Saturday, November 19, 2022

Earliest Peruvian Surfing

Peru has a rich surfing history, although little is known about its earliest days. Those days of riding bundled reeds perhaps even took place before Austronesian surfing on flat wooden boards began. Certainly, the archeological record shows it preceded the Polynesians.

Off the west coast of South America, Pacific ground swells hit the beaches from Panama to Patagonia, producing some of the planet’s best surf.  Peru, South America’s third-largest country, has a long surfing history to go with its 1,500 miles of mostly dry and rugged Pacific-facing coastline.

“The surf in Peru is remarkably consistent,” wrote Matt Warshaw in the Encyclopedia of Surfing, “with wave height averaging between three to six foot throughout the year, thanks to long-distance north swells during the summer, a steady feed of powerful south swells in winter, and a balance of the two during spring and fall. About 80 percent of Peru’s surf spots are lefts, most of them breaking along rocky points spilling onto sandy beaches. Daytime coastal air temperatures generally range between the low 70s in summer and the low 60s in winter; water temperatures around the capital city of Lima, chilled by the Humboldt current, range from the upper 60s to the mid-50s.”

Surfing in Peru is centered in Lima – home to one-fifth of the country’s total population. “Peru’s wave-rich northern tip faces northwest (the rest of the coast faces southwest), warmed by the Panama Current, is home to an assortment of points and reefs, including the high-acceleration tubes at Cabo Blanco, Chicama – the arid left-breaking point known as the longest ocean wave in the world, with rides sometimes lasting more than a mile – is located about 200 miles south of Punta Negra, and is flanked by at least four other high-quality breaks. Lima’s Pico Alto is the country’s premier big-wave spot, with well-shaped rights and lefts (rights preferred) breaking up to 25 feet. The country’s southern coast is lightly populated, hard to access, and rarely surfed.  The number and quality of surf breaks, however, is thought to be nearly equal to that found in the north.”

In addition to this surf wealth, the ancient land now known as Peru has the oldest documented tradition of wave riding.

In relatively recent years, Peruvian world champion surfer Felipe Pomar has lead the charge for greater recognition of Peru’s wave riding heritage. Taking it a step further, Felipe has joined with a few surfing and non-surfing historians to argue that surfing as a sport originated in what is now called Peru. They point to the fact that pre-Inca fishermen were riding surf as far back as 3,000 B.C., riding waves on what Spanish conquistadors called caballitos (little horses) made of bundled reeds. This puts the Peruvians about a thousand years before the earliest estimates for surf riding in Hawaii.

The conventional history of surfing, of course, has surfing originating as a very basic type of wave riding originating in the western Pacific Ocean. Under this scenario, the first surfers were Polynesian or Polynesian ancestors, Austronesians. It has been estimated that Polynesian surfing began sometime between 2000 B.C. and 400 A.D.

University of Hawaii anthropology professor and early surf historian Ben Finney acknowledged that surfing as we know it, probably preceded the Polynesians. In his Surfboarding in Oceania: Its Pre-European Distribution, Finney wrote that an “extensive examination of the available sources has shown that surfboarding was known in Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. In fact, surfboarding was practiced in Oceania from New Guinea in the West, to Easter Island in the East, and from Hawaii in the North to New Zealand in the South.” Finney cited sightings of various forms of primitive surfing in places as diverse as Owa Raha in the Solomon Islands (observed in 1949); to Yap in the Western Carolines (observed by a colleague); and south in the New Hebrides and Fiji.  “With reservations,” Finney concluded, this “wide distribution would seem to indicate that surfboarding is a general Oceanic sport, rather than a specifically Polynesian sport.”

Decades after writing the foregoing, however, Finney clarified that – lest one be easily tempted to look elsewhere than Polynesia for surfing’s earliest roots – “Indigenous board-surfing in the Pacific was most highly developed on islands within the Polynesian Triangle bounded by Hawaii, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), and Aotearoa (New Zealand).  Early reports of surfing along the shores of islands from New Guinea to Polynesia indicate that this sport, at least in its rudimentary form, was part of the common heritage of the seafaring people who spread across the Pacific thousands of years ago.”

So, if Polynesian surfing began before people reached the Hawaiian Islands, it is certainly older than 3,000 years ago. The fact is, we just don’t know how old surfing in eastern Polynesia is, let alone how old it is in western Polynesia. Could pre-Polynesians have surfed?  It’s most certainly probable, even if it was merely bodysurfing, bodyboarding or canoe surfing.

In fact, anywhere on the planet that has surf, a moderate or temperate climate, and coastal populations of humans engaged in fishing, there must have been surfers – if only riding surf in canoes as part of work or recreationally. Also, the tendency of young peope to get into the ocean and bodysurf is a universal act. Many historians wishing to blaze new ground often forget this most obvious aspect of coastal living in all ages and all temperate coasts.

I have written about this and postulate that surfing is not only far older than we think, but has been practiced worldwide for tens of thousands of years – certainly as far back as cognitive homo sapiens emerged in Africa.

We are fortunate that the coastal Peruvians, very early on, developed ceramic art to a high degree early in their history because they left an actual record of their surfing behind. In the museum of the Peruvian city of Chan Chan, there is pottery showing Huanchaco people “running waves” on reed rafts we now call caballitos de totora (little horses of the totora reed). These reed mats were and still are used primarily for fishing, but the pottery also indicates they were also used for fun; to ride the breaking waves of the northwest coast of Peru. Dating of the ceramic artifacts prove that wave riding on reed boats existed in that country as early as 3000 to 4000 B.C., long before the Spanish invasion in the 16th Century and well before the founding of the the Incan Empire in the 13th Century.

The two ancient pre-Inca cultures, Mochica and Chimu, developed in the north of Peru more than two thousand years ago. These were the first Peruvian societies to relate actively with powerful coastal tidal zones, through fishing and transport. The people of these societies left us many examples of designs featuring waves in their religious iconography and their art expressed on textiles, frescos and ceramics.

The first Peruvians to ride waves were no doubt fishermen who had to traverse often powerful ocean waves in order to get food. Peruvians are still using the reed craft their ancestors used thousands of years ago, now in modern times. It is possible to watch them in Trujillo; Huanchaco Beach is famous for this reason. Our attention to this early Peruvian surfing history has been in large part due to legendary surfer Felipe Pomar.

“In 1987,” surf writer Matt Warshaw wrote, “[Felipe] Pomar began a one-man crusade to have the fishermen of ancient Chan Chan, a pre-Inca empire located in what is now Peru’s northern territory, recognized as the original surfers. Chan Chan fishermen from as far back as 3,000 B.C., Pomar said, used reed-built caballitos (‘little horses’) to ride waves… ‘While there is much room for speculation,’ Pomar said in a surf magazine article, ‘there seems to be a distinct possibility that the embryonic form of modern-day surfing was born off the coast of northern Peru.’”

“In Northern Peru,” Felipe told me, “there is pottery that shows people paddling on a surfboard-like one-man boat, paddling with their arms... They're called caballitos de totora.  ‘caballitos’ means ‘little horses’ and ‘totora’ is a certain kind of reed. The Spanish Conquistadores named the little reed surfboards – or the reed kayaks; they're somewhere between a surfboard and a kayak – they named them ‘caballitos’ because when they witnessed them riding waves on one of these caballitos, they were used to riding horses and they saw them riding in with the surf, so they called them ‘little horses.’”

Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002)

Could pre-Peruvians have been influenced by pre-Polynesians or Polynesians? Thor Heyerdahl (October 6, 1914, Larvik, Norway – April 18, 2002, Colla Micheri, Italy), the Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer with a scientific background in zoology and geography definitely believed the two peoples had made isolated contacts with each other over the thousands of years preceding the Modern Era. Heyerdahl became notable for his Kon-Tiki expedition of the late 1940s, when he sailed 4,300 miles (8,000 km) by raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands.

Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki Expedition is important in the discussion of Polynesian dispersion across the Pacific, although its premisis runs counter to prevailing theory. Heyerdahl and five fellow adventurers went to Peru, where they constructed a pae-pae raft from balsa wood and other native materials, a raft that they called the Kon-Tiki. The Kon-Tiki expedition was inspired by old reports and drawings made by the Spanish Conquistadors of Inca rafts, and by native legends and archaeological evidence suggesting contact between South America and Polynesia. After a 101 day, 4,300 mile (8,000 km) journey across the Pacific Ocean, Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki smashed into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947.

Kon-Tiki demonstrated that it was possible for a primitive raft to sail the Pacific with relative ease and safety, especially to the west (with the wind). The raft proved to be highly maneuverable, and fish congregated between the two balsa logs in such numbers that ancient sailors could have possibly relied on fish for hydration in the absence of other sources of fresh water. Inspired by Kon-Tiki, other rafts have repeated the voyage. Heyerdahl's book about the expedition, Kon-Tiki, has been translated into over 50 languages. The documentary film of the expedition, itself entitled Kon-Tiki, won an Academy Award in 1951.

“Anthropologists continue to believe,” Wikipedia’s history of the expedition states, “based on linguistic, physical, and genetic evidence, that Polynesia was settled from west to east, migration having begun from the Asian mainland.  There are controversial indications, though, of some sort of South American/Polynesian contact, most notably in the fact that the South American sweet potato served as a dietary staple throughout much of Polynesia.

“Heyerdahl noted that in Incan legend there was a sun-god named Con-Tici Viracocha who was the supreme head of the mythical fair-skinned people in Peru. The original name for Virakocha was Kon-Tiki or Illa-Tiki, which means Sun-Tiki or Fire-Tiki. Kon-Tiki was high priest and sun-king of these legendary ‘white men’ who left enormous ruins on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The legend continues with the mysterious bearded white men being attacked by a chief named Cari who came from the Coquimbo Valley. They had a battle on an island in Lake Titicaca, and the fair race was massacred. However, Kon-Tiki and his closest companions managed to escape and later arrived on the Pacific coast.”

“When the Spaniards came to Peru, Heyerdahl asserted, the Incas told them that the colossal monuments that stood deserted about the landscape were erected by a race of white gods who had lived there before the Incas themselves became rulers. The Incas described these ‘white gods’ as wise, peaceful instructors who had originally come from the north in the ‘morning of time’ and taught the Incas’ primitive forefathers architecture as well as manners and customs. They were unlike other Native Americans in that they had ‘white skins and long beards’ and were taller than the Incas. The Incas said that the ‘white gods’ had then left as suddenly as they had come and fled westward across the Pacific. After they had left, the Incas themselves took over power in the country.”

“Heyerdahl said that when the Europeans first came to the Pacific islands, they were astonished that they found some of the natives to have relatively light skins and beards. There were whole families that had pale skin, hair varying in color from reddish to blonde. In contrast, most of the Polynesians had golden-brown skin, raven-black hair, and rather flat noses. Heyerdahl claimed that when Jakob Roggeveen first ‘discovered’ Easter Island in 1722, he supposedly noticed that many of the natives were white-skinned. Heyerdahl claimed that these people could count their ancestors who were ‘white-skinned’ right back to the time of Tiki and Hotu Matua, when they first came sailing across the sea ‘from a mountainous land in the east which was scorched by the sun.’ The ethnographic evidence for these claims is outlined in Heyerdahl’s book Aku Aku: The Secret of Easter Island.”

“Heyerdahl proposed that Tiki’s neolithic people colonized the then-uninhabited Polynesian islands as far north as Hawaii, as far south as New Zealand, as far east as Easter Island, and as far west as Samoa and Tonga around 500 CE. They supposedly sailed from Peru to the Polynesian islands on pae-paes – large rafts built from balsa logs, complete with sails and each with a small cottage. They built enormous stone statues carved in the image of human beings on Pitcairn, the Marquesas, and Easter Island that resembled those in Peru. They also built huge pyramids on Tahiti and Samoa with steps like those in Peru. But all over Polynesia, Heyerdahl found indications that Tiki’s peaceable race had not been able to hold the islands alone for long.  He found evidence that suggested that seagoing war canoes as large as Viking ships and lashed together two and two had brought Stone Age Northwest American Indians to Polynesia around 1100 CE, and they mingled with Tiki’s people. The oral history of the people of Easter Island, at least as it was documented by Heyerdahl, is completely consistent with this theory, as is the archaeological record he examined (Heyerdahl 1958). In particular, Heyerdahl obtained a radiocarbon date of 400 CE for a charcoal fire located in the pit that was held by the people of Easter Island to have been used as an ‘oven’ by the ‘Long Ears,’ which Heyerdahl's Rapa Nui sources, reciting oral tradition, identified as a white race which had ruled the island in the past (Heyerdahl 1958).”

“Heyerdahl further argued in his book American Indians in the Pacific that the current inhabitants of Polynesia migrated not from an Asian source, but via an alternate route. He proposed that Polynesians traveled with the wind along the North Pacific current. These migrants then arrived in British Columbia. Heyerdahl called contemporary tribes of British Columbia, such as the Tlingit and Haida, descendants of these migrants. Heyerdahl claimed that cultural and physical similarities existed between these British Columbian tribes, Polynesians, and the Old World source. Heyerdahl’s claims aside, however, there is no evidence that the Tlingit, Haida or other British Columbian tribes have an affinity with Polynesians.”

Furthermore, as intriguing as Heyerdahls’ theory of Polynesian origins is, it has never gained acceptance by anthropologists. Physical and cultural evidence has long suggested that Polynesia was settled from west to east, migration having begun from the Asian mainland, not South America. In the late 1990s, genetic testing found that the mitochondrial DNA of the Polynesians is more similar to people from Southeast Asia than to people from South America, showing that their ancestors most likely came from Asia. Easter Islanders are of Polynesian descent.

Further DNA studies conducted in the late 1990s and early 2000s indicate that Polynesian ancestry is placed at Taiwan.

Yet, the issue of the South American sweet potato remains a mystery. In recent times (2022), DNA samples of a human skeleton in the Amazon points to Polynesian ancestry.

Glenn Hening, Surfrider Foundation founder and president of the Groundswell Society, agrees that Peruvians could have been the first of what we might term “surfers.”  Hening travelled to Peru to experience las caballitos de totora first-hand. Although he thinks Peruvians might have been the “first surfers,” he is not willing to go as far as Felipe Pomar. In a personal email to Pomar, in 2009, Hening pointed out that “Your theory about surfing craft being developed first, and from them then fishing craft, simply cannot be supported by the evidence. The evidence is that reed craft were being used up to 3,500 years ago to provide food for the large populations at Caral, Chan Chan, Tucume, etc. Your evidence of personal craft is only 1200 years old – and consists of the two ceramics at the Breuning Museum.”

“… my contention,” Felipe responded, “is not that they were first built to have fun and then improved for fishing. My contention is that more important than having fun, or even fishing, was surviving.

“The design tells me they were designed to ride waves.  The reason riding the wave was so important is because to make it safely to the beach from outside (the ocean side of the breaking waves) you had to avoid getting caught by a set of breakers.

“If you got caught you could drown, or lose your fish (if you had been fishing).

“Riding the wave enabled the Caballito rider to rapidly ride a wave in and avoid getting smashed and upended/capsized by the waves. Riding a wave kept him out of harms way. Thus the Caballitos were designed to ride waves and used for fishing (by the fishermen), recreation (by the sons of the fishermen), and sport (by warriors, priests, chiefs, or others with free time seeking fitness, sport, or power).”

According to Thor Heyerdahl: “Knowing the people on the coast today, this would be the first place where surfing could have developed. 5,000 years ago, they were mentally and physically exactly like us. They would do precisely as you and I do. If we have time for leisure – and in those days the royalty on the coast had all the leisure time they could ask for – there’d be nothing more natural than for them to start surfing in these waves.”

“In areas of constant surf,” Felipe Pomar maintains, “the people had to design a unipersonal boat that could get them through the braking waves (to beyond the breaking waves) and then through the breaking wave zone to get back to shore. Riding the wave was the safest, fastest, and often the only way to get back to shore.

“The Caballito is [the pre-Incan]… design for areas with constant surf where you have to ride the wave to get back to shore. Look at the design on the caballito: length, width, scoop, bottom contour. Compare it to older surfboard design’s and Kayak’s made for riding waves. You can’t avoid seeing that the Caballito was designed to ride waves of the sea. And it is extremely sophisticated and functional considering when it was developed and the materials they had to work with.”

“In my opinion,” continued Felipe, “what Peru has is the kind of ideal coastline for riding waves to develope and whether they were riding them on a reed caballito or riding them on some other kind of plank or just bodysurfing, the constant surf on the Peruvian coast is, in many places, like Waikiki. You know, you have the rollers coming in from way out and you can catch them and ride for long distance. So, for that reason, it’s perfectly understandable that surfing – riding waves – would develop on that kind of coastline.”

“It is important that the Peruvians know our history in regard to Totora Horse,” Felipe Pomar emphasized.

“There is no doubt that Peruvian societies going back almost 3500 years had used the ‘caballitos’ (Spanish for ‘little horses’) for fishing purposes,” wrote Glenn Hening in “Riding Waves Two Thousand Years Ago,” “and Heyerdahl told us in an interview that those societies would have enjoyed the surf just as we do. Dr. Heyerdahl had also developed theories about ancient Peruvians sailing to Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and had confirmed the existence of stone sculptures found there depicting reed boats. Coupled with research connecting Rapa Nui to the rest of Polynesia through the ‘wayfinding’ voyages, a tenuous link could be made from Peru to Polynesia to Hawai‘i.

Hening points to the relationship ancient Peruvians seemed to have with the ocean. “Peruvian cultures had an almost religious relationship with waves,” Glenn wrote, “… It may be very difficult to prove surfing came to Hawai’i from Peru, but with more research in the ruins of temples and cities along the coast of northern Peru, we should eventually find definitive evidence that people were riding waves there at least a thousand years before any evidence exists of surfing in Hawai‘i. Why?  Because we already have proof that riding a reed boat, and not using it for fishing, was a concept not unknown to the ancient Peruvians.

“When I say ancient Peruvians, I am talking about societies that existed before the Incas. The ruins at Machu Pichu are famous around the world, and for most people, the Incas represent the history of Peru before the arrival of the Spanish. However, there were well-developed cultures prior to the Incans, and huge cities, temples and pyramids can be found along the coast of Northern Peru that pre-date the Incas by hundreds, and in two cases, thousand of years.”

“Those societies,” Glenn went on, “notably the Chimu and the Moche, depended largely on the ocean for their protein, and for them the ocean was a mystical place of unlimited power. They repeatedly used waves as a design element in their clothing, jewelry, and architecture. In fact, a ceremonial courtyard found in the Chan Chan ruins, not more than a kilometer from the surf, is ringed by walls covered with parallel lines, the purpose of which was to surround the people participating in the ceremonies with the power of the sea. In this case, waves were used to decorate a ‘church’, and in other societies pre-dating Chan Chan waves were used on the golden crowns of kings and their clothing. And one priesthood used waves as the symbol of their power as they exerted a strong influence over the government and daily lives in cities of up to 50,000 people.”

“To me,” Glenn continued, “the veneration of waves by ancient Peruvians is entirely understandable. In fact, surfers everywhere cover their walls with pictures of swells, tubes, and rolling waves. It was breathtaking to visit a temple that was built overlooking a left point break along the coast north of Huanchaco and see waves six feet high carved in an endless chain along a wall still not fully excavated. As a surfer, to touch those waves, even as I could hear the roar of real surf off in the distance, was an important experience for me...”

For Glenn Hening, his conversion to viewing Peruvians as the first surfers came when he viewed “A ceramic, possibly almost 1200 years old… unearthed in 1938 by a German archaeologist, Franz Wasserman.” This ceramic “depicts a Peruvian god riding the crescent moon across the night sky, and the moon was drawn in the form of a reed boat. To me, that indicates the artist, whoever he or she was, conceived of using a reed craft for something that we could call ‘surfing.’

“Now, other evidence exists of the use of reeds to built small ‘floats’ for going out in the surf to complete ‘rites of passage’ ceremonies, given the strength and courage it takes to challenge the endless lines of surf that hit the coast of Peru. But the god riding his ‘moonship’ was a very exciting step forward in the search for the first surfer.

“As a result, I strongly believe that with more research and archaeological investigations at sites in Northern Peru, there is a good chance of finding conclusive proof that ancient Peruvians were using reed craft not only for fishing, but also recreational purposes. As Dr. Heyerdahl said, ‘People haven’t changed in fundamental ways for thousands of years, and if something is fun for us, it certainly would have been fun for them. And that includes surfing.’”

Speaking personally, Glenn wrote, “As a surfer, my memories of my trips to Peru are filled with visions of endless waves to the horizon, long walls of peeling tubes that I could ride for hundreds of meters, and the roar of surf all day and all night. As a professional historian, I was fascinated by the reed boat ceramics and the use of waves to decorate royal clothes, temples, and artwork found at many archaeological sites...”

“When Hening started researching the coastal cultures of Northern Peru,” wrote Marcus Sanders in “Lines in the Dust – The Groundswell Society Goes to Peru 2002,” published in The Surfer’s Path, “around the fishing town of Huanchaco (about 500 miles north of Lima), he started questioning the entrenched idea that surfing began in Hawai‘i.  He wasn’t the first.  Some surfing historians – including Peruvian businessman and cultural historian Fortunato Quesada and Peru’s ex-world champion, Felipe Pomar – assert that the ancient Peruvians took to the waves in their ancient reed craft (called caballitos, or “little horses”) thousands of years ago.  But Hening has been one of the most diligent in researching the possibilities, especially in the last couple of years.

“… In 1994, after getting fairly fed up with Surfrider’s continual shift away from what he saw as its original vision – that is, a ‘Cousteau Society for surfers’ – Hening decided to create the Groundswell Society, which was intended to be a kind of non-corporate surfing think tank…”

“Hening’s third question, about the history of the place, can be found in the elaborate architecture, ceramics and drawing of ancient Peruvians on display in the museums and various archaeological sites along the coast.  It should come as no surprise that everything had a deep maritime influence, with examples of curling waves, breaking waves, lines to the horizon and peeling pointbreaks. There’s even a 2000-year-old temple located right on a cliff above a Honolua Bay-style left. ‘They didn’t’ build in the middle of the beach,’ Hening points out. ‘They built it right where there were lines bending in and peeling perfectly.’”

“Surfing’s direct influence is one thing,” Glenn acknowledged. “Having one’s life defined by the power of the ocean is something a little different. Surfing is a small part of our relationship with the ocean. These cultures needed the ocean to eat, but they also recognized the geometry of waves, and situated their temples not at close-out surf, but at perfect points. They were cognizant of how waves break. And they were cognizant of curling waves, of tubes – you can see it in their architecture; there are ‘Moche’ ceramics dating back to AD 200 that depict a deity riding the crescent moon as if it was a reed boat. Of course, there’s more research to be done – nothing’s been proven. But every year more and more sites are being discovered that give us more information about how people’s lives were informed by waves thousands of years ago.”

When asked about how Polynesians and, in particular, Hawaiians felt about the Peru theory as first point for surfing, Felipe Pomar responded, “A few might like, and some not, but… There is no doubt that the art of surfing was born on the coast of Peru.  This is because the former caballitos were running waves in Peru thousands of years before there were settlers in the islands of Hawaii. It is also true that in Hawaii, the art developed rapidly with new materials, and the exceptional conditions of their sea. But the oldest examples of people running waves have them in Peru.”

Friday, November 18, 2022

Old Hawaiian Surfing Legends

Aloha and Welcome to this chapter segment in the LEGENDARY SURFERS series on the legendary Hawaiian surfers from long ago, including Mamala, Kahikilani, Umi and Pikoi.

Kahikilani turned to stone
Photographer unknown


The surf rises at Koolau,

Blowing the waves into mist,

Into little drops,

Spray falling along the inner harbor.

There is my dear husband Ouha,

There is the shaking sea, the running sea of Kou,

The crablike, moving sea of Kou.

Prepare the awa to drink, the crab to eat.

The small konane board is at Hono-kau-pu,

My friend on the highest point of the surf.

There is a good surf for us.

My love has gone away.

Smooth is the floor of Kou,

Fine is the breeze from the mountains...71


Ke-kai-o-Mamala (the Sea of Mamala), the ocean west of Waikiki off the coast of Honolulu, was named after one of Hawaii’s earliest known legendary woman surfers – Mamala.

Mamala rode at a time when Hawaiian history was kept orally, so it is virtually impossible to separate the facts from the myths. Both are included here.

The harbor area of Hono-lulu was once known as Kou.72 Kou hosted a number of primo surf spots, including ‘Ula-kua (black red), Ke-kai-o-Mamala (the sea of Mamala), and Awa-lua (double harbor).73

Look at an island map of O‘ahu and you can still see Ke-kai-o-Mamala, the Sea of Mamala still marked. The surf spot of the same name broke through a narrow entrance to the harbor, straight out from a grove of coconut trees belonging to the chief Honoka‘upu, which bore his name.74 This is in the area now known as Ala Moana, Rock Pile, Inbetweens and Kaisers – contemporary surf spots at the mouth of the harbor channel, just east of Magic Island.75

Ke-kai-o-Mamala broke “straight out from a beautiful coconut grove... [at] Honoka‘upu and provided some of the finest waves in Kou,” wrote Finney and Houston. “The break was named after Mamala, a famous surfer and a pominent O‘ahu chiefess. She was a kupua, a demigod or hero with supernatural powers who could take the form of a beautiful woman, a gigantic lizard, or a great shark.”76

As a mo-o – sometimes she could be a gigantic lizard or crocodile; sometimes a beautiful woman.77

According to legend, she was first married to another kupua, the shark-man Ouha. Mamala and Ouha would often drink awa together and played konane (pebble checkers) on the smooth konane stone at Kou.78

Mamala, by all accounts, was an excellent surfer. Skillfully, she rode the roughest waves. She apparently liked to surf far out from shore, in rough seas, when the winds blew strong and whitecaps rolled in disorder into the bay of Kou. The people on the beach, watching her, would clap and yell in recognition to her extraordinary riding.79

One day, the coconut grove chief Honoka‘upu decided he wanted Mamala as his wife. Apparently, she was amenable and left Ouha to go live with her new husband.80 Feeling loss-of-face, Ouha got angry and first tried the belligerant approach, trying to do Honoka‘upu in. That didn’t work and he was driven away, fleeing to lake Ka-ihi-Kapu, toward Waikiki. There, he appeared as a man with a basketful of shrimp and fresh fish, which he offered to the women of the place, saying, “Here is life (a living thing) for the children.” He opened his basket, but the shrimp and fish leaped out and escaped into the water.81

After this, the women of Ka-ihi-Kapu made fun of Ouha, further ridiculing the god-man. Ouha, like the other ancient legendary characters of Polynesia and most of the rest of us, could not endure anything that brought shame and disgrace upon him in the eyes of others. Consequently, Ouha cast off his human form forever and became the great shark god of the coast between Waikiki and Koko Head.82

Mamala was remembered ever afterward both by the surf spot named in her honor and also in a song about her triangular love affair called the Mele (song) of Honoka‘upu.”83 Two parts of the song go like this:

I wait for you to return,

The games are prepared,

Pa-poko, pa-loa, pa-lele,

Leap away to Tahiti

By the path to Nuumehalani,

Will that lover return?

I belong to Honoka‘upu,

From the top of the tossing surf waves,

The eyes of the day and the night are forgotten.

Kou is the day, and to-night

The eyes meet at Kou.84

The surf rises at Ko‘olau,

Blowing the waves into mist,

Into little drops,

Spray falling along the hidden harbor.


There is my dear husband Ouha,

There is the shaking sea, the running sea of Kou,

The crab-like sea of Kou...


My love has gone away...


Fine is the breeze from the mountain.


I wait for you to return...

Will the lover return?

I belong to Honoka‘upu,

From the top of the tossing surf waves...85



The surf rises at Koolau,

Blowing the waves into mist,

Into little drops,

Spray falling along the inner harbor.

There is my dear husband Ouha,

There is the shaking sea, the running sea of Kou,

The crablike, moving sea of Kou.

Prepare the awa to drink, the crab to eat.

The small konane board is at Hono-kau-pu,

My friend on the highest point of the surf.

There is a good surf for us.

My love has gone away.

Smooth is the floor of Kou,

Fine is the breeze from the mountains...86


Forty miles from Ke-kai-o-Mamala, on the North Shore, Paumalu was known for its big waves, just as it is known, today, by the different name of “Sunset Beach.”

In the long ago, it was called Paumalu, meaning “taken secretly,” referring to how a woman who caught more octopus than was permitted had her legs bitten off by a shark.87

In this most famous surfing legend of Paumalu, a prince of Kaua‘i named Kahikilani crossed the hundred miles of open sea between his home and O‘ahu just to prove his prowess at Paumalu.88

“As soon as he arrived he started surfing,” wrote Finney and Houston in a re-telling of the ancient mele. “Day after day he perfected his skill in the jawlike waves. As he rode he was watched by a bird maiden with supernatural powers who lived in a cave on a nearby mountain. She fell in love with the prince and sent bird messengers to place an orange lehua lei around his neck and bring him to her.

“By flying around his head, the messengers guided Kahikilani to the bird maiden’s cave. Enchanted, he spent several months with her until the return of the surfing season. Then the distant sizzle and boom of the waves at Paumalu were too much for Kahikilani to resist, and he left the maiden, but only after promising never to kiss another woman.

“However, the excitement of the rising surf must have clouded his memory because almost as soon as he was riding again, a beautiful woman came walking along the white sand. She saw him there, waited until he rode to shore, placed an ilima lei around his neck, and kissed him. His vow was broken. He thought nothing of it and paddled back out to the breaking waves, but the bird messengers were watching. They flew to tell their mistress of his infidelity. When she heard their report, the bird maiden ran to the beach with a lehua lei in her hand. Snatching the ilima lei from Kahikilani’s neck, she replaced it with the one made from lehua blossoms. As she ran back to her cave, he chased her. That was the last Kahikilani saw of the bird maiden, though, for halfway up the mountain he was turned to stone.”89

The bird maiden had “called on her ‘aumakua (family god) and the husband was turned to stone.”90

The image of Kahikilani can still be seen, today, with a petrified lehua lei around his neck on a barren ridge above Paumalu Bay, less than a mile from the Kamehameha Highway. Today, this image is sometimes called “the George Washington Stone.91

Umi vs. Paiea


In comparatively recent times, a story is told of an incident in the life of Umi-a-liloa, a rather unforgiving chief who ruled over the big island of Hawai‘i and Maui during the late 15th and early 16th century. The story reveals the less-than-noble character a life of privilege sometimes fostered. For, while “Umi was a very capable lad,” he was, “also a swaggering, arrogant youngster of royal birth who felt he could do as he pleased because his father was the king.”92 For surfers, the lesson lies in the price one can pay for competing in a surf contest.

Around 1480-85 “Chief Umi was living at Waipunalei,” wrote legendary early 20th Century surfer Tom Blake, when, “he and his friend attended a surfriding match at Laupahoehoe, being unknown there and in disguise.”93

“Fearing for the safety of his son,” explained Patterson in Surf-Riding, Its Thrills and Techniques, “the king caused him to travel incognito when touring the island in search of pleasure or adventure. On one of these trips young Umi, a lad of great physical strength, heard of a surfing carnival being held at Laupohoehoe near Hilo on the island of Hawaii. He took his party to Hilo and there haughtily let it be known that he excelled at surfing.”94

“His arrogance was naturally challenged with enthusiasm by one of the petty chiefs,” Patterson continued.95 His challenger, a lesser chief named Paiea, “knew all the surfs and the best one to ride,” recorded Kamakau, in Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii. “It was the one directly in front of Laupahoehoe, facing Hilo. It was a huge one, which none dared to ride except Paiea, who was noted for his skill.”96

Paiea invited Umi to a surfing match and offered a trifling bet which Umi refused.97 When Paiea upped his bet to four double-hulled canoes, Umi accepted.98

“The inspiration which caused surfing to reach its ultimate pitch of development,” according to Patterson, “was the Polynesian [Hawaiians] desire and delight in gambling. They were great gamblers and would stake their last remaining possession as a wager in a game.

“They had plenty of leisure due to the productivity of the islands, and it is only natural that they should look for the most pleasant source of outlet for their energies. They also possessed a keen interest in sports, most of which centered about water. In sporting events, surfing offered the greatest opportunity to the high chiefs because the higher ranking men were always shown preference at surfing locations when the waves were high and the sea was on a rampage. They were the only ones who could afford the ownership and care of superior boards which allow advantage in competition.

“Early legends telling of surfing contests are almost entirely built up around petty or ranking chiefs in connection with some particular wager.”99

Kenneth Emory, an authority on Polynesian customs, wrote that, “Betting is quite unknown among the other islands of the South Seas.” Emory advanced the theory that Hawaiians learned gambling from contact with Japanese fishermen, who were known to have reached the Islands by shipwreck and accidental discovery prior to the European landing in 1778.100

At any rate, “Gambling on surfing was practiced in that locality,” continued Kamakau. “All of the inhabitants from Waipunalei to Kaula placed their wager on Umi, and those of Laupahoehoe on Paiea.”101 “The wager made was a heavy one calling for four large outrigger canoes. But the royal prince treated the wager lightly, meeting it with the assistance of his regal party.”102

“Umi and Paiea paddled out [in] the high surf, pushing their boards through the heavy breakers until they reached the open sea where they spent considerable time maneuvering for the best position. They selected a large wave and paddled madly toward shore. They had chosen the largest wave of the series and it could be seen lifting high into the air, and, at the very crest, throwing spray which was caught by the wind and blown again out to sea. Presently, the force of the wave caught the boards and started them sliding along the slanting surface at the front of the crest.

“They both stood up simultaneously, their feet firmly placed on the convex deck of the boards. Magnificent surfers indeed, they were worthy of the keen attention that was given them from the shore by the many observers. They came with great speed and apparently neither surfer experienced difficulty as he glided along the entire course, ending up between the two floats serving as the goal. Umi won the contest and claimed his four canoes, leaving without revealing his identity.”103

Kamakau tells a slightly different and more detailed ending:

“The two rode the surf, and while surfing Paiea noticed that Umi was winning. As they drew near a rock, Paiea crowded him against it, skinning his side. Umi was strong and pressed his foot against Paiea’s chest and then landed ashore. Umi won against Paiea...”104

While generally agreeing with Kamakau, both Finney and Blake have slightly different overall versions. Finney wrote that Umi, “defeated Paiea and won the four canoes, but during the match Paiea’s surfboard had clipped Umi on the shoulder, scratching off some skin.”105 Blake has it that, “Umi won the bet but in coming in over the surf, by accident or design, Paiea’s board struck the shoulder of Umi and scratched off his skin.”106

Duke Kahanamoku said that Paiea had won.107

According to Kamakau, “because Paiea crowded Umi against the rock with the intention of killing him, Paiea was roasted in an imu (oven),”108 in later years when Umi became the supreme king of the Big Island. Finney wrote that after the contest, “Umi said nothing at the time, but when he later came to power as high chief he had Paiea killed and sacrificed to his god at the heiau at Waipunalei.”109

“When Umi became king,” agreed Patterson, “he made a trip to Hilo and caused Paiea to be killed in sacrifice to the gods at the Heiau temple, revengefully claiming that Paiea had allowed his board to bump him slightly while riding beside him in the surfing contest which had been held several years [previously].”110

No matter who won or whether Paiea was a good guy or bad, Umi’s revenge was extreme and Paiea’s end at the hands of Umi-a-liloa was the same. “In short,” said Duke Kahanamoku, “in ancient days a surfer could lose more in a contest than mere material stakes; he could and sometimes did  lose his life.”111

Pikoi The Rat Killer

Here is the story of Pikoi The Rat Killer, as told by W. D. Westervelt in Hawaiian Legends of Old Honolulu:112

LONG, long ago in the Hawaiian Islands, part of the children of a chief’s family might be born real boys and girls, while others would be “gods” in the form of some one of the various kinds of animals known to the Hawaiians. These “gods” in the family could appear as human beings or as animals. They were guardians of the family, or, perhaps it should be said, they watched carefully over some especial brother or sister, doing all sorts of marvelous things such as witches and fairies like to do for those whom they love.

In a family on Kauai six girl-gods were born and only one real girl and one real boy. These “gods” were all rats and were named “Kikoo,” which was the name of the bow used with an arrow for rat-shooting. They were “Bow-of-the-heaven,” “Bow-of-the-earth,” “Bow-of-the-mountain,” “Bow-of-the-ocean,” “Bow-of-the-night” and “Bow-of-the-day.”

These rat-sister-gods seemed to have charge of their brother and his sports. His incantations and chants were made in their names. The real sister was named “Ka-ui-o-Manoa” (“The Beauty of Manoa”). She was a very beautiful woman, who came to Oahu to meet Pawaa, the chief of Manoa Valley, and marry him. He was an aikane (bosom friend) to Kakuhihewa, the kin, of Oahu. They made their home at Kahaloa in Manoa Valley. They also had Kahoiwai in the upper end of the valley.

The boy’s name was Pikoi-a-ka-Alala (Pikoi, the son of Alala). In his time the chief sport seemed to be hunting rats with bows and arrows. Pikoi as a child became very skilful. He was very clear and far sighted, and surpassed all the men of Kauai in his ability to kill hidden and far-off rats. The legends say this was greatly due to the aid given by his rat-sisters.

At that same time there was on Kauai a very wonderful dog, Puapualenalena (Pupua, the yellow). That dog was very intelligent and very swift.

One day it ran into the deep forest and saw a small boy who was successfully shooting rats. The dog joined him. The dog caught ten rats while Pikoi shot ten.

Some days later the two friends went into a wilderness. In that day’s contest the dog caught forty and the boy shot forty. Again and again they tried, but the boy could not win from the dog, nor could the dog beat the boy.

After a while they became noted throughout Kauai. The story of the skill of Pikoi was related on Oahu and repeated even on Hawaii. His name was widely known, although few had seen him.

One day his father Alala told Pikoi that he wanted to see his daughter in Manoa Valley. They launched their canoe and sailed across the channel, leaving the marvelous dog behind.

Midway in the channel Pikoi cried out: “Look! There is a great squid!” It was the squid Kakahee, who was a god. Pikoi took his bow and fitted an arrow to it, for he saw the huge creature hiding in a pit deep in the coral. The squid rose up from its cave and followed the boat, stretching out its long arms and trying to seize them. The boy shot the monster, using the bow and arrow belonging to the ocean. The enemy died in a very little while. This was near the cape of Kaena. The name of the land at that place is Kakahee. These monsters of the ocean were called Kupuas. It was believed that they were evil gods, always hoping to inflict some injury on man.

Pikoi and his father landed and went up to Manoa Valley. There they met Ka-ui-o-Manoa and wept from great joy as they embraced each other. A feast was prepared, and all rested for a time.

Pikoi wandered away down the valley and out toward the lands overlooking the harbor of Kou (Honolulu). On the plain called Kula-o-kahua he saw a chiefess with some of her people. This plain was the comparatively level ground below Makiki Valley. Apparently it was covered at that time with a small shrub, or dwarflike tree, called aweoweo. Rats were hiding under the shelter of the thick leaves and branches.

Pikoi went to the place where the people were gathered. The chiefess was Kahamaluihi, the wife of the king Kakuhihewa. With her was her famous arrow-shooting chiefess, Ke-pana-kahu, who was shooting against Mainele, the noted rat-shooting chief of her husband. The queen had been betting with Mainele and had lost because he was a better shot that day than her friend. She was standing inside tabu lines under a shaded place, but Pikoi went in and stood by her. She was angry for a moment, and asked why he was there. He made a pleasant answer about wishing to see the sport.

She asked if he could shoot. He replied that he had been taught a little of the art, so she offered him the use of a bow and arrow and at that he said, “This arrow and this bow are not good for this kind of shooting.”

She laughed at him. “You are only a boy; what can you know about rat-hunting?“

He was a little nettled, and broke the bow and arrow, saying, “These things are of no use whatever.”

The chiefess was really angry, and cried out, “What do you mean by breaking my things, you deceitful child?“

Meanwhile Pikoi’s father had missed him and had learned from his daughter that the high chiefess was having a rat-shooting contest. He took Pikoi’s bows and arrows wrapped in tapa and went down with the bundle on his back.

Pikoi took a bow and arrow from the bundle and persuaded the high chiefess to make a new wager with Mainele. The queen, in kindly mood, placed treasure against treasure.

Mainele prepared to shoot first, agreeing with Pikoi to make fifteen the number of shots for the first trial.

Pikoi pointed out rat after rat among the shrubs until Mainele had killed fourteen. Then the boy cried: “There is only one shot more. Shoot that rat whose whiskers are by a leaf of that aweoweo tree. The body is concealed, but I can see the whiskers. Shoot that rat, O Mainele!”

Mainele looked the shrubs all over carefully, but could not see the least sign of a rat. The people went near and thrust arrows among the leaves, but could see nothing.

Then Mainele said: “There is no rat in that place. I have looked where you said. You are a lying child when you say that you see the whiskers of a rat.”

Pikoi insisted that the rat was there. Mainele was vexed, and said: “Behold all the treasure I have won from the chiefess and the treasure which we are now betting. You shall have it all if you shoot and strike the whiskers of any rat in that small tree. If you do not strike a rat I will simply claim the present bet.”

Then Pikoi took out of the bundle held by his father a bow and an arrow. He carefully strung his bow and fixed the arrow, pointing the eye of that arrow toward the place pointed out before.

The queen said, “That is a splendid bow.” Her caretaker, however, was watching the beautiful eyes of the boy, and his general appearance.

Pikoi was softly chanting to himself. This was his incantation or prayer to his sister-gods:

There he is, there he is, O Pikoi!

Alala is the father,

Koukou is the mother.

The divine sisters were born.

O Bent-bow-of-heaven!

O Bent-bow-of-earth!

O Bent-bow-of-the-mountain!

O Bent-bow-of-the-ocean!

O Bent-bow-of-the-night!

O Bent-bow-of-the-day!


O Wonderful Ones!

O Silent Ones!



There is that rat—

That rat in the leaves of the aweoweo,

By the fruit of the aweoweo,

By the trunk of the aweoweo.

Large eyes have you, O Mainele;

But you did not see that rat.

If you had shot, O Mainele,

You would have hit the whiskers of that rat—

You would have had two rats—two.

Another comes—three rats—three!113

Then Mainele said: “You are a lying child. I, Mainele, am a skilful shooter. I have struck my rat in the mouth or the foot or any part of the body, but no one has ever pierced the whiskers. You are trying to deceive.”

Pikoi raised his bow, felt his arrow, and said to his father, “What arrow is this?”

His father replied, “That is the arrow Mahu, which eats the flower of the lehua-tree.”

Pikoi said: “This will not do. Hand me another.” Then his father gave him Laukona (The-arrow-which-strikes-the-strong-leaf), but the boy said: “This arrow has killed only sixty rats and its eye is smooth. Give me one more.”

His father handed him the Huhui (The-bunched-together), an arrow having three or four sharp notches in the point.

Pikoi took it, saying, “This arrow wins the treasure,” and went toward the tree, secretly repeating his chant.

Then he let the arrow go twisting and whirling around, striking and entangling the whiskers of three rats.

Mainele saw this wonderful shooting, and delivered all the treasures he had wagered. But Pikoi said he had not really won until he had killed fourteen more rats, so he shot again a very long arrow among the thick leaves of the shrubs, and the arrow was full of rats strung on it from end to end hanging on it…

The people stood with open mouths in silent astonishment, and then broke out in wildest enthusiasm. While they were excited the boy and his father secretly went away to their home in Manoa Valley and remained there with Ka-ui-o-Manoa a long time, not visiting Waikiki or the noted places of the island Oahu.

Kakuhihewa, the king, heard about this strange contest and tried to find the wonderful boy. But he had entirely disappeared. The caretaker of the high chiefess was the only one who had carefully observed his eyes and his general appearance, but she had no knowledge of his home or how he had disappeared.

She suggested that all the men of Oahu be called, district by district, to bring offerings to the king, two months being allowed each district, lest there should be a surplus of gifts and the people impoverished and reduced to a state of famine.

Five years passed. In the sixth year the Valley of Manoa was called upon to bring its gifts.

Pikoi had grown into manhood and had changed very much in his general appearance. His hair was very long, falling far down his body. He asked his sister to cut his hair, and persuaded her to take her husband’s shark-tooth knives. She refused at first, saying, “These knives are tabu because they belong to the chief.” At last she took the teeth – one above, or outside of the hair, and one inside – and tried to cut the hair, but it was so thick and stout that the handles broke, and she gave up, saying, “Your hair is the hair of a god.” However, that night while he slept his rat-sister-gods came and gnawed off his hair, some eating one place and some another. It was not even. From this the ancient saying arose: “Look at his hair. It was cut by rats.”

Pawaa, the chief, came home and found his wife greatly troubled. She told him all that she had done, and he said: “Broken were the handles, not the teeth of the shark. If the teeth had broken, that would have been bad.”

Pikoi’s face had been discolored by the sister-gods, so that when he appeared with ragged hair no one knew him – not even his father and sister. He put on some beautiful garlands of lehua flowers and went with the Manoa people to Waikiki to appear before the king.

The people were feasting, surf-riding and enjoying all kinds of sports before they should be called to make obeisance to their king.

Pikoi wandered down to the beach at Ulu-kou where the queen and her retinue were surf-riding. While he stood near the water the queen came in on a great wave which brought her before him. He asked for her papa (surf-board) but she said it was tabu to any one but herself. Any other taking that surf-board would be killed by the servants.

Then the chiefess, who was with the queen when Pikoi shot the rats of Makiki, came to the shore. The queen said, “Here is a surf-board you can use.” The chiefess gave him her board and did not know him. He went out into the sea at Waikiki where the people were sporting. The surf was good only in one place, and that [near the present Moana Hotel.] was tabu to the queen. So Pikoi allowed a wave to carry him across to the high combers; upon which she was riding. She waited for him, because she was pleased with his great beauty, although he had tried to disguise himself.

She asked him for one of his beautiful leis of lehua flowers, but he said he must refuse because she was tabu. “No! No!” she replied.” Nothing is tabu for me to receive. It will be tabu after I have worn it.” So he gave her the garland of flowers. That part of the surf is named Kalehua-wike (The-loosened-lehua).

Then he asked her to launch her board on the first wave and let him come in on the second. She did not go, but caught the second wave as he swept by. He saw her, and tried to cut across from his wave to the next. She followed him, and very skillfully caught that wave and swept to the beach with him.

A great cry came from the people. “That boy has broken the tabu!” “There is death for the boy!”

The king, Kakuhihewa, heard the shout and looked toward the sea. He saw the tabu queen and that boy on the same surf-wave.

He called to his officers: “Go quickly and seize that young chief who has broken the tabu of the queen. He shall not live.”

The officers ran to him, seized him, tossed him around, tore off his malo, struck him with clubs, and began to kill him.

Pikoi cried: “Stop! Wait until I have had word with the king.”

They led him to the place where the king waited. Some of the people insulted him, and threw dirt and stones upon him as he passed.

The king was in kindly mood and listened to his explanation instead of ordering him to be killed at once.

While he was speaking before the king, the queen and the other women came. One of them looked carefully at him and recognized some peculiar marks on his side. She exclaimed, “There is the wonderful child who won the victory from Mainele. He is the skillful rat-shooter.”

The king said to the woman, “You see that this is a fine-looking young man, and you are trying to save him.”

The woman was vexed, and insisted that this was truly the rat-shooter.

Then the king said: “Perhaps we should try him against Mainele. They may shoot here in this house.” This was the house called the Hale-noa (Free-for-all-the-family). The king gave the law of the contest. “You may each shoot like the arrows on your hands [the ten fingers] and five more-fifteen in all.”

Pikoi was afraid of this contest. Mainele had his own weapons, while Pikoi had nothing, but he looked around and saw his father, Alala, who now knew him. The father had the tapa bundle of bows and arrows. The woman recognized him, and called, “Behold the man who has the bow and arrow for this boy.”

Pikoi told Mainele to shoot at some rats under the doorway. He pointed them out one after the other until twelve had been killed.

Pikoi said: “There is one more. His body cannot be seen, but his whiskers are by the edge of the stone step.”

Mainele denied that any rat was there, and refused to shoot.

The king commanded Pikoi not to shoot at any rat under the door, but to kill real rats, as Mainele had done.

Pikoi took his bow, bent it, and drew it out until it stretched from one side of the house to the other. The arrow was very long. He called to his opponent to point out rats.

Mainele could not point out any. Nor could the king see one around the house.

Pikoi shot an arrow at the doorstep and killed a rat which had been hiding underneath.

Then Pikoi shot a bent-over, old-man rat in one corner; then pointed to the ridge-pole and chanted his usual chant, ending this time:

Straight the arrow strikes

Hitting the mouth of the rat,

From the eye of the arrow to the end

Four hundred—four hundred!114

The king said: “Shoot your ‘four hundred four hundred.’ Mainele shall pick them up, but if the eye of your arrow fails to find rats, you die.”

Pikoi shot his arrow, which glanced along the ridge-pole under the thatch, striking rat after rat until the arrow was full from end to end – hundreds and hundreds.

The high chief Pawaa knew his brother-in-law, embraced him, and wailed over his trouble. Then, grasping his war-club, he stepped out of the house to find the men who had struck Pikoi and torn off his malo. He struck them one after the other on the back of the neck, killing twenty men. The king asked his friend. why he had done this. Pawaa replied, “Because they evilly handled my brother-in-law – the only brother of my wife, ‘The Beauty of Manoa.’”

The king said, “That is right.”

The people who had insulted Pikoi and thrown dirt upon him began to run away and try to hide. They fled in different directions.

Pikoi caught his bow and fixed an arrow and again chanted to his rat-sister-gods, ending with an incantation against those who were in flight:

Strike! Behold there are the rats  the men!

The small man,

The large man,

The tall man,

The short man,

The panting coward.

Fly, arrow! and strike!

Return at last!115

The arrow pierced one of the fleeing men, leaped aside to strike: another passed from side to side around those who had pitied him, striking only those who had been at fault, searching out men as if it had eyes, at last returning to its place in the tapa bundle. The arrow was given the name Ka-pua-akamai-loa (The-very-wise-arrow). Very many were punished by this wise arrow.

Wondering and confused was the great assemblage of chiefs, and they said to each other, “We have no warrior who can stand before this very skilful young man.”

The king gave Pikoi an honorable place among his chiefs, making him his personal great rat-hunter. The queen adopted him as her own child.

No one had heard Pikoi’s name during all these wonderful experiences. When he chanted his prayer in which he gave his name, he had sung so softly that no one could hear what he was saying. Therefore the people called him Ka-pana-kahu-ahi (The-fire-building-shooter), because his arrow was like fire in its destruction.

Pikoi returned to Manoa Valley with Pawaa and his father and sister. There he dwelt for some time in a great grass house, the gift of the king.

Kakuhihewa planned to give him his daughter in marriage, but opportunity for new experiences in Hawaii came to Pikoi, and he went to that island, where he became a noted bird-shooter as well as a rat-hunter, and had his final contest with Mainele.

Mainele was very much ashamed when the king commanded him to gather up not only the dead bodies of all the people who were slain by that very wise arrow, but the bodies of the rats also. He was compelled to make the ground clean from the blood of the dead. He ran away and hid himself in a village with people of the low class until an opportunity came to go to the island Hawaii to attempt a new record for himself with his bow and arrow.116

End Notes   


71 Patterson. Surf-Riding, “Mele of Hono-kau-pu,” © 1960, pp. 124-5. Nuumehalani is the name given for the home of the gods. Patterson has “hidden harbor” in the fourth line, but this must be a typo. See Finney and Houston, p. 39.

72 Pukui and Elbert, Place Names of Hawaii, ©1974. The name changed around 1800; “the area from Nu’u-anu Avenue to Ala-kea Street and from Hotel Street to the sea (Westervelt, 1964b:15), noted for konane (pebble checkers) and for ulu maika (bowling), and said to be named for the executive officer (ilamuku) of Chief Kakuhihewa of O’ahu (PH 168).  Lit., kou tree.”

73 Gault-Williams, “Ancient Hawaiian Surf Culture.” See also, Finney & Houston, Surfing, A History of the Ancient Hawaiian Sport, ©1996, p. 30.

74 See Gault-Williams, “Ancient Hawaiian Surf Culture.” Former land section along the waterfront beyond the seaward end of Ala-kea Street, downtown Honolulu. See Pukui and Elbert, Place Names of Hawaii, 1974, p. 49.  Lit., the albatross bay.

75 Wright, Bank. Surfing Hawaii, ©1973, 1985, pp. 16-17.

76 Finney & Houston, 1996, p. 33.

77 Patterson, 1960, p. 123.

78 Patterson, 1960, p. 123.

79 Patterson, 1960, p. 123.

80 Finney, Ben R. and Houston, James D. Surfing, the Royal Sport of Hawaiian Kings, ©1966, C.E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont, pp. 38-39.  See also Patterson, p. 123.

81 Patterson, 1960, pp. 123-4.

82 Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H. and Mookini, Esther T. Place Names of Hawaii, ©1974, The University of Hawai‘i Press, Honolulu, Hawai‘i, p. 144. See also Finney and Houston, 1966, p. 39 and Westervelt, 1964b: 15, 52-54.

83 Finney and Houston, 1996, p. 33 & 35.

84 Patterson, 1960, pp. 124-5.  Nuumehalani is the name given for the home of the gods.

85 Westervelt, 1915, p. 52-54. See also Finney and Houston, 1996, p. 35.

86  Patterson. Surf-Riding, “Mele of Hono-kau-pu,” © 1960, pp. 124-5.

87  Finney and Houston, 1996, p. 35.

88  Taylor, 1953, p. 20. See also Finney and Houston, 1996, p. 35.

89  Finney and Houston, 1996, p. 35.

90  Pukui and Elbert, 1974, p. 64.

91  Finney and Houston, 1996, p. 35. Footnote.

92  Patterson, Otto B. Surf-Riding, Its Thrills and Techniques, C.E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont, ©1960, p. 133.

93  Kahanamoku, Duke (1890-1968). World of Surfing, by Duke Kahanamoku, with Joe Brennan.  Grosset & Dunlap, New York, ©1968, p. 25.

94  Blake, Thomas E. Hawaiian Surfriders 1935, Mountain and Sea, Redondo Beach, California, ©1983. Originally published as Hawaiian Surfboard, 1935.  Reprinted by permission, p. 8.

95  Patterson, 1960, pp. 133-134.

96  Patterson, 1960, pp. 133-134.

97  Young, Nat. The History of Surfing, Palm Beach Press, Palm Beach, NSW, Australia, ©1983, 1987, p. 32. Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii quoted.

98  Blake, 1935, p. 8.

99  Finney, Ben R. and Houston, James D. Surfing, The Sport of Hawaiian Kings, C.E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont, ©1966, p. 52.

100  Patterson, 1960, pp. 132-133.

101  Blake, 1935, p. 8. Emory quoted.

102 Young, 1983, p. 32. Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii quoted.

103  Patterson, 1960, pp. 133-134.

104  Patterson, 1960, pp, 133-134.

105  Young, 1983, p. 32. Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii quoted.

106  Finney and Houston, 1966, p. 52.

107  Blake, p. 8.

108  Kahanamoku, 1968, p. 26.

109  Finney and Houston, 1966, p. 52.

110  Patterson, 1960, pp. 133-134.

111  Kahanamoku, 1968, p. 26.

112  Westervelt, W.D. Hawaiian Legends of Old Honolulu, 1915, published by G.H. Ellis Press, Boston.

113  Westervelt, 1915.

114  Westervelt, 1915.

115  Westervelt, 1915.

116  Westervelt, 1915.