Surfing experienced a resurgence at the start of the 20th century and its popularity as a sport has never flagged since. New surfing activity focused at Waikiki and grew alongside Oahu’s fledgling tourist trade. Writer Jack London did much to publicize the sport in his 1907 article, “A Royal Sport: Surfing at Waikiki,” published in Woman’s Home Companion. London was introduced to surfing by Alexander Hume Ford, a journalist and surfer who founded the Outrigger Canoe and Surfboard Club in 1908. Another inspiration for London was George Freeth, an Irish-Hawaiian beach boy he nicknamed “Brown Mercury.” Waikiki’s star surfer at the time, Freeth demonstrated surfing in California, sponsored by the Redondo-Los Angeles Railway and Henry Huntington, while working as a trainer and lifeguard.
In the islands where surfing started, the waves on that specific day were a failure—soft, mid-section high, and annoyingly occasional. Still, Hawaiians have never required a lot of a reason to snatch a board and hit the sea, and the departure zone was stuffed. High schoolers on shortboards. Mothers on longboards. Grade-schoolers on bodyboards. A person with a dim pig tail on a stand-up paddleboard. Some had tribal tattoos in the style of Polynesian warriors. Straddling my surfboard in the profound water close to the reef, I overviewed the group with a bunch in my stomach, feeling that I didn’t have a place.
Makaha has for quite some time been known as a shoreline where haoles, a Hawaiian expression for white individuals and different outcasts, wander at their danger. Situated on Oahu’s west drift, a long way from the alluring North Shore hordes of Sunset Beach or Pipeline or the bundle travelers at Waikiki Beach, it has a notoriety for being a firmly isolated group commanded by relatives of the antiquated Polynesian seafarers who settled the islands.