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The sportive male whom a dispassionate destiny might have required to work for a living would very likely, if he lived in Honolulu, work "plantation hours" and belong to the Outrigger Canoe Club, seen above from the Waikiki surf under a canopy of clouds wind-driven over the Koolau mountains. In the office at 7:30 or 8 in the morning, he would quit at 4 or 4:30 and, coursing over to the club's digs, which nestle by the shore, remove his surf-board from its tall locker, paddle out to the breakers and spend what elsewhere might be teatime riding the rollers as they rise out of the Pacific and head for the beach.
If, before heading home, he stopped for one with the boys, it would be on the second deck of the long, white-capped clubhouse where, in the orange and indigo hour of dusk, he could look out of an immense picture window to Diamond Head, to the emptying beach that stretches almost as far as man can see, to the skittering myna birds, to the planes with their pulsating lights winging in from the distant mainland, and, down below to the sea where the Hawaiian kings, and they alone, first practiced the sport which he had just finished.
When the morning sun comes up hot and strong over Waikiki, the shore line in front of the Outrigger Club, sandwiched in between the largest beach-front hotels, becomes a seaside circus of aquatic acrobatics. Outrigger canoes loaded with white-skinned tourists ride seaward, piloted in the stern by a burnished descendant of the first Polynesians, who made their way up from the South Seas in similar craft.
Out where the breakers stand up to their full height before tumbling head-long for the shore, the canoe makes its turn. The paddles chop at the water to build a little momentum, then the hull begins to roll, wind riffles the hair and salt spray flicks the face. Running next to the gunwales, like small boys skating alongside a Cadillac, are the surfers. They have steered their boards out to the breakers, paddling with their hands or sometimes holding bits of cloth and board overhead and begging for the wind to carry them like sailboats as far as the turn-around point. Out they ride, far out to the surf lines—Zero Break, First Break, Blow Hole and Cornucopia—trying to catch the curling crest, then speed back to shore at anywhere from 10 to 35 miles an hour.
Farther out in the blue, not dependent on the waves but on the wind, are the twin-hulled catamarans which sail from the club's sandy port. Meanwhile, back on the beach, the Outrigger's sunbathers sit on an elevated dais of sand, having been assigned their places by "Sally" Hale who is captain of the Outrigger's beachboys and also a seaside usher. "Sorry," he will tell a matron who is calling from the wind-ward side of the island, where it is raining, "the sun is shining here and the front row's all taken."
Off in a corner the muscle-weary submit to the lomi-lomi which is the name for a special Hawaiian massage employing both the elbows and the feet. "You gotta know how to walk on 'em," says one masseur of his downtrodden customers. Lomi-lomi, which is also the name of a salmon that is pulled apart with the fingers, is a derivation of the old Hawaiian massage which was done with the hands, the feet and a stick. Do-it-yourself lomi-lomi can be accomplished with a wooden wishbone made of guava wood.
Come noon and the businessmen filter in for a swim and a light lunch on the shaded lanai covered by the trained branches of an ancient hau tree that dates from the club's beginnings nearly 50 years ago. By 3:30 the volleyball crowd begins to gather, the younger members playing doubles, which calls for two on a side, considerable strategy and lots of wind. The big game, on the adjoining court, has four to six on a side, draws an older set, has more social aspects. On weekends and holidays the grass plot beside the courts is a gathering place for young beauties and matrons watching the young athletes cavort.
Behind the spectators is the great wall of racks where the surfers keep their boards. Every surfer is a water engineer, and collectively they talk a strange language of swoop (curve), skage (keel) and other esoterica. The first boards used by the Hawaiian kings were 25 feet long, made of hard koa wood and weighed 250 pounds. In the '20s surfers began to use redwood, then sugar pine and cedar. The boards ran some 20 feet long and weighed 100 to 125 pounds. The first balsa boards appeared in the early '30s, about the time that Duke Kahanamoku, Hawaii's famed swimmer who won gold medals in the 1912 and 1920 Olympics, produced a board that was partly hollow but shaped like those of the old Hawaiian kings. Duke was not only an advanced practitioner of the surfboard and a swimmer of international fame, but he became, as well, a stalwart on the club's canoe paddling teams. The Outrigger Club still fields a dozen crews in a variety of classes. The year's biggest race is held on the Molokai channel across 26 miles of sea so choppy that the paddlers wear rubber aprons to avoid having to bail.
Surfboard riding and the outrigger canoe were brought back to Hawaii by Alexander Hume Ford who was not a Hawaiian at all but a haole, or white person from the mainland. Presenting himself before Queen Liliuokalani, who had been last reigning queen of the Hawaiian Islands, he told her of his plan to popularize the water sports of old Hawaii and especially to teach them to the children of the mauka, the people who lived in the hills and had no seaside of their own. From her estate the Queen granted him a choice tract on Waikiki at what was reputed to be a 50-year lease at $50 a year. From businessmen Ford cadged enough funds to build a grass shack for a locker room and an open-pipe shower with a coconut thatch shower curtain. He provided Japanese charcoal stoves so families could stay on the beach all day with their youngsters. That was the Outrigger Club when it was founded in 1908.
Two years ago the Queen's Hospital Lands, which comprises the Queen Emma Estate, was leased for 55 years by Paul Truesdale, a California sub-divider, and his partner, Clint Murchison Jr. Truesdale and Murchison are developing hotels and apartment houses, but they have no outlet on the sea unless they dispossess the Outrigger Club. This spring the club agreed to move to the former site of the Elks Club, but their present lease still has seven years to go on the site where Ford founded it.