Starting as a way for local fishermen to bring home their catch over 3,000 years ago on the waters of western Polynesia, canoe surfing transformed into a wooden papaheenalu (surfboard) leisure activity in the mid-1700s that was championed by Hawaiian royalty and commoners alike. By the latter part of the 19th century, Hawaiians like Duke Kahanamoku had popularized surfing from the art of heʻe nalu, (wave sliding) into a sought-after sport.
Mai Kinohi Mai: A Celebration of Surfing in Hawaii
Now one of the fastest-growing action sports industries—with a worth of almost $10 billion—surfing will for the first time be included in the Olympics, hitting the shores of Tsurigasaki Beach in Chiba, Japan for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. And as the storied sport looks to future, the Bishop Museum in the historic Kalihi district of Honolulu embarks on a celebration of surfing's past and nods to its future in the new exhibit “Mai Kinohi Mai: Surfing in Hawaii.”
From arguably the greatest collection of surfboards ever assembled in one place—including the oldest known surfboards in existence—and archival photos all the way to futuristic surf simulators, this 6-month exhibit is in-depth enough to appeal to both groms—surfing's nickname for new surfers—and pros alike, making it one of the coolest surfing events in Hawaii.
See boards from the aforementioned father of modern surfing "The Duke" Kahanamoku, the Queen of Mākaha Rell Sunn, and a unique board from a time when male and female roles were clearly defined—and a woman's place was not on the water: a graceful, alaia-style board that is thought to have belonged to Hawaiian royalty, Princess Victoria Ka‘iulani.
Past Meets Future
On the shortlist for the coolest Honolulu events, this truly one-of-a-kind exhibit will also feature a pop-up workshop from educator, craftsman and former pro surfer Tom Pohaku Stone. One of the Surfers in Residence at local surf hub Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort and a classic surfboard shaper, Stone is key to keeping alive the art of crafting boards in the traditional Hawaiian way. Stone believes in passing on his kupuna's (ancestor's) knowledge to the next generation of Hawaiians and beyond, and this workshop will give guests a first-hand look at how traditional-style boards are made.
Bringing in tech to give guests feels-like-you’re-there moments, the exhibit will also feature stations like the “Surf-O-Lator” surf simulator that allows you to ride a digital wave, and interactive touch-screens that showcase the science behind catching the perfect wave.
This cool collab between the Bishop Museum and the local surfing community is already creating buzz as one of the year's top Honolulu events, and it will shed fascinating old-meets-new light on the history of this inspiring sport as it moves into the next decade—and gets ready to make new waves on the global, Olympic stage.
“Mai Kinohi Mai: Surfing in Hawaii”
Bishop Museum, Castle Memorial Building
Open Every Day, 9AM - 5PM
Tickets: Adults $24.95, Seniors (65+) $21.95, Youth (4–17) $16.95, Children (3 and under) Free