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Mai Kinohi Mai
Livestream & Talk Story

Mahalo for joining our virtual talk story and exhibit walk through!  

By Justine Espiritu, Director of Membership & Annual Giving at Bishop Museum 

Mahalo to those who joined us on Wednesday, January 27 for the virtual talk story and exhibit walk through of Mai Kinohi Mai: Surfing in Hawaiʻi with exhibit curator DeSoto Brown, exhibit designer Michael Wilson, and special guest surf historian and author John Clark. 

A silver lining to the pandemic we are continuing to adapt to is that we have moved events like this, which would normally be in person, into virtual experiences. As a result, we are able to have members and guests joining us from all over Oahuas well as around the state and the continental U.S.We saw folks tuning in from Big Island and California last week!   

The event started with a brief talk story moderated by Michael Wilson, who first learned to surf himself as part of his research into designing Mai Kinohi Mai. We heard directly from the exhibit curator and one of our collaborators in the community about the story of the exhibit, and why it made sense for Bishop Museum to be telling this story.  

Did you know that mai kinohi mai translates to “from the beginning”? For surfing, those beginning roots are deep in Hawaii and Hawaiian culture.  

The conversation was followed by a walkthrough of the exhibit, with DeSoto and John each highlighting some of their favorite contributions. 

Johnthe author of 10 books on Hawaiis beaches, surf spots, and shoreline place names, has a special interest in the stories behind place names. In recent years John’s research has focused on a primary source online, the archive of Hawaiian-language newspapers in the Office of Hawaiian Affair’s Papakilo Database 

In Mai Kinohi Mai, DeSoto and Michael highlight some of John’s research on surfing from the perspective of Hawaiians in unique and interactive ways, such as in the Culture Hale portion of the exhibit where the English translation to Hawaiian surf vocabulary is displayed, and an automated slide show circulates the stories behind surf break names all across Hawaiʻi. 

John helped us test attendees knowledge of historical names for surf breaks and in return, asked attendees for some of their favorite breaks, for which he shared the history and background he knew. A couple of the tidbits we learned during this trivia: 

  • Kalehuawehe and ʻAiwohi are the original Hawaiian names for the famous Waikīkī surf breaks known commonly today as Castles and Publics. 
  • Day Star in Mokulēʻia on Oahu (John’s favorite surf break, as well as attendee Mike W.’s!), was named after a 73-foot long, 22-foot wide, 100-ton commercial fishing boat that was built on a site near the break. From John’s book Hawaiʻi Place Names: Shores, Beaches, and Surf Sites:

The boat was built by Carroll Hoeppner on the sand dunes inshore of the surf site. Hoeppner began construction in December 1971 and finished in August 1978. He launched the boat across the beach using a steel sled that was pushed by four bulldozers. During the seven-year construction period, surfers began calling the surf site offshore The Boat” or Iron Boat.” When the boatname, Day Star, was added during the last year of construction, the name of the surf site changed to Day Star. 

Terry Q. and Chris H. each won signed copies of one of John’s books for their trivia knowledge. Janice G., Billy W., and Mike W. also earned copies for helping us learn more about the story behind the Oahu surf breaks Kewalos, Diamond Head Cliffs, and Day Star. 

A highlight of the evening’s walkthrough was DeSoto sharing the story of the three Hawaiian aliʻi brothers who are credited with being the first to take the modern stand-up style of surfing outside of Hawaii. Those brothers are Edward Abnel Keliʻiahonui, David Kawānanakoa and Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole (Prince Kūhiō). When they attended boarding school in Santa Cruz, CA, they shaped the boards out of pine and redwood which measured over 17 feet in height and weighed over 200 pounds. DeSoto told this story in front of surfboards on display for the exhibit that come from Prince Kūhiō’s collection and have similarly impressive dimensions to that historic account, as well as boards from other Hawaiians including Princess Kaʻiulani, Abner Kūhoʻoheiheipahu Pākī and Duke Kahanamoku. 

Later, we quizzed attendees and asked them to recount at least one of the three brothers names. Emily H. and Kimberly K. each won a set of Surfing: Historic Images from Bishop Museum Archives notecards for their correct guesses! For those who were hoping to win a set themselves, we have a special offer of 40% off our remaining stock of these notecards, through March 31, 2021, limited to 50 sets. Use the code “Mai Kinohi Mai” at checkout at while supplies last!

Hawaiian surf vocabulary, historical and contemporary surfboards, the history behind surf break names and the Hawaiians that introduced modern stand-up surfing to the rest of the world are just a small piece of what Mai Kinohi Mai: Surfing in Hawaiʻi has to offer Museum visitors. As a reminder, Bishop Museum Members enjoy free admission to this exhibit. 

Not a member yet, but inspired to catch Mai Kinohi Mai before the exhibit closes March 31, 2021? Visit our Museum campus, and apply that admission ticket toward any Bishop Museum Membership, and for a limited time take an additional 20% off.  

You’re going to be seeing more virtual opportunities like these that include exhibit curators and special guests, and they are FREE for Bishop Museum Members. Visit often for upcoming events and programs, and be sure to subscribe to our e-newsletter, Ka ʻEleleat to stay up to date!

One Response

  1. Mahalo for reminding me of the names of the 3 Ali’i who brought surfing to California in the 1800’s. I had long forgotten. A few years back there was a beautiful display of surf boards at our San Mateo CA
    Aloha festival including boards either made by these Ali’i or inspired by them. They were heavy and made out of redwood. While they may not be efficient any longer for surfing, they showed off the beautiful
    grain of our wondrous coast redwoods for all to appreciate.

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