Surf Bathing Lahaina 1855

Water Colour by James Gay Sawkins (1806-1878)

Bathing scene, Lahaina, Maui. Water colour. 1855. James Gay Sawkins. A very rare image that illustrates both canoe and board surf-riding, with several sailing canoes in the background. Although the riders positioning is unfortunate, this is typical of many images of this period. The activity is communal, with small prone boards on a small left-hand break close to shore. The board-riders appear to be female, note the swimmer in the right foreground who has her breasts covered. This possibly indicates the image as an authentic report, whereas some images significantly detail this feature.

There is a long history of Surfing in Hawaii.

Surfing was an important cultural and social pastime. Surfing’s Historical-Cultural Impact includes Hawaiian Language vocabulary specific to surfing, Ole, and Mele, Prayers, and legends. Historical figures from the modern age, like Princess Liliokalani, were surfers. And many Ali’i surfed. We have many examples of well-preserved surfboards of various ages dating back to the earliest times. Hawaiian history, culture and society and intimately connected to the sport and art form of Surfing. Surfing in Lahaina is also well documented and was home to surfing (168 years ago) for all social classes including Royalty. Surfing continues until the modern-day and represents an unbroken Hawaiian traditional practice, that characterizes the Hawaiian’s love, respect, and mastery of the ocean.

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