As surfing emerged and developed in Western Polynesia between 1500 B.C. and 400 A.D.,1 successive waves of Polynesian sailing expeditions explored and settled all of Polynesia.2 Double-hulled voyaging canoes covered thousands of miles of open ocean. They were guided only by celestial bodies, the flight of the golden plover3 and other birds, and sets of ocean swells as aids to primitive navigation – known today as “wayfinding.”
Legendary early-Twentieth Century surfer Tom Blake marveled: “No more daring and courageous sea journeys are to be found in history.”4 Indeed, by 800 A.D., the only other known significant seagoing explorations on the planet had been made by Phoenicians sailing the coast of Africa, Irish travelers reaching Iceland, and Vikings discovering the Faroe Islands between Norway and Iceland.5
After the major period of Polynesian expansion was over, there were later voyages consolidating the links between the islands. In this period of ali‘i voyaging, the most famous of the voyaging chiefs was Mo‘ikeha. He is the first surfer we know much about.
Mo‘ikeha's legend is not always easy to follow because of the numerous -- often conflicting -- versions of his exploits that have been recorded. But, back in the 1990s, I gave it a shot. Here it is as a free eBook, excellent for viewing on a mobile device, available for downloading and sharing as a pdf file:
1 Finney, Ben R. and Houston, James D. Surfing, the Sport of Hawaiian Kings, C.E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont, ©1966, pp. 24-34.
2 Campbell, I.C. A History of the Pacific Islands, ©1989, University of California Press, p. 31-32. See also Man’s Conquest of the Pacific, the Prehistory of South East Asia and Oceana, by Peter Bellwood, ©1978, Collins, Auckland, Australia. This is a definitive work on the prehistory of the Pacific and includes a discussion of the various alternative theories on Pacific Islander migrations.
3 Bruce Cartwright advances this theory. See Buck, Peter H. “Polynesian Migrations,” chapter 2 of Ancient Hawaiian Civilization, A Series of Lectures Delivered at the Kamehameha Schools, ©1965, C.E. Tuttle Company, Inc. Ninth printing, 1981, p. 31.
4 Blake, Thomas E. Hawaiian Surfriders 1935, Mountain and Sea, Redondo Beach, CA, ©1983, p. 31. Originally published as Hawaiian Surfboard, 1935.
5 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History, Simon and Schuster, ©1991, p. 87.
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