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Ancient Sport and Ali`i Surfers
Canoe Surfing
Wave Forms/Surf Breaks
Ancient Boards

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Wave Forms/Surf Breaks

Waves generated out at sea by storms and winds travel across the ocean in groups or sets. These sets build and break as they reach reefs and shallow water near land. The slope of the ocean floor, the shape of the shore, and wind conditions all affect wave quality. Light offshore winds produce glassy water and waves with clean hollow tubes. Strong onshore winds result in choppy, rough water and mushy waves.

Waves breaking on shore take two basic forms. Spillers, formed by a flat-bottomed beach, sharpen gradually and as the wave crest crumbles into foam, it tumbles down the wave's face. A steeply-sloped beach, on the other hand, will create plungers, waves which rise quickly until part of the face is vertical, the crest then leaping into the wave's trough, forming a water tunnel. A plunger poses a bigger challenge to the surfer, requiring greater skill and agility.

Ancient Hawaiian surfers called on their gods to bring up surf for their sport, sometimes lashing the water with a length of pohuehue (morning glory) vine, or building a mound of sand and wrapping it in pohuehue.
  • `Alo, `alo po`i pu - Come break together,

  • 'Iuka i ka pohuehue - Run up to the pohuehue vines

  • Ka ipu nui lawe mai - Bring the big wind calabash

  • Ka ipu iki waiho aku. - Leave behind the small.

  • Ku mai! Ku mai! - Arise! Arise!

  • Ka nalu mai Kahiki mai. - Great surfs from Kahiki.

  • `Alo po`i pu! - Waves break together!

  • Ku mai i ka pohuehue - Rise with the pohuehue

  • Hu! Kaiko`o loa! - Well up, raging surf!

  • Ku mai, ku mai, - Stand, stand

  • Ka `ale nui mai Kahiki mai - Waves from Kahiki

  • Ka ipu nui lawe mai - Bring the large wind-gourd

  • Ka ipu iki waiho aku. - Leave the small one.

  • Ho a`e, ho a`e iluna - Go, go up to the beach

  • I ka pohuehue - Morning glory

  • Ka ipu nui lawe mai - Bring the large wind-gourd

  • Ka ipu iki waiho aku. - Leave the small one.

      Hawaiians had many specific words for aspects of the ocean and surf:
      • Alania - smooth ocean without a ripple or wave

      • `Ale - wave or billow put in motion by the wind

      • Honua nalo - base of a breaker

      • Huia - an especially high wave formed by the meeting of two crests

      • Huili - the fluttering, quivering motion of a wave

      • Kakala - steep wave that crashes over shallow coral

      • Lauloa - long wave or surf breaking from one end of the beach to the other

      • `Onaulu loa - wave of great length and endurance

      • Opu`u - non-breaking wave

      • Po`i - top of a curling wave when it breaks

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