david malo : surfriding, 1840
in native Hawaiian circa 1835-1840.
Translated from the Hawaiian by Nathaniel B. Emerson, circa 1889.
Edited by W.D. Alexander
First published 1903.
Special Publication 2 Second Edition 1951.
Reprinted 1971, 1976, 1980, 1991, 1992, 1997, 2005.
Malo identifies surf
riding as "a national sport of the Hawaiians," and immediately refers to
its association with gambling and describes, rather unclearly, the format
of a surfing competition.
The translator, Nathaniel B. Emerson (circa 1889), notes that interpreting the account of the surfing contest was problematic.
Furthermore, at the time of writing Malo was an enthusiastic Christian, and as Emerson notes in his biographical sketch:
"his affections were so entirely turned against the whole (Kapu) system, not only of idol-worship, but all the entertainments of song, dance and sport as well, that his judgment seems often to be warped."
As such, the reliability of this passage is questionable.
estimation of surf board length, occassionally in excess of "four fathoms"
or 24 feet (1 fathom = 6 feet), begs credibility.
In the footnotes, W.D Alexander (1903) was "inclined to doubt the accuracy" of Malo's statement, and Tom Blake (1935) expressed similar reservations and suggested an alternative calculation, "I believe Malo meant yards when he used fathoms."
That would suggest a maximun board length at, a relatively conservative, 13 feet.
(Note that, apparently without any evidence, Blake may have merely made the adjustment to make his source appear more credible.)
Malo can be said
to accurately report that there were two different surfboard designs.
The first were "broad and flat," later identified by I'li (1870) as the alaia, and "generally hewn out of koa."
The second, "a narrower board," later identified by I'li as the "thick" olo, "was made from 'Wili'Wili.
Ellis (1825) had
also previously identified two surfboard designs, both "5 to 6 feet."
Some were "flat," but most were "slightly convex on both sides."
Willi willi as a timber used to build surfboards, and their Hawaiian name, papa he'e nalu.
The account of canoe
construction, in chapter 24, is particularly significant.
In 1896, the authors (collectively refered to as Thrum) of an article titled Hawaiian Surfriding appropriated much of this material as an account of ancient surfboard construction.
While there were some parallels, there are considerable differences highlighted by several inconsistancies in Thrum's report.
1. Surf riding was a national sport of the Hawaiians, on which they were very fond of betting, each man staking his property on the one he thought to be the most skillful. (1)
2. When the bets
were all put up, the surf riders, taking their boards with them, swam out
through the surf till they had reached the waters outside of the surf.
These surf-boards were made broad and flat, generally hewn out of koa. (2)
A narrower board, however, was made from the wood of the 'Wili'Wili. (3)
3. One board would be a fathom in length, another two fathoms, and another four fathoms, or even longer. (4)
4. The surf riders
having reached the belt of water outside of the surf, the region where
the rollers began to make head, awaited the incoming of a wave, in preparation
for which they got their boards under way by paddling with their hands
until such time as the swelling wave began to lift and urge them forward.
Then they speeded for the shore until they came opposite to where was moored a buoy which was called a PUG.
5. If the combatants passed the line of this buoy together, it was a dead heat; but if one went by it in advance of the other, he was the victor.
6. "Ai ka au hou ana, O ka- mea i komo i ka pua hoomawaena mai oia, aole e hiki i ke kulana, O ka eo no ia nana; pela ka hee nalu." (5)
ON CHAPTER 48
1. Sect. 1. Surf riding was one of the most exciting and noble sports known to the Hawaiians, practiced equally by king, chief and commoner.
It is still to some extent engaged in, though not as formerly, when it was not uncommon for a whole community, including both sexes and all ages, to sport and frolic in the ocean the livelong day.
While the usual attitude was that of reclining on the board face down-wards with one or both arms folded and supporting the chest, such dexterity was attained by some that they could maintain their balance while sitting or even while standing erect as the board was borne along at the full speed of the inrolling breaker.
Photographs can be given in proof of this statement.
2. Sect. 2. Koa was wood of which the canoe was generally made.
3. Sect. 2. Wili-wili is a light, cork-like wood, used in making floats for the out-riggers of canoe, for nets, and a variety of other similar purposes.
4. Sect. 3. The
longest surf board at the Bishop Museum is sixteen feet in length.
It is difficult to see how one of greater length could be of any service, and even when of such dimensions it must have required great address to manage it.
It was quite sufficient if the board was of the length of the one who used it.
One is almost inclined to doubt the accuracy of David Malo's statement that it was sometimes ...
... four, or even
more, fathoms in length.
If any thinks it an easy matter to ride the surf on a board, a short trial will perhaps undeceive him.
5. Sect. 6. I
am unable to give a satisfactory translation of this section.
It has been suggested to me that the meaning is that the victory was declared only after more than one heat, a rubber, if necessary. The Hawaiian text should be corrected as follows:
..A i ka au hou ana i ka mea i komo i ka pu-a i ho-o mawaena mai oia aole e hiki i ke kulana 0 ka eo ia nana.
Pela ka hee-nalu."
1. The Hawaiian
woo, or canoe, was made of the wood of the koa tree.
From the earliest times, the wood of the bread-fruit, kukui, ohia-ha, and wiliwili was used in canoe-making, but the extent to which these woods were used for this purpose was very limited.
The principal wood used in canoe-making was always the koa (Acacia heterophylla).
2. The building
of a canoe was an affair of religion.
When a man found a fine koa tree he went to the kahuna kalai woo and said, "I have found a koa tree, a fine large tree."
On receiving this information, the kahuna went at night to the mua (1) to sleep before his shrine, in order to obtain a revelation from his deity in a dream as to whether the tree was sound or rotten.
3. And if in his sleep that night he had a vision of some one standing naked before him, a man without a malo or a woman without a pa-u, and covering their shame with the hand, on awakening the kahuna knew that the koa in question was rotten (puha), and he would not go up into the woods to cut that tree.
4. He sought another tree, and having found one, he slept again in the mua before the altar; and if this time he saw a handsome, well-dressed ...
... man or woman standing before him when he awoke, he felt sure that the tree would make a good canoe.
were made accordingly to go into the mountains and hew the koa into a canoe.
They took with them, as offerings, a pig, cocoanuts, red fish (kumu), and awa.
Having come to the place they camped down for the night, sacrificing these things to the gods with incantations, (hoomana) and prayers, and there they slept.
6. In the morning
they baked the hog in an oven made close to the root of the koa, and after
eating the same they examined the tree.
One of the party climbed up into the tree to measure the part suitable for the hollow of the canoe, where should be the bottom, what the total length of the craft.
7. Then the kahuna
took the ax of stone and called upon the gods:
"0 Ku-pulupulu, (2) Ku-ala-na-wao, (3) Ku-moku-halii, (4) Ku-ka-ieie, (5) Ku-palalake,(6) Ku-ka-ohia-laka.(7)"
These were the male deities.
Then he called upon the female deities:
"0 Lea (8) and Ka-pua-o-alakai, (9) listen now to the ax.
This is the ax that is to fell the tree for the canoe. ..."
8. The koa tree was then cut down, and they set about it in the following manner: Two scarfs were made about three feet apart, one above and one below, and when they had been deepened, the chips were split off in a direction lengthwise of the tree.
9. Cutting in
this way, if there was but one kahuna, it would take many days to fell
the tree; but if there were many kahuna, they might fell it the same day.
When the tree began to crack to its fall, they lowered their voices and allowed no one to make a disturbance.
10. When the tree had fallen, the head kahuna mounted upon the trunk, ax in hand, facing the stump, his back being turned toward the top of the tree.
11. Then in a
loud tone he called out, "Smite with the ax and hollow the canoe! Give
me the malo!" (10)
Thereupon the kahuna's wife handed him his ceremonial malo, which was white; and, having girded himself, he turned about and faced the head of the tree.
12. Then having
walked a few steps on the trunk of the tree, he stood and called out in
a loud voice, "Strike with the ax and hollow it! Grant us a canoe !" (11)
Then he struck a blow with the ax on the tree, and repeated the same words again; and so he kept on doing until he had reached the point where the head of the tree was to be cut off.
13. At the place
where the head of the tree was to be severed from the trunk he wreathed
the tree with ieie (Freycinet-ia scandens).
Then having repeated a prayer appropriate to cutting off the top of the tree, and having again commanded silence and secured it, he proceeded to cut off the top of the tree.
This done, the kahuna declared the ceremony performed, the tabu removed; thereupon the people raised a shout at the successful performance of the ceremony, and the removal of all tabu and restraint in view of its completion.
14. Now began
the work of hewing out the canoe, the first thing being to taper the tree
at each end, that the canoe might be sharp at stem and stern.
Then the sides and bottom (kua-moo) were hewn down and the top was flattened (hola).
The inner parts of the canoe were then planned and located by measurement.
15. The kahuna
alone planned out and made the measurements for the inner parts of the
But when this work was accomplished the restrictions were removed and all the craftsmen took hold of the work (noa ka oihana 0 ka ~)
16. Then the inside of the canoe was outlined and the pepeiac, brackets on which to rest the seats, were blocked out, and the craft was still further hewn into shape.
A makuu (12) or neck, was wrought at the stern of the canoe, to which the lines for hauling the canoe were to be attached.
17. When the time
had come for hauling the canoe down to the ocean, again came the kahuna,
to perform the ceremony called pu i ka woo, which consisted in attaching
the hauling lines to the canoe log.
They were fastened to the makuu. Before doing this the kahuna invoked the gods in the following prayer:
"0 Ku-pulupulu, Ku-ala-na-wao, and Ku-moku-halii! look you after this canoe. Guard it from stem to stern until it is placed in the halau."
After this manner did they pray.
18. The people
now put themselves in position to haul the canoe.
The only person who went to the rear of the canoe was the kahuna, his station being about ten fathoms behind it.
The whole multitude of the people went ahead, behind the kahuna no one was permitted to go; that place was tabu, strictly reserved for the god of the kahuna kalai woo.
Great care had to be taken in hauling the canoe.
Where the country was precipitous and the canoe would tend to rush down violently, some of the men must hold it back lest it be broken; and when it got lodged some of them must clear it.
This care had to be kept up until the canoe had reached the halau, or canoe house.
There are no points 19 or 20. (?)
21. In the halau,
the fashioning of the canoe was resumed.
First the upper part was shaped and the gunwales were shaved down; then the sides of the canoe from the gunwales down were put into shape.
After this the mouth (waha) of the canoe was turned downwards, and the iwi kaele (bottom), being exposed, was hewn into shape.
This done, the canoe was again placed mouth up and was hollowed out still further (kupele maloko). The outside was then finished and rubbed smooth (ana.i ia).
The outside of the canoe was next painted black (paele ia) .13
Then the inside of the canoe was finished off by means of the koi-owili, or reversible adz (commonly known as the kupa-ai kee).
22. After that
were fitted on the carved pieces (na laau) made of ahakea or some other
The rails, which were fitted on to the gunwales and which were called moo (lizards), were the first to be fitted and sewted fast with sinnet or ah'a.
The carved pieces, called '1nanu, at bow and stern, were the next to be fitted and sewed on, and this work completed the putting together of the body of the canoe (ke kapili ana 0 ka waa).
It was for the owner to say whether he would have a single or double canoe.
23. If it was
a single canoe (kaukahi) , cross-pieces (iako) and a float (ama) were made
and attached to the canoe to form the outrigger.
The ceremony of lolo-u'aa, consecrating the canoe, was the next thing to be performed in which the deity was again approached with prayer.
This was done after the canoe had returned from an excursion out to sea.
24. The canoe
was then carried into the halau, where were lying the pig, the red fish,
and the cocoanuts that constituted the offering spread out before the kahuna.
The kahuna kalai was then faced towards the bows of the canoe, where stood its owner, and said, "Attend now to the consecration of the canoe (lolo ana 0 ka waa) and observe whether it be well or ill done."
Then he prayed (English translation reproduced only):
That ax also is
This is the ax of our venerable ancestral dame.
Venerable dame! What dame?
Dame Papa, the wife of Wakea.
She set apart
and consecrated, she turned the tree about,
She impelled it, she guided it,
She lifted the tabu from it.
Gone is the tabu from the canoe of Wakea.
Dame Lea, wife of Moku-halii.
She initiated, she pointed the canoe,
She started it, she guided it;
She lifted the tabu from it.
Lifted was the tabu from the canoe of Wakea.
Fat dripping here,
Fat dripping there.
Active art thou Kane;
Active art thou Kanaloa.
What Kanaloa art thou?
Kanaloa the awa drinker.
.4wa from Tahiti,
Awa from Upolu,
Awa from Wawau.
Bottle up the frothy awa,
Bottle up the well-strained awa. Praise be to the God in the highest
heaven (laau) I
The tabu is lifted, removed.
It flies away.
27 -28. When the
kahuna had finished his prayer he asked of the owner of the canoe, "How
is this service, this service of ours?"
Because if anyone had made a disturbance or noise, or intruded upon the place, the ceremony had been marred and the owner of the canoe accordingly would then have to report the ceremony to be imperfect.
And the priest would then warn the owner of the canoe, saying, "Don't you go in this canoe lest you meet with a fatal accident."
29. If, however, no one had made a disturbance or intruded himself while they had been performing the lolo (17) ceremony, the owner of the canoe would report "our spell is good" and the kahuna would then say, "You will go in this canoe with safety, because the spell is good" (maikai ka 1010 ana).
30. If the canoe
was to be rigged as part of a double canoe the ceremony and incantations
to be performed by the kahuna were different.
In the double canoe the iako used in ancient times were straight sticks.
be the case until the time of Keawe, (18) when one Kanuha invented the
curved iako and erected the upright posts of the para.
NOTES ON CHAPTER 29 (Emerson/Alexander)
#13. Sect. 21. This Hawaiian paint had almost the quality of a lacquer.
Its ingredients were the juice of a certain 'Euphorbia', the juice of the inner bark of the root ...
... of the kukui
tree, the juice of the bud of the banana tree, together with charcoal made
from the leaf of the pandanus.
A dressing of oil from the nut of the kukui was finally added to give a finish.
I can vouch for it as an excellent covering for wood.
4. The koa (2) was the tree that grew to be of the largest size in all the islands.
It was made into canoes, surf-boards, paddles, spears, and (in modern times) into boards and shingles for houses.
The koa is a tree of many uses.
It has a seed and its leaf is crescent-shaped.
5. The ahakea
(3) is a tree of smaller size than the koa.
It is valued in canoe-making, the fabrication of poi boards, paddles, and for many other uses.
12. The wili-wili is a very buoyant wood, for which reason it is largely used in making surf boards (papa-hee-tlalu), and outrigger floats (anuz) for canoes.
13. The ulu or breadfruit is a tree whose wood is much used in the construction of the doors of houses and the bodies of canoes.
Its fruit is made into a delicious poi. (7)
13. The following practices were considered hewa (wrong conduct) by the landlord, that one should gjve himself up to the fascinations of sport and squander his property in puhenehene, sliding the stick (pahee), bowling the ulu- maika, racing with the canoe, on the surfboard or on the holua sled, that one should build a large house, have a woman of great beauty for his wife, sport a fine tapa, or gird one's self with a fine malo.
All of these things were regarded as showing pride, and were considered valid reasons for depriving a man of his lands, because such practices were tantamount to secreting wealth.
Canoes are rated
very highly after religious decorations or artifacts, points 7 and 8, pages
77 and 78.
This section does not specifically include surfboards in its extensive list, unless they are included in the general category...
27. A great variety
of articles were manufactured by different persons which were esteemed
Bernice P. Bishop Museum,
1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Translated from the Hawaiian by Nathaniel B. Emerson, 1889.
First published 1901.
Special Publication 2 Second Edition 1951.
Reprinted 1971, 1976, 1980, 1991, 1992, 1997, 2005.
Malo was the son
of Aoao and his wife Heone, and was born at the seaside town of Keauhou,
North Kona Hawaii, not many miles distant from the historic bay of Kealakekua,
where Captain Cook, only a few years before, had come to his death.
The exact year of his birth cannot be fixed, but it was about 1793, the period of Vancouver's second visit to the islands.
Such good use did Malo make of his opportunties (at the Royal court) that he came to be universally regarded as the great authority and repository of Hawaiian lore.
As a natural result
of his proficiency in these matters, Malo came to be in great demand as
a raconteur of the old-time traditions, mele, and genealogies, as a master
in the arrangement of the hula, as well as of the nobler sports of the
Hawaiian arena, a person of no little importance about court.
In after years, when his mind had been impregnated with the vivifying influence of the new faith from across the ocean (Christianity), his affections were so entirely turned against the whole system, not only of idol-worship, but all the entertainments of song, dance and sport as well, that his judgment seems often to be warped, causing him to confound together the evil and the good, the innocent and the guilty, the harmless and the depraved in one sweeping condemnation, thus constraining him to put under the ban of his reprobation things which a more enlightened judgment would have tolerated or even taken innocent pleasure in, or to cover with the veil of contemptuous silence matters, which, if preserved, would now be of inestimable value and interest to the ethnologist, the historian and the scholar.
The date of Malo's removal to Lahaina, Maui, marks an important epoch in his life; for it was there he came under the inspiring influence and instruction of the Rev. William Richards, who had settled as a mis-
sionary in that
place in the year 1823, at the invitation of the queen- mother, Keopuolani.
Under the teachings of this warm-hearted leader of men, to whom he formed an attachment that lasted through life, he was converted to Christianity, and on his reception into the church was given the baptismal name of David.
There seems to have been in Mr. Richards' strong and attractive personality just that mental and moral stimulus which Malo needed in order to bring out his own strength and develop the best elements of his nature.
From his first contact with the new light and knowledge of Christian civilization, David Malo was fired with an enthusiasm for the acquisition of all the benefits it had to confer.
He made efforts to acquire the English language, but met with no great success: his talents did not lie in that direction; one writer ascribes his failure to the rigidity of his vocal organs.
His mental activity, which was naturally of the strenuous sort, under the influence of his new environment seemed now to be brought to a white heat.
In his search for information he became an eager reader of books; every printed thing that was struck off at the newly established mission press at Honolulu, or afterwards at Lahainaluna, was eagerly sought after and devoured by his hungry and thirsty soul.
He accumulated a library which is said to have included all the books published in his own language.
In taking account of David Malo's acquirements as well as his mental range and activity of thought, it is necessary to remember that the output of the Hawaiian press in those days, though not productive of the newspaper, was far richer in works of thought and those of an educational and informational value than at the present time.
It was pre-eminently the time in the history of the American Protestant Mission to Hawaii when its intellectual force was being directed to the production of a body of literature that should include not only the textbooks of primary and general education, but should also give access to a portion of the field of general information.
It was also the time when the scholars of the Mission, aided by visiting friends from the South, were diligently engaged in the heavy task of translating the Bible into the Hawaiian vernacular, the completed result of which by itself formed a body of literature, which for elevation and excellence of style formed a standard and model of written language worthy to rank with the best.
On the establishment of the high school at I.,ahainaluna Lahaina, Maui, in 1831, Malo
entered as one of the first pupils, being at the time about thirty-eiglrt year!; of age, and there he remained for several years, pursuing the variou!; branches of study with great assiduity.
While at Lahaina David Malo also occupied for a time the position of school-agent, a post of some responsibility and in which one could usefully exercise an unlimited amount of common sense and business tact; there also was the chief scene of his labors for the preservation in literary form of the history and antiquities of his people.
To confine one's
self to that division of David Malo's life-work which is to be classed
as literary and historical, the contributions made by him to our knowledge
of the ancient history and antiquities of the Hawaiian Islands may be embraced
under three heads: First, a small book entitled "Moolelo Hawaii," compiled
by Rev. Mr. Pogue from materials largely furnished by the scholars of the
Lahainaluna Seminary. (The reasons for crediting Malo with having lent
his hand in this work are to be found in the general similarity of style
and manner of treatment of the historical part of this book with the one
next to be mentioned. and still more conclusive evidence is to be seen
in the absolute identity of the language in many passages of the two books.)
Second, the work, a translation of which is here presented, which is also entitled 'Moolelo Hawaii', though it contains many things which do not properly belong to history. The his- torical part brings us down only to the times of Umi, the son of Liloa.
The trustees of
the Bernice Pauahi [Bishop] Museum, by publishing Dr. N. B. Emerson's translation
of David Malo's Hawaiian Antiquities, are rendering an important service
to all Polynesian scholars.
It will form a valuable contribution not only to Hawaiian archaeology, but also to Polynesian ethnology in general.
It is extremely
difficult at this late day to obtain any reliable information in regard
to the primitive condition of any branch of the Polynesian race.
It rarely happens in any part of the world that an alien can succeed in winning the confidence and gaining an insight into the actual thoughts and feelings of a people separated from himself by profound differences of race, environment and education.
But here another difficulty arises from the rapidity of the changes which are taking place throughout the Pacific Ocean, and from the inevitable mingling of old and new, which discredits much of the testimony of natives born and educated under the new regime.
In the following work, however, we have the testimony of one who was born and grew up to manhood under the tabu system, who had himself been a devout worshipper of the old gods, who had been brought up at the royal court, and who was considered by his countrymen as an authority on the subjects on which he afterwards wrote.
His statements are confinned in many particulars by those of John Ii of Kekuanaoa, of the elder Kamakau of Kaawaloa, and of the historian, S. M. Kamakau, the latter of whom, however, did not always keep his versions of the ancient traditions free from foreign admixture.
Malo evidently needed judicious advice as to his choice and treatment of
subjects, some important topics having been omitted, and although his work
is unfinished, yet it contains materials of great value for the "noblest
study of mankind."
Its value is very much enhanced by the learned notes and appendices with which Dr. Emerson has enriched it.
statement may serve to clear away some misapprehensions.
The first "Moolelo Hawaii" (i. e., Hawaiian History), was writ-
(The first "Moolelo
Hawaii" (i. e., Hawaiian History), was writ-) ten at Lahainaluna
about 1835-36 by some of the older students, among whom was David Malo,
then 42 years of age.
They formed what may be called the first Hawaiian Historical Society.
The work was revised by Rev. Sheldon Dibble, and was published at Lahainaluna in 1838.
A translation of it into English by Rev. R. Tinker was published in the H awaiian Spectator in 1839.
It has also been translated into French by M. Jules Remy, and was published in Paris in 1862.
The second edition of the Moolelo Hawaii, which appeared in 1858, was compiled by Rev. J. F. Pogue, who added to the first edition extensive extracts from the manuscript of the present work, which was then the property of Rev. Lorrin Andrews, for whom it had been written, probably about 1840.
David Malo's Life
of Kamehameha I, which is mentioned by Dr. Emerson in his life of Malo,
must have been written before that time, as it passed through the hands
of Rev. W. Richards and of Nahienaena, who died December 30, 1836.
Its disappearance is much to be deplored.
W. D. ALEXANDER.
which was first published in 1903, has long been considered a classic because
it was written by a Hawaiian scholar whose early background was old Hawaiian,
whose later life was in- fluenced by missionary teaching and beliefs.
It has been out of print for many years, during which the Museum has received innumerable inquiries as regards a second edition.
Now, though the Trustees have long felt it advisable to spend the Museum's limited printing fund on original manuscripts rather than on the reprinting of old material, the demands of the public and of anthropology students have prompted them to approve a second edition.
At first, as an economy measure, it was planned to make an offset reproduction of the original, but through the generosity of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin we have been able to reproduce the book by letter press at no greater cost than that of the planographic method.