Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing

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The Europeans were fascinated by Pacific Islanders’ comfort in the water

Surfriding and Surfing As images of surfing have a history, so too the terms used to describe the sport. Surfriding has been selected for the title of Part I and throughout the early chapters of the anthology for several reasons. The mariners used a variety of expressions to explain what they saw—diversion, amusement, playing in the surf—which could encompass any manner of riding waves. This does not mean that Hawaiians were not standing on their boards when Cook visited, only that the Westerners did not specify as much.

This is the case in many descriptions throughout the nineteenth century as well, and thus surfriding seems to be the more appropriate term for that era. Surfriding and surfrider also hold the honor of being the terms in longest continual use to describe the act of riding waves and those who ride them. The former appears for the first time apparently in Edward T. And so surfriding is indeed the appropriate term in this case. Other terms in use during this period that have subsequently died out are surf swimming, surf playing, and surf-bathing.

This last term was used by Mark Twain. Surf-riding still appears in contemporary book titles such as O. The word surf-rider first appears apparently in Reverend Henry T. But again, the descriptions in this period are not always clear whether the surfriders are in fact standing on the surfboard. Surfing and surfer appear only in the twentieth century and— when the terms are used by themselves—indicate the act of standing on a surfboard, or one who stands on a surfboard.

Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing

Any other positions on a board today either have different names kneeboarding, kneeboarder; boogie boarding, boogie boarder or are somehow qualified: windsurfer, kitesurfer, tow-in surfer. Alexander Hume Ford appears to be the first to use the term surfer in a letter requesting support for the proposed Outrigger Canoe Club letter dated April 7, In his California Surfriders , Doc Ball selected the terms surfer, surfrider, surfboarder, as well as surfing and surfboarding.

Tommy Zahn used surfboarding in his article see Part III to describe what we would call paddleboarding today. Because surfer and surfing have become the dominant terms since the s, and because the majority of texts in the concluding chapters refer explicitly to standing on surfboards, the terms surfer and surfing are used in reference to these texts rather than the outdated and more encompassing terms surfrider and surfriding.

Surfriding developed most fully in Polynesia, and so it is appropriate that Polynesian texts hold this place of honor. The texts in Part II appear chronologically from when the authors actually witnessed surfriding when this has not been possible to determine, the year of publication is used. Down but not out, surfriding maintained its presence in the outlying regions where most Western visitors did not venture. The remaining parts follow a roughly chronological order with dates corresponding to year of publication and present texts that capture the most significant trends in surf culture over the past century.

Due to space limitations, many writings had to be omitted from the final version; the most important of these are referenced in the annotated bibliography. Two main criteria determined the selection of texts: historical importance and quality of writing. Although native Polynesian views appear throughout, the majority of texts present surfriding from a Western perspective. Some accounts will complement one another; others will offer contrasting views and opinions. Such positioning allows this anthology to serve as a starting point for further inquiry into the many historical and cultural images that have surrounded surfriding.

Finally, because of the enormous amount of material published about surfing since the s, the choice of texts—save seminal works like Gidget or The Pump House Gang—to represent this most recent era becomes largely subjective. Once again, embedded in the final selection is the hope of inspiring continued conversations about a social activity that has been the catalyst for so much reflection and debate over the centuries.

Works published before this usage became current have been reproduced in their original form. In song, in dance, in stories of lovers lost and found, surfriding weaves its way through these traditions and plays its own distinctive role in the life of the Pacific. Riding waves provides an ideal opportunity for native men and women to intermingle in the surf and demonstrate their beauty and skill to one another.

As we will discover, it also provides opportunities for deception. Depending on their fickle moods, divinities can either protect natives in the waves or lure them away. Mele inoa, or name chants, are the most common songs to include reference to surfriding. They honor the skill of chiefs and kings, they evoke the beauty and drama of the waves themselves, and, in the many repetitions of specific locales and generational ancestors, they emphasize the enormous importance of place and parentage in Polynesian culture.

Several of the selections in this part of the book were originally gathered from native informants and published in the latter half of the nineteenth century, a time when the Hawaiian race was threatened with extinction and a certain urgency compelled native and non-native historians to gather as much information as possible on traditional beliefs.

Others represent more contemporary expressions of a thriving oral tradition: myth and song that celebrate surfriding and draw upon its inherent adventure and possibilities for intrigue. As surfriding continues to grow in popularity around the world, these stories ancient and modern reinforce its deep roots in the island cultures where surfriding was born and nurtured. Learned in the traditional Hawaiian culture into which he was born and the new Western education that arrived with the missionaries in , Kamakau began actively to record native history beginning in the s under the guidance of the missionary Sheldon Dibble at Lahainaluna School on Maui.

Along with his work as historian, Kamakau taught at Lahainaluna and served several terms in the Hawaiian legislature. The story of Kelea is among the most well known, and most often repeated, Hawaiian legends connected with surfriding. Daggett, then again in in Charles M.

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She lived at Hamakuapoko and Kekaha and at Wailuku, surf riding with all the chiefs. When the chiefs reached Hana, they heard of Kelea, the beautiful chiefess who was the sister of Kawaokaohele.

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She was living at Hamakuapoko because of the surf riding there, reveling in the curling breakers of the midmorning when the sea was smooth and even. The early morning, too, was delightful because of its coolness, and so she might go at dawn. When the wife seekers heard these words about Kelea, they decided to obtain her as wife for their master and quickly got ready to leave Hana.

When they drew close to Hamakuapoko, they saw many people ashore, and when Kelea saw them her countenance faded at being seen by these strangers, and her heart throbbed.

Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing by Patrick Moser, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

But she heeded their voices inviting her to board the canoe and showed herself to be the unsurpassed one of east Maui. They had three children, Kaholi-a-Lale, Luli-wahine, and Luli-kane. Living on our inland land is dejecting—there is only the scent of kupukupu ferns and nene plants here. E auwe! Farewell, my companion of this restricted place, Of the water of Pohakea Above Kanehoa. The brow of Maunauna is stormy. As though a mote were in my eye, The pupil is disturbed; Salty tears fill my eyes.

I grieve! Is it as nice as the places we have passed through in coming this far? It is dense with kou and coconut trees, and it is also a place where one may watch the chiefs enjoying surfing. You are the one whose sightseeing journey this is, and we two are merely to accompany you. That was the command of your husband to us. And where are you going? This is the most pleasant place we have seen. Are you skilled at surfing? So she asked them for a board, and perhaps because she was so beautiful a woman, someone gave her one.

When she had finished, she dipped into the sea, then jumped upon her board and paddled off like an expert. Those who were watching saw that she managed her board like one trained, moving along easily and noiselessly without the least heeling over. As she floated there, the first wave rose up but she did not take it, nor did she take the second or third wave, but when the fourth wave swelled up, she caught it and rode it to shore.

As she caught the wave, she showed herself unsurpassed in skill and grace. The chiefs and people who were watching burst out in cheering—the cheering rising and falling, rising and falling.

While Kelea was surfing, the chief Kalamakua was working in his fields. The chief remembered the chiefess of Maui, Kelea. He left off his work and went to stand on the shore to watch. She stood up, naked. The sisters, ultimately unsuccessful at securing royal husbands who are faithful to them, eventually end their days being worshipped as goddesses.

They also left in his charge a magical bamboo ohe called Kanikawi, and enjoined upon him a promise to seek out and marry Laie-i-ka-wai of whom many reports had reached Kauai. The new king ordered an immense fleet of canoes for his trip to Hawaii, and sailed in the month of Mahoemua, or August. At Makahanaloa he saw the rainbow over Keaau, and sailed thither.

Waka foresaw his coming and advised Laie-i-ka-wai to marry him and become the queen of the whole island. They knew the king by his not carrying his own surf-board when he landed. She returned to Paliuli and informed Waka that she would accept him for a husband. Waka then arranged that Ke-kalukalu-o-ke-wa should go at sunrise the next morning and play in the surf alone; that a dense fog should settle down, under cover of which Laie-i-ka-wai would join him in the surf; that when the fog raised the two would be seen by all riding in together on the same roller, and then they were to touch noses.


A fog would again envelop them, and then birds would bear the pair to Paliuli. She was forbidden to speak to any one after leaving the house. Now, it appears that Hala-aniani, a young man of Puna, noted for his debaucheries, had often seen Laie-i-ka-wai at Keaau, and ardently longed to possess her.

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Learning that she was about to marry the king of Kauai, he implored his sister, Malio, to exert her magical powers on his behalf. She consented, and by her direction they both went to sleep, and when they awoke related to each other their dreams. She dreamed that she saw a bird building a nest and leaving it in the possession of another, which was a sure omen in favor of Hala-aniani. Malio declared that her magical powers would prevail over those of Waka, and gave her brother minute instructions, which he strictly observed, as will appear.

They went to the beach and saw Ke-kalukalu-o-ke-wa swimming alone in the surf. Soon the fog of Waka settled down on the land. A clap of thunder was heard as Laie-i-ka-wai reached the surf. A second peal resounded, invoked by Malio. The fog lifted, and three persons instead of two were seen in the surf. This was noted with surprise on shore. At that moment the king and his companion touched noses.

Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing
Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing
Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing
Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing
Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing Pacific Passages: An Anthology of Surf Writing

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