo was taken near the entrance to the Park:

Steam Escapes Beside Kilauea Crater
Steam Escapes Beside Kilauea Crater

Visit this page of Kilauea Crater to see the location where the photo was taken. More information about Volcano Nationals Park can be found here.

Kona Reef Sunsets

Kona has a reputation for having the best sunsets in Hawaii. The combination of dry weather, ocean vistas, and perhaps vog scattering the sunlight make for some incredible scenes. It’s not uncommon for people to pull off to the side of the road to watch the sun go down. The Kona Reef on Alii drive is one of those lucky resorts with front row seating. Perhaps front row is an understatement. Condo D-12 at Kona Reef happily boasts that it’s situated just 23 feet from the ocean! Here’s a video slide show of D-12. You’re going to love the music, and the sunset slide!

The Spectacular Eruption of Kilauea

An excellent government movie shows the eruption of Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island, in 1959. Although the volcano is still very active, it’s important to remember that seeing lava at Volcano Nationals Park is unusual. We mention this, because great expectations can result in a disappointing trip to the park. Don’t expect to see lava, simply go and enjoy the amazing geology, and let your imagination fill in the details as you walk over an active volcano, with steam seeping from the ground. And remember, you need a full day to explore the park. Consider spending the night at Volcano village, or commuting from Hilo/Puna as opposed to making the very long drive from Kona.

This is the first of 4 segments.

Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4

Hawaii Paradise of the Pacific – 1916

Thanks to one of our readers for sending us the following amusing and interesting vintage movie showing Hilo in 1916 taken by a dutch film maker. For the curious, the surf boards at the time were made from planks of wood and didn’t have any fins, making them very hard to balance on.

Hawaii Souvenirs

Traveling back home after a trip to Hawaii can be very depressing, especially for those who fall in love with the Islands. A good remedy is to get a souvenir of your trip. A painting or piece of art makes for a particularly good reminder.

A great web site that includes the work of many Hawaiian artists is The site features hawaiian prints, paintings, fish hooks, crafts, feather leis, lauhala weaving, sculptures and more.

Waimanalo Bay by Patrick Ching soothes the Soul
Waimanalo Bay by Patrick Ching soothes the Soul

Kilauea Volcano

When people think of Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island, most envision a fiery lava spewing lake of glowing magma. That was the scene during a 1959 eruption when lava filled Kilauea Iki Crater. Although being the world’s most active volcano, those types of spectacular eruptions are quiet rare. In fact, most visitors to Volcanoes National Park don’t see any lava, with the lava flowing underground and exiting into the ocean in remote areas. Still, once expectations are put in check, anybody with at least some interest in Geology will love the Park. It’s a vast and interesting area with much to explore. The whole area exudes energy, with many gas vents hinting at the turmoil underfoot.

This video was captured by a lucky visitor to the park in September.

With Kilauea very active at the moment, there’s a good chance of some interesting “events”, as the USGS calls them. For up to date information, visit the US Geological Survey’s Kilauea Site.

Remember, if you’re going to visit the Volcano do yourself a favor and rent a place in either the Puna region or Volcano Village. Driving down from Kona to spend some time in the company of Pele is impractical and silly. If you enjoy hiking there are many options, and you’ll want to plan in advance.

A story of exploration, daring, and exceptional courage

I love exploring the islands and Hawaii has many remote areas that harbor hidden gems. Indeed, there is little difference between modern day exploration and the type that took place during Captain Cook’s time. While he had to contend with scurvy, mutiny, and discovering the world in a little wooden raft, the modern day explorer faces similar problems: bad cell phone coverage, broken AC, and failing photographic equipment. But all those pale in comparison to the scourge of Hawaiian exploration – authoritative looking signs and people.

Captain Cook Thwarted Again
Captain Cook Thwarted Again

On a recent expedition to the Big Island, we were looking to explore the coast off Mahaiula Bay.  Studying Captain Cook’s diaries and charts I had found no indication that the journey would present any problems. As a matter of fact, a road would lead us straight to the point of interest. My first mate, who also happens to be my wife, briefly alerted me to the fact that the road would take us through a hotel, the Kona Village Resort. So be it. From past experience I knew hotels were places that harbored great amounts of food. We would plunder their pantries. The pale looking hotel dwellers would offer no resistance.

This Hotel, however,  must have been plundered before as they had deployed a guard outpost at the entrance.

“Can I help you?”, a man inquired as he rushed from the protection of his outpost into the full ferocity of the sun.

“Surrender your pantries and food stuffs!” I was about to demand before being interrupted by my first mate.  “We’re just exploring,” she cleverly explained.

“I’m sorry but this is private property, you can’t proceed.”

“We’ve been traveling for many miles. Our food supplies have run empty and we only have one canister of rum remaining. Please good sir, can we come in to rest and replenish?” (Journal entry was destroyed by sweat, that sentence is an approximation).

“Do you have a reservation?”


“Then you can’t. You probably don’t want to eat here in any way. It’s like $50 for a lunch buffet.”

$50 a plate?! They must be pirates. It was nice of the guard to alert us to the trap so we bid him farewell. It seemed Mahaiula Bay with all its hidden petroglyphs, artifacts, and buried gold  would remain outside our reach.

That evening, exhausted from malnutrition and sun exposure, I studied my charts and maps. “Where had we gone wrong?” As I consulted the evening stars for navigational clues, I couldn’t help but think about other explorers like me. Captain James T. Kirk, Captain Cook, Captain Picard.  Indeed they endured hardship and failure too, but they also found solutions. Would this be my Waterloo?

Just then it dawned on me! So much of my navigation was based on Captain Cook’s diaries. But they were several hundreds years old. That explained the appearance of a hotel, certainly no more than 20 years old! Perhaps I had to turn to a more contemporary text? I dug through my first mate’s purse and found “The Big Island Revealed” by Andrew Doughty. Frantically, I started paging through the book, searching for clues, until I finally stumbled upon the following:

“Kona Village guards at the guard shack imply that you can’t go through. Just say these magic words – public access. They have to admit you but expect dirty looks.”

As a student of classic exploration I reject notions of magic and witch craft. Still, I had trouble sleeping that night, Explorer Doughty’s words echoing in my mind.

The following morning, over a delicious breakfast of rum and clubbed baby arctic seal*, I shared my new found knowledge with my first mate. “But magic is nonsense. I have come up with a better solution. Today, we tackle the guard outpost at Kikaua Point to test my theory!”

[Note to the reader: It turns out Mahaiula Bay harbors nothing of interest. Kikaua Point is an entirely different matter!]

The outpost at Kikaua Point will test the resolve of even the best explorer. A guard outpost replete with golf carts and perhaps a dozen guards monitor the entrance to an area of extreme wealth, and the object of my desire, a lovely sand beach with possibilities of Parker’s buried gold**.

My plan was to storm the guard post with a full frontal assault, overwhelm the guards and claim the outpost as our own. From there we would storm Kikaua beach and photograph it from multiple angles. Get some close ups. Take pictures of the fish and turtles. The whole works! Then dig for treasure.

The plan took a terrible turn for the worst when we saw a savvy woman driving a porche completely bypass and ignore the guard post! “Follow that porche!” I shrieked in excitement. My hunch was correct! The porche took us directly to the beach’s parking lot where the woman, parking in a handicap spot, quickly exited the car and vanished from view.

A few minutes later, still in the parking lot, as I was brandishing my photographic gear and securing my snorkel mask, a frantic looking guard came speeding around the corner in a golf cart. “Lets run away like the porche lady” I pleaded to my first mate. I had just realized I left my sabre at home. “We better not.”

“You’re not allowed to park here! This is a private community” came the exacerbated yell.

“No it’s fine we’re with her.” I pointed to the Porche.

“She can’t park here either, and she’s blocking a fire lane.”

“Very well, Sir, then I have no choice but to challenge you to a dual. It is 10 am now. We will meet on the beach at 12 after I have a chance to download Star Trek’s captain kirk vs bad guy death struggle music for our backdrop. I’m Kirk by the way. You can be a Ferengi or whatever best suites your personality” – were the words that I would have spoken if my wife had not blurted out “We’re looking for the public access to the beach.”

“Ok, but you have to come back with me so we can issue you a parking pass. And you’re not allowed to take photos of the houses here. They are private.” He had noted the camera around my neck.

At that moment I felt a little sorry for the lad. He had been disarmed so easily and effortlessly by utilizing Mr. Doughty’s “Public Access” voodoo. He escorted us back to the guard shack where we were given a confoundedly silly little parking pass. The rules on the pass tried desperately to exude authority but it didn’t work. It was too late, the secret was out: All the beaches in Hawaii are public. Hotels must provide access through their property where there is no other public access.

Oh really? A sign diverts tourists from Pali Ke Kua to Hideways beach where they face certain death. You see, accessing Pali Ke Kua beach from Hideaways requires a leap off a 20 ft 'cliff'.

* I would never club baby seals to death. The seal was already dead, harpooned by my whaling vessel. The clubbing was merely to tenderize the meat.

** Parker’s treasure is real!?! Stay tuned.