Hui Nalu Club


Beachfront surfing, canoeing, and watersports club in Waikiki, Hawaii; informally started in 1905 but not chartered until 1911; composed primarily of surfers of full or partial Hawaiian blood. Hui Nalu ("Club of the Waves") was a longtime rival to the 1908-formed Outrigger Canoe Club, the world's oldest surfing organization. The Outrigger was a social club as well as an athletic club; membership was almost entirely foreign-born haole, or white, and the ranks contained an ever-growing number of nonathletic Honolulu businessmen. Membership to Hui Nalu, in contrast, was by election, and the club, while social in its own way, was for athletes only.

Olympic gold medal swimmer and surfing progenitor Duke Kahanamoku was a Hui Nalu cofounder, along with Knute Cottrell and Ken Winter. Kahanamoku's five brothers, as well as John Kaupiko and Edward "Dude" Miller were early members; California surfing pioneer Tom Blake later became a member. Annual Hui Nalu membership dues, in the early years, were $1.00

While members of the Outrigger Canoe Club gathered 100 yards up the beach in their comfortable clubhouse, Hui Nalu convened beneath a hau tree on Waikiki beach in front of the Moana Hotel, and used the hotel's basement bathroom for a changing room. Many early Hui Nalu members were among the first Waikiki beachboys, making a career as lifeguards, surf instructors, and boardmakers, and also building a collective reputation as the unhurried masters of surf and seduction.

Aside from providing competition against the Outrigger, mainly in well-attended paddling and canoe races, Hui Nalu invented surfboard water polo and free-boarding (riding a surfboard with a towrope from behind a boat), while club member Sam Kahanamoku is believed to be the first person to use swim trunks—made of East Indian batik cloth—rather than the one-piece torso-covering woolen bathing suit.

Duke Kahanamoku became an honorary lifetime member of the Outrigger Canoe Club in 1917, as the wealthier organization was able to sponsor his swimming trips to the mainland. In years to come, more Hui Nalu members followed Kahanamoku and joined the ranks of the Outrigger; many held membership in both clubs. Loyalty to Hui Nalu ran deep, and beachboys who were buried at sea were often serenaded with the Hui Nalu song:

Where the wild ocean waves are foaming Our fellows are sure to be Where big rollers burst And the surf is the worst

We'll be there and yell with glee

With our surfboards we always are ready To leap in the deep blue sea Our royal black and gold In victory will unfold

Always on the top Hui Nalu!

The Hui Nalu's hau tree and the Moana Hotel bathhouse were both gone by 1947, and the club's activities were limited to outrigger-canoe racing. "What happened to the Hui Nalu?" former member Sam Reid asked Duke Kahanamoku shortly before the latter's death in 1968. "They just drifted away, one by one," Duke answered. "After they cut down the hau tree we didn't even have a club house. This is what happened to the Hawaiians. . . ."

Hui Nalu was later revived as the Hui Nalu O Hawaii Canoe Club.