As testament to the esteem that Hawaii holds its surfing legends, the state legislature took a break from dealing with a number of pressing matters including a recession, a monumental light rail project, and civil union to pay homage to nine Hawaiian surfers that have helped forge the collective identity of the state of Hawaii. In the islands, surfing is taken seriously.
Among those honored included the likes of Duke Kahanamoku, Eddie Aikau and Rell Sunn, who were all recognized posthumously. The six other honorees included Clyde Aikau, Ben Aipa, Mitchell Alapa, Derek Ho, and Buffalo Kalolo‘okalani Keaulana.
The move to honor the surfers was spearheaded by Rep. Roland D. Sagum of the state house and Sen. Brickwood Galuteria of the state senate.
Adorned in a mountain of lei, the honored surfers greeted local politicians and relished the moment at the legislative building that skirts downtown Honolulu.
In an interview with the Star Bulletin, legendary Hawaiian surfer, shaper, and now surf coach, Ben Aipa, was quoted as saying, “This event honored surfers that pioneered some things during an era that was not as easy to do as now…to be a part of the selection, I feel really honored.”
According to Representative Sagum, the move to pay homage to the surfers was also intended to educate the public about the rich history Hawaii has played in the sport that was spawned along its very shores.
“We are pleased to have this opportunity to recognize some of our local Polynesians who have been tremendously successful in the sport of surfing, or papa he‘e nalu. It is also important for us to help educate the public about the historical and cultural significance of this sport which was once reserved for the Ali‘i.”
Senator Galuteria echoed Rep. Sagum’s sentiment.
“Our honorees are all local Polynesians who have contributed greatly to the popularity of surfing,” he said. “It is only fitting that we honor current surfing greats, as well as those who are no longer with us, who have paved the way for this sport worldwide.”
The role that surfing has played in shaping not only the history of Hawaii as an American state, but much rather the history of Hawaiian people in the centuries that predated the touch of Western civilization, cannot be ignored. Surfing is an integral part of the fabric of Hawaiian society, and for the government to honor that is a milestone in the sport, not for Hawaii-based surfers alone, but for all surfers.