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Princess Ka’iulani, Surfer

Mindi Reid has published a marvelous, well-researched article in Pacific Longboarder Magazine titled “Child of the Sea–The Untold Story of Hawai’i’s Surfing Princess.”  Reid opens her piece with a visit to the Bishop Museum, where Ka’iulani’s surfboard is housed and kept in storage.  When it is unwrapped:  “. . . a sudden glow of koa wood.”  “Child of the Sea” chronicles Ka’iulani’s life in Hawai’i, Europe, and then Hawai’i, where she died at age 23 after the illegal annexation of the Kingdom of Hawai’i.  She was an avid surfer and surf-canoe rider, and is now being featured in documentaries about the history of surfing as well as in Reid’s beautifully written piece. 

I would like to post the article in full, but right now the only way you can read it, and see some rare historic photos, is to read the article in Pacific Longboarder Magazine.  

She must have surfed formidable waves, because she used a specialized type of surfboard used for the most powerful and dangerous types of waves. 

To see Ka’iulani’s surfboard, and to learn more about her history, the history of surfing and Hawai’i, and how this surfboard contributes to modern surfing, go to Legendary Surfers, by Malcolm Gault-Williams, and then to The Kaiulani Board–Princess Kaiulani and her Alaia Surfboard.  In this section, the author says

‘According to Abraham Fornander (1812-1887) in Hawaiian Folk Lore, the alaia averaged 9 feet long. It was best suited for kakaha, “a curling wave, terrible, death dealing.” That is, a wave that broke quickly and had a hollow curl section to it.”

I’ve been in those death-dealing waves–not as a surfer, but as a child at an International Surfing Championship at Makaha in 1961, when I was caught in one.  Their force is terrifying, and those who surf these waves are utterly daring. 


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