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Surfing has been a significant sport and cultural practice in Hawai'i for more than 1,500 years. In the last century, facing increased marginalization on land, many Native Hawaiians have found refuge, autonomy, and identity in the waves. In Waves of Resistance Isaiah Walker argues that throughout the twentieth century Hawaiian surfers have successfully resisted colonial en Surfing has been a significant sport and cultural practice in Hawai'i for more than 1,500 years. In the last century, facing increased marginalization on land, many Native Hawaiians have found refuge, autonomy, and identity in the waves. In Waves of Resistance Isaiah Walker argues that throughout the twentieth century Hawaiian surfers have successfully resisted colonial encroachment in the po'ina nalu (surf zone). The struggle against foreign domination of the waves goes back to the early 1900s, shortly after the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom, when proponents of this political seizure helped establish the Outrigger Canoe Club--a haoles (whites)-only surfing organization in Waikiki. A group of Hawaiian surfers, led by Duke Kahanamoku, united under Hui Nalu to compete openly against their Outrigger rivals and established their authority in the surf. Drawing from Hawaiian language newspapers and oral history interviews, Walker's history of the struggle for the po'ina nalu revises previous surf history accounts and unveils the relationship between surfing and colonialism in Hawai'i. This work begins with a brief look at surfing in ancient Hawai'i before moving on to chapters detailing Hui Nalu and other Waikiki surfers of the early twentieth century (including Prince Jonah Kuhio), the 1960s radical antidevelopment group Save Our Surf, professional Hawaiian surfers like Eddie Aikau, whose success helped inspire a newfound pride in Hawaiian cultural identity, and finally the North Shore's Hui O He'e Nalu, formed in 1976 in response to the burgeoning professional surfing industry that threatened to exclude local surfers from their own beaches. Walker also examines how Hawaiian surfers have been empowered by their defiance of haole ideas of how Hawaiian males should behave. For example, Hui Nalu surfers successfully combated annexationists, married white women, ran lucrative businesses, and dictated what non-Hawaiians could and could not do in their surf--even as the popular, tourist-driven media portrayed Hawaiian men as harmless and effeminate. Decades later, the media were labeling Hawaiian surfers as violent extremists who terrorized haole surfers on the North Shore. Yet Hawaiians contested, rewrote, or creatively negotiated with these stereotypes in the waves. The po'ina nalu became a place where resistance proved historically meaningful and where colonial hierarchies and categories could be transposed.


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Surfing has been a significant sport and cultural practice in Hawai'i for more than 1,500 years. In the last century, facing increased marginalization on land, many Native Hawaiians have found refuge, autonomy, and identity in the waves. In Waves of Resistance Isaiah Walker argues that throughout the twentieth century Hawaiian surfers have successfully resisted colonial en Surfing has been a significant sport and cultural practice in Hawai'i for more than 1,500 years. In the last century, facing increased marginalization on land, many Native Hawaiians have found refuge, autonomy, and identity in the waves. In Waves of Resistance Isaiah Walker argues that throughout the twentieth century Hawaiian surfers have successfully resisted colonial encroachment in the po'ina nalu (surf zone). The struggle against foreign domination of the waves goes back to the early 1900s, shortly after the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom, when proponents of this political seizure helped establish the Outrigger Canoe Club--a haoles (whites)-only surfing organization in Waikiki. A group of Hawaiian surfers, led by Duke Kahanamoku, united under Hui Nalu to compete openly against their Outrigger rivals and established their authority in the surf. Drawing from Hawaiian language newspapers and oral history interviews, Walker's history of the struggle for the po'ina nalu revises previous surf history accounts and unveils the relationship between surfing and colonialism in Hawai'i. This work begins with a brief look at surfing in ancient Hawai'i before moving on to chapters detailing Hui Nalu and other Waikiki surfers of the early twentieth century (including Prince Jonah Kuhio), the 1960s radical antidevelopment group Save Our Surf, professional Hawaiian surfers like Eddie Aikau, whose success helped inspire a newfound pride in Hawaiian cultural identity, and finally the North Shore's Hui O He'e Nalu, formed in 1976 in response to the burgeoning professional surfing industry that threatened to exclude local surfers from their own beaches. Walker also examines how Hawaiian surfers have been empowered by their defiance of haole ideas of how Hawaiian males should behave. For example, Hui Nalu surfers successfully combated annexationists, married white women, ran lucrative businesses, and dictated what non-Hawaiians could and could not do in their surf--even as the popular, tourist-driven media portrayed Hawaiian men as harmless and effeminate. Decades later, the media were labeling Hawaiian surfers as violent extremists who terrorized haole surfers on the North Shore. Yet Hawaiians contested, rewrote, or creatively negotiated with these stereotypes in the waves. The po'ina nalu became a place where resistance proved historically meaningful and where colonial hierarchies and categories could be transposed.

45 review for Waves of Resistance: Surfing and History in Twentieth-Century Hawai'i

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jason Poulter

    This review was written for the class that Dr. Walker teaches, during this particular term we helped in the editing of the book. The critique at the end of the review was accepted by the author and the published edition of the book does not include the issues that I had with it. The title and page numbers do not match the book because we didn't have the completed book for the course. Book Review: HE’E NALU This book tells the history of Hawaii through the eyes of Hawaiian surfers mostly on the No This review was written for the class that Dr. Walker teaches, during this particular term we helped in the editing of the book. The critique at the end of the review was accepted by the author and the published edition of the book does not include the issues that I had with it. The title and page numbers do not match the book because we didn't have the completed book for the course. Book Review: HE’E NALU This book tells the history of Hawaii through the eyes of Hawaiian surfers mostly on the North Shore of Oahu. While the colonial powers were exercising dominion over Native Hawaiians on land the surf served as a place where cultural rules were thrown out and a different hierarchy existed. The book emphasizes the resistance, to the illegal overthrow of the government and the erroneous stereotypes, native Hawaiians expressed through their surfing and behavior in the po’ina nalu or “surf zone.” The author also challenges the common surf history narrative which downplays the role and influence of native Hawaiians in the progression of the sport. The book focuses on 20th century Hawaiian history mostly focusing on the years of the Hawaiian Renaissance and the creation of the Hui O He’e Nalu (The Club of Wave Sliders). The author finds evidence of the thriving sport of surfing that common surf narratives deem almost extinct in the mid to late 19th century. Many different written records of surfing are noted by the author in this book. He notes that Samuel Clemens stated that “none but the natives can master this sport…” and finds many Hawaiian language newspapers that were printed, at the time of the so called “almost extinction,” full of stories of surfing among natives and surf legends. The book argues that it was primarily the work of Hawaiians that spread the popularity of the sport rather than the promoter Alexander Hume Ford. The author states, “Ford and London learned to surf from an already established cohort of Hawaiian surfers in 1907” (p.23). Ford established the Outrigger Club in 1908 for whites only and promoted surfing through the club. It is important to note that the Hui Nalu club had been established three years prior in 1905 by Hawaiians. These clubs often competed against each other but eventually “the Hawaiian surfers came out on top” (p.43). Not only did the Hui Nalu members dominate the surf contests but “because of their successes in the surf, Hui Nalu surfers remained o top of the social latter in the Hawaiian surf” (p.43). The author uses the theories of others to support his argument that the surf served as a place of refuge and power for native Hawaiians. The author describes the surf zone as a type of borderland, using the theory developed by Susan Lee Johnson, in which normal social hierarchies and race rules were flipped upside down. He cleverly describes the surf as “Boarderlands” to emphasize the role of surfers in this area. The social pecking order that took place in the surf zone was opposite of what took place on land. John Lind said that Hui Nalu surfers “controlled Waikiki” and that “there was a pecking order, like chiefs of old….Everyone did what they said” (p.43). The author states that “the conflict between these two clubs was a continuation of the political battle which had taken place on lad a few years prior.” But unlike the political battle on land “Hawaiians continued to reign in the po’ina nalu” (p.43). The author later connects the Hui Nalu club from the early twentieth century to the Hui O He’e Nalu which was formed in the 1970s. Tom Pohaku Stone, a member of the Hui O He’e Nalu, said “the Hui was formed as….an effort to resist corporate control of our space” (p.90). To give context to the situation in which the Hui was formed the author references what has been called by historians as the Hawaiian Renaissance. The Hui was an extension of this resurgence of pride in everything Hawaiian that was going on at the time. So it was through the formation of this club that Hawaiians resisted the inundation of contests on the surf zone. The author does not shy away from the bias towards the influence of the Hawaiian surfers over that of “haole” surfers. At the end of the first chapter the author states “Hawaiian surfers… made enormous advancements into its future, they also confounded the haole surfer identity” (p.26). This seems to be a generalization that many may see as an unfair attack on all white surfers. The negative portrayal continues with the author saying, “as haole surfers insist that they are the proxy inheritors of an exotic, untamed, and primal Hawaiian culture, they have erroneously assumed that they have also directed surfing’s modern evolutions” (p.26). It is clear that in the typical surf narrative the Native Hawaiian surfers have been downplayed. In this narrative the author seems to combat the typical narratives by overlooking any advancement or role non-native Hawaiian surfers have played. To go as far as saying that white surfers have done nothing to help advance the sport will be interpreted by many readers as over the top and just plain ignorant. The author then states “Despite what surf history narratives do to preserve a haole surf identity in crisis, reality often smacks these surfers in the face” (p.26). In making references to haole surfers the author includes people that in no way are having an identity crisis and are not guilty of any type of disrespect of Native Hawaiians and their role in surf history. It is in the use of the term haole that the author may include some unfairly and it would be my suggestion that page 26 be edited to clarify that not all haoles are bad. While discussing the conflict that occurred on the first voyage of the sailing vessel the Hokulea the author says, “Finney backed up his authority in a typical haole way: he reminded Buffalo of his position and status…” (p.79 Italics added). It is the “typical haole way” that will be offensive to all “haoles.” In describing the way Finney used his status and position as a way to establish his authority as a typical haole way, the author makes a hasty generalization that some would even call racist. It is clear that many colonialists and many “haoles” use status and position to establish authority but to call it typical goes, again, over the top.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    Braving the resistant waves of foreign cultures, colonialism, and repressed identity, Hawaii’s people and their history with surfing have come into their own during the twentieth century. In Isaiah Walker’s book Waves of Resistance the author chronicles the initial suppression of Hawaiian land possessions, culture, language and identity by the colonizing and exploiting West and the subsequent rediscovery – or rebirth – of Hawaiian identity in the 1970s with the advent of pro surfing, though its Braving the resistant waves of foreign cultures, colonialism, and repressed identity, Hawaii’s people and their history with surfing have come into their own during the twentieth century. In Isaiah Walker’s book Waves of Resistance the author chronicles the initial suppression of Hawaiian land possessions, culture, language and identity by the colonizing and exploiting West and the subsequent rediscovery – or rebirth – of Hawaiian identity in the 1970s with the advent of pro surfing, though its roots lie in the early turn of the nineteenth century. Walker thus declares his thesis in the book’s introduction: “…in such a place [as the surf zone] identities could be constructed in opposition to colonialism…Native Hawaiian identities fostered in the surf zone were developed in opposition to haole conquests on the shore” (pg. 13). To illustrate this thesis Walker extracts examples from Hawaiian newspapers of the time and interviews with Hawaiians that were part of the renaissance movement. Though his book is not without criticisms (which shall be discussed hereafter) Walker deftly defines his narrative on identity and culture into the following categories: the history of surfing, colonial conquest vs. Hawaiian resistance, the establishment of surfing and canoe clubs and the Waikiki Beachboys and the rebirth of Hawaiian nationalism during the 1970s. Though the overarching theme of the book is the Hawaiians’ resistance to outside encroachment on their turf and surf and the development of a Hawaiian identity as one of resistance in the surf zone, it seems that this was not the only place where Hawaiian identity was forged and molded. There are several examples of this idea littered throughout the book. In Chapter 3 the author discusses the “Waikiki Beachboys” and the impact of their not conforming to social or racial or gender norms of the time. Indeed though the Beachboys did teach many tourists to surf and canoe and this is where they first obtained their popularity and income (and thereby established their identity as is Walker’s main theme in the book) it was their behavior outside the water that their true masculine and native identities were formed. Walker states that many of these Beachboys, such as Louis Kahanamoku, would escort visiting rich haole families and tourists around the Waikiki area, checking them in to their hotels, creating and managing itineraries, and making purchases for them (pg. 71). Furthermore it was the Beachboys’ equal “access” and interaction with “haole wahines” (pg. 72) that completely pushed the boundaries of social and racial norms and identity. This included “massag[ing] women with oil on a regular bases to prevent sunburn” (pg. 73). Walker also states that “in the evenings the Beachboys swept haole girls off their feet with music and sharp outfits” (pg. 73). This eventually led to a few token romantic sexual encounters (pg. 75) and even several marriages (pg. 72). These interactions that Walker deems conquests of a conquered people (pg. 77) “violated social rules of an American society governed by anti-miscegenation laws and threatened haole hegemony by conquering engendered, and privileged property” (pg. 75). Regardless, this clearly illustrates the author’s main thesis of Native Hawaiian resistance in all of its various forms. They most often started and ended in the surf but that was not their only area of operation or their modus operandi. As is evidenced by the titles of each chapter in the book, Walker categorizes the main themes of his words into several key points. While it is true that the underlying themes presented here are colonialism, identity, culture and their developments in regards to different types of resistance and oppression (mainly focused around the surf zone.) It is first necessary to understand the importance of where the oppression or suppression of Hawaiians first came from and why it became necessary to resist (whether in the surf or otherwise.) His first chapter deals with the arrival of the first Europeans to Hawaii in 1776 with Captain James Cook. Through no fault of the Hawaiians the scourge of all native peoples, syphilis was introduced to the islands which wiped out nearly 90% of the native population. Later foreigners began to encroach on Hawaiian lands, usurping it from the Hawaiians that owned it, culminating in the annexation and later statehood (though they were largely illegal) of Hawaii. Haoles then began to encroach even further on the Hawaiians’ lives with the tourist industry and the advent of surfing as an international sport. This all culminated in the Native Hawaiian renaissance during the 1970s. During all of this time the Hawaiians consistently turned to the ocean and surfing for solace and as a means to remember who they once were as a people. The white man began to invade this as well and the surf zone became a type of borderland (or boarderland as Walker calls it on page 10), a place of relative lawlessness and conflict akin to the old “wild west.” Though the book has a few criticisms, they are but few and minor. The main criticism in Walker’s treatise on Hawaiian surfing history is the lack of opposing (or indeed supporting) views in literature of the author’s thesis. He uses a plethora of “local” and/or Hawaiian sources to further his opinion of Hawaiian resistance in the surf zone but very little haole sources with regards to white dominance within or without the surf or indeed Hawaiian society in general. With the exception of the Rabbit Bartholomew article “Bustin’ Down the Door” there is very little to show that haoles or other foreigners actually had these types of negative views of Hawaiians. Yes Hawaiians were not the focus of early American films filmed in or about the Pacific but at that time it was the habit of Hollywood to use “American style” filming and directing. This basically meant that the hero was the focus of the entire film and every other character was either nonexistent or subordinate to him. Arguably there are excerpts in the book of fights between whites and Hawaiians over supposed “surf spots” or surfing rights but who is to say that these conflicts were racially charged and were not merely male aggression and instinctive protecting of one’s own territory? Put simply, while it is probably true that Hawaiians had a negative stigma attached to them by haoles through much of their history, there is not much in the way of haole literature or sources that directly state as much, other than common knowledge of the decade(s) being discussed. Either that or the author simply neglected to use such sources in his research and compiling of the book To conclude, the author discusses his thesis of native Hawaiians developing an identity of resistance in and because of the surf zone and uses many examples to demonstrate this. He clearly illustrates his main topics of colonialism, resistance, identity, masculinity, and conflicting cultures using firsthand accounts and other sources from throughout Hawaiian history. And though there are some slight criticisms, he delivers his point well of categorizing, defining, and establishing the fact that surfing, for Hawaiians, is much more than a sport—rather it is a means of self-identification, cultural importance and the means by which Native Hawaiians were and are transported through their many waves of resistance to their current place in society and history.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    I am a huge fan of surfing and its history; I agree with Professor Walker's argument that Hawaiians have been misrepresented in or completely written out of the history of surfing (if not all of history). He takes special note of how both the media and gender were used to further strip Hawaiians of their culture, if not completely dehumanize them. I did not like Professor Walker's writing style, which lacked fluidity. I understand why its important -- especially in a book like this -- to use and I am a huge fan of surfing and its history; I agree with Professor Walker's argument that Hawaiians have been misrepresented in or completely written out of the history of surfing (if not all of history). He takes special note of how both the media and gender were used to further strip Hawaiians of their culture, if not completely dehumanize them. I did not like Professor Walker's writing style, which lacked fluidity. I understand why its important -- especially in a book like this -- to use and preserve the Hawaiian language, but many terms needed to be defined (there is a glossary, but it mainly defines surf terms, e.g. barrel, floater). Moreover, I did not like how each chapter started with 1-2 pages telling the reader what the author was going to discuss; I did not feel it was necessary outside of the introduction. This book is definitely worth your time.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Zac

    The value one gleans from this book could mostly be summarized by the sentence: "Hawaiians actually did resist annexation." The most interesting parts of the book, in which Walker discusses the competency of the Kings, underappreciated by Daws, get only a brief treatment. Generally, the book attempts to generalize too much from a few isolated efforts by nearly all-male surfing groups. Ok, some resistance happened through the 20th century, but what percentage of Hawaiians would really support sec The value one gleans from this book could mostly be summarized by the sentence: "Hawaiians actually did resist annexation." The most interesting parts of the book, in which Walker discusses the competency of the Kings, underappreciated by Daws, get only a brief treatment. Generally, the book attempts to generalize too much from a few isolated efforts by nearly all-male surfing groups. Ok, some resistance happened through the 20th century, but what percentage of Hawaiians would really support secession from the United States? Walker's success is in pushing the window of discourse, but as an independent act of scholarship, I cannot give this book high marks.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Willie

    good

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mathias Tov

    Great job!!!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Keelan Rarig

  8. 5 out of 5

    Susannah

  9. 5 out of 5

    Christian

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cori Schumacher

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sang Bae

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jess

  13. 4 out of 5

    Langi Paletu'a

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  15. 5 out of 5

    AJ Burgin

  16. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lori Broady

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

  19. 5 out of 5

    Weiran

  20. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Despain

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christy Hoffmann

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Brub

  23. 4 out of 5

    Leah

  24. 4 out of 5

    Drew

  25. 4 out of 5

    Reilly Hatch

  26. 4 out of 5

    Uluwehi Hopkins

  27. 4 out of 5

    Laci Gerhart

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ginger Dupree

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chun Kit

  31. 5 out of 5

    Brittany Hazelman

  32. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  33. 5 out of 5

    Jenna Fisher

  34. 4 out of 5

    Déjá

  35. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Willie

  36. 4 out of 5

    Hiew

  37. 5 out of 5

    Gretchen Hambin

  38. 5 out of 5

    Makayla Maggert

  39. 5 out of 5

    Mika Kennedy

  40. 4 out of 5

    Billy Aura

  41. 5 out of 5

    Windy

  42. 4 out of 5

    Abdullahi

  43. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  44. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

  45. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

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