Source Documents
erna fergusson : surf-riding, waikiki, 1942.  

Erna Fergusson : Surf-riding, Waikiki, 1942. 
Fergusson, Erna:
Our Hawaii
A. A. Knopf,
New York,1942.
Hathi Trust$b58771 
Fergusson, Erna, 1888-1964.

Page 18

The Moana Hotel was built in 1900 when " the Nicaraguan Canal" promised great increase in foreign travel, and the Spanish War had made the United States aware of the Orient.
Lately it has been out-glittered by the newer Royal Palms Hotel, but the old Moana is as friendly as a home and Mr. Royal,
assistant manager charged with making newcomers feel welcome, never lets one forget how lucky one is to be in Hawaii, at Waikiki, and in the Moana Hotel.

Page 19

Anybody who settles down in a swing in Banyan Court can only abandon all hope of ever doing anything again.
I knew at once that I should never write a book about Hawaii or any other book.
I should be too busy.
First, watching the human life of beach and sea.
Trying never to miss a single surfer paddling out to the reef, flat on his board, or skimming in on the crest of a wave, sailing like a bird or spilling with a splash; trying to distinguish a Hawaiian beach boy from a well-toasted tourist.
Or watching the launching of outrigger canoes and their bobbing progress with paddles rising rhythmically.
Besides that I should be forever absorbed in trying to name the shifting colors of the ocean.

Waikiki's narrow crescent beach, growing narrower every year, faces southwest.
It begins below Diamond Head, a dead volcanic crater, weathering starkly down into gullies of rock and sand, and making its own face arid by forcing the trade winds to round its flank and descend on Honolulu obliquely.

Page 20

When I first saw it before ten o'clock in the morning it was milky green in the breakers.
Beyond swelling rollers lifted splotches of lavender and lilac as though flowers floated just under the water's surface.
Farther out it deepened into clear jade where bobbing black dots marked swimmers.
And against the horizon lay a heavier streak of lapis lazuli.
It was, they told me, rather a dull morning.
But it was as much iridescence as I could have stood for a first dose, especially as all the color notes were set in the silver filigree of foaming wave crests.
Then a breeze came ruffling along crosswise and turned my milky absinthe frappe into sharp clear emerald.
I sent my bags upstairs, chose a comfortable swing, and settled down to watching the surf-boarders.

A boy ran out with his lavender board and cast it and himself flat on a wave.
Paddling with both hands and feet he cut the billows and shot like a fish through them to the coral reef which makes Waikiki so safe.
His pink and blue garment, like a lei round his loins, was so bright that I did not lose him for a long moment.
Then he merged into a row of black dots.
Surfers are very patient waiting for the perfect breaker, and often a dozen or more will gather on the reef.
Then, when the wave rises, they throw themselves on it and come skimming in as smoothly as a duck.
One and then another rise to stand, balancing, slim and straight as a candle, or stoop to put their hands on the boards.
Both successes and failures come riding in, stomach-flat, with feet and hands in the air.
Children paddle along in the shallows learning the balancing of the board with a beach boy walking alongside.

I saw one making a family of children ride with their faces

page 21

under water.
One little girl paddled her board, face-down, with roses on her behind and a white cap on her head.
Later I recognized her strips of covering as a double-loaded board came sailing in.
The girl was ahead and a brown Hawaiian in electric-blue trunks lay with his breast between her brown knees.
Paddling with both hands and feet, they sent the board running like a water spider on quick long legs.
Another lovely young girl wore green in tiny spots as though Eve's fig leaf had sprouted into three on the slim brown tree of her body.

Caucasians, I was sorry to note, tend to lead with the chin and knees not a pretty sight.
The Hawaiian does not lead at all.
His body, centered on its own axis, seems to move in air, not on the ground.
When he runs with his surf board, it seems to wing him along, not weight him down; when he paddles it, it runs; when he stands on it with outspread arms, he flies.
Always he and his board make one.

Surf-boarding was a favorite sport of ancient Hawaiians, but it almost disappeared during the nineteenth century when almost everything was called wicked.
It was revived thirty years or so ago by white men who found that California redwood made the best surf boards.
Hawaii Nei (all Hawaii) has been curiously remade by mainlanders many times and in many ways.
Even the tradition of the beachcomber has been modernized.
Instead of the derelict white man surrounded by warm brown beauties, Hawaii knows the mainland society woman attended by a handsome beach boy.

Watching the play on that friendly beach, I found myself acquiring a new appreciation of the ocean.
Always before it had seemed sad and self-pitying to me, soughing and moaning, sighing: " Oh my, oh me! " and spilling over into loud sobs on the beach.
Much as I loved the sound of running water, brisk and gay or tearing along with loud whoops of rage, the ocean bored me with its endless complaining.
On Waikiki

Page 22

Beach the sea comes up with long slow swells, to be sure, and soft rufflings on the sands; but there its sound is the soft sigh
of philosophic age.
Here on this lovely beach the ages have met and the races mingled; the sea has brought them together.
Men of all heritages come to be the same color; together they play with waves that mean no harm, that do no harm.
Surely the peace of this gentle place has helped to quiet man's dreadful fret into the possibility at least of understanding and of living decently together.

Page 23

[photos, Pan Pacific Press]

Fergusson, Erna:
Our Hawaii
A. A. Knopf,
New York,1942.
Hathi Trust$b58771


Geoff Cater (2017) : Erna Fergusson : Surf-riding, Waikiki, 1942.