When you think of the iconic waves on Waikiki, one thing usually comes to mind: surfing.
But did you know there’s a beyond-the-surfboard way to ride the tourmaline waves? Canoe surfing is the cool sport of ancient kings and queens. Done on an outrigger canoe or a canoe with two outriggers or long poles on each side, this one-of-a-kind adventure has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years. And it's become one of the best ways to spend a weekend in Waikiki.
Read on about this old-meets-new way to play in the Pacific.
Hei he waa: The History of Canoe Racing
Originally created for fishing and transporting supplies and people across the region’s jagged lava rock and often treacherous waves, the outrigger canoe has become a symbol of Hawaiian culture and respect for the ocean.
Called "hei hei wa'a," outrigger canoe racing was invented in the Aloha State and was popularized among the Hawaiian chiefs in the 18th century. But with the shift from traditional Hawaiian to more European ways of life, the sport was banned for a period of time by Queen Ka’ahumanu under this influence.
In the 1970s, the sport reemerged when late artist, historian, and Polynesian Voyaging Society founder Herb Kawainui Kane created a replica of the outrigger canoe that completed six major voyages over the course of two decades. Outrigger canoe racing has become a symbol of aloha—and the official state sport of Hawaii.
The Outrigger's Resurgence
Today, when you arrive at spots across Oahu, you'll see the outrigger influence.
At Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, you're greeted by Kalele, a 100-year-old outrigger canoe at the resort entrance. An outrigger canoe is the heart of the resort's new exhibit from Hawaiian artist Kamea Hadar, an oversized mural called I Ka Wa Ma Mua, Ka Wa Ma Hope (Through the Past is the Future). And you’ll see outrigger canoes on the waters in front of Waikiki Beach—one of the only places in the world where you can ride this traditional vessel today.
Go Canoe Surfing Yourself
Join with friends and family to try this one-of-a-kind Waikiki experience yourself. Your captain will guide you as you paddle together to catch a wave, and you'll feel the wind in your hair—and get splashed!—as you speed towards shore in outrigger style.
Check out Faith Surf School right at the beach in front of Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort for the ultimate outrigger canoe experience (up to 6 people; ages 8 years plus), and stay at the resort for the weekend (or longer) for easy access to all the water adventures, plus special deals and more.