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Hale Pai
Pacific American-News Journal

Kepakemapa - September 1996 Volume 2 Issue 9

Kumu Kaha NaluBody Surfing Basics

By Kai Keali`ikea`ehale O Kaholokai

Body Surfing or kaha nalu is the basic form of surfing. Regardless of what kind of equipment used in surfing, it is essential that an individual knows how to body surf. If these items become separated from you while surfing, than body surfing is your alternative form of surfing.

There has been little written on the subject. I now document the basics of body surfing from the oral traditions of the past and from my years of experience.


Ancient surfing was an intricate part of our Native Hawaiian religion. The creation of the Makahiki Festival, surfing became recognized an an intricate religious ritual sport. The ancient Hawaiian neo-feudal caste system emphasized surfing uniqueness among the classes. The life style of surfing is continued today from the oral traditions of our chants and legends.

The Makahiki Festival was developed from the collections of tributes, the time of peace, the creation of an Olympic-style games, and finally the renewal of one's relationship with the gods, nature and mankind. The Hawaiian games, like surfing develop the unity of one's body, mind, and spirit.

The caste system, first, the Ali`i Class or aristocrats were the ruling clan with established genealogy priority. The prestige of the status of an Ali`i is maintained by the expectation of becoming a proficient surfer. The elaborate rituals in the consecration and usage of the personalized surfboard of an Ali`i took upon a sacred status in itself.

Second, the Kahuna Class, were the trained and the gifted specialist in the different arts. These were men and women who created the design, shape and form of each personalized surfboard. They established personalized surfing chants. Detailed rituals were created around the construction of surfing heiau or places of purification, preparation and psychic insight of surfing.

Third, the Maka`ainana Class or Native People were the workers of the land and sea. As athlete surfers they had competitive training contests for rewards of prestige, status and favors of their chief for upward mobility.

The Maka`ainana Class and the other native tribes that were surrounded by ocean swells, surfing was usually referred to as a leisure expression. Whereas the Ali`i and Kahuna Classes , surfing took on an intricate and elaborate religious expression which demanded respect for the gods and the power forces of nature.

The understanding of the basics of surfing is essential for us today. We renew our relationship with nature as we continue the life style of surfing. The things of the past help us to determine the direction of the future. Mahalo to the old-timer body surfers who share their love for the ocean.

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Copyright 1996 Hale Pai Pacific American-News Journal
Last modified: February 28, 1998

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