What Is The Hawaiian Way Of Life?

Every winter, every single one, surfers from around the world turn their eyes toward Oahu's North Shore. Or we fly there. Hearts filled with excitement, adrenaline, hope and fear. We look to get barreled. We look to eat delicious SPAM musubi. We look to throw looser and looser shakas out of rolled-down car windows. We look to not get punched for transgressing the Hawaiian way of life.

What is Hawaiian way of life?
Kohl Christensen paying his respects from above, Waianae Range. Photo: DJ Struntz

Chas:  What does "shoots" mean?

Daniel: Shoots means "agreed" or "rajah dat."

C: How did it come to mean that? Like, what is the etymology?

D: F–k if I know. Hawaiian is an oral language and our Creole pidgin doesn't have much documentation.

C: While we're speaking about confusing things, why do Hawaiians always wear boardshorts everywhere? Where do they, as a people, fall on the fashion vs. function continuum?

D: If you live on an island you never know when you may want to jump in the ocean. It's a functional piece of fashion.  Socks and slippers, on the other hand...

C: Tell me, are you Hawaiian? What makes someone Hawaiian? Is someone who lives in Hawaii Hawaiian?

D: I'm Hawaiian. I have Hawaiian blood. I went to Kamehameha [a Hawaiian-blood-only high school] and I was born here and plan to be buried here. That's interesting you asked though, because I have a friend whose grandmother, a legendary hula teacher and Hawaiian scholar, said, "There are two ways you become Hawaiian. The first is by birth (so that includes people like myself, Zeke Lau, Jason Shibata, Ben Aipa, Duke Kahanamoku etc.).

C: What is the second? Pins and needles!

D: "The second way you become Hawaiian is you plan to be buried in Hawaii." So that means you become part of the land when you die so you have a kuleana (responsibility) to take care of this land.

C: Amazing! I love that.

D: She was a full-blooded Hawaiian and I respect the knowledge she shared.

C: So, wait, haoles who come and live and surf and wear boardshorts everywhere will always be haoles, yeah?

D: Native Hawaiians call ourselves kanaka maoli to help distinguish who has the blood or not.  

C: What percentage of blood makes someone kanaka maoli? Is it defined by the state?

D: According to U.S. Congress, a Hawaiian is defined by 50 percent blood quantum, which is totally f–ked up.

C: Oh wow. That is f–ked. Native American is something like an eighth if I'm not mistaken.

D: Congress instituted that 50 percent blood quantum so the government wouldn't have to give out a lot of Hawaiian Home Lands plots.

C: Do you reckon many Hawaiians feel f–ked by the U.S. government?

D: I would say almost all Hawaiians feel f–ked by the U.S.

C: Most mainlanders, or mainlander surfers, never consider any of this. They feel f–ked on by Hawaiians. They feel that they come to places like the North Shore and get beat up and don't get any waves.

D: Shit. I'm Hawaiian and feel like I get f–ked on the North Shore. That's just how it goes. But I'm from Hilo, not the North Shore, so when I'm there I step lightly and just try to get a wave where I know I can. Because if you're not a top pro or up-and-coming grom or legendary icon, then why would you want to surf Rocky Point? There are so many better, less crowded waves where you can have fun.

C: I'll play devil's advocate here -- or mainlander's advocate, which is probably the same thing -- and say Hawaiians speak often of "respect." That gets translated to, "Do what I say and get out of my way." What does respect mean to you?

D: Respect is listening first and speaking later. Respect is knowing who is from where and why they may act a certain way. Respect is saying hi and acknowledging everybody with a kind gesture.

C: Sounds fair. It doesn't seem like folks on the North Shore call the cops or sue. They just punch. It feels like the last place in America where there is some form of gang justice.

D: Right!

C: What is the best way for a mainlander to come surf in Hawaii? If he wants a wave at Pipe, say, what is the best tact?

D: "Don't go to Pipe" is probably the best piece of advice I could give, but if you really wanted to get a wave, you need to put in your time and take the scraps.

C: And then?

D: This could last for years, but during that time you're going to hopefully build relationships with the boys out there and then one day they may let you go on a good one. I think because mainlanders come here with a limited amount of time, they feel like they need to get a huge barrel at Pipe as quickly as possible. Their lack of time creates an anxiety to fuck somebody else over for their own desires.  

C:  Hmmm. And Hawaiians, those who live there, are at the mercy of a never-ending horde of invaders.

D:  And our economy is set up to encourage more and more invaders. It's a vicious cycle.

C: That's true. What percentage of Hawaii's economy is tourism?

D: F–k, brah! It seems like 100 percent sometimes.

C: It's a real catch-22, huh? People need tourists for jobs but tourists are assholes. The worst assholes. Assholes from hell, or the mainland, which, again, may be the same thing.

D: Pretty much, but I think tourism and the fact that people still want to come here shows how special this place is. And it's not just tourists from the mainland -- there are assholes everywhere. Like Japanese tourists are very humble and respectful people, but they don't tip in Japan so that's kind of an asshole thing, you know?

C: Damn Japanese. OK. Let's pretend you and I are friends. We go surf and you're local. Would I get hassled or get a pass because I am with you and your middle name is Ikaika?

D: It really depends where we go. If we're at Pipe or Rockies or V-Land, then you're on your own.

D: But if we go to Makaha and I see my friends who lifeguard there then yeah, you're cool. But if I have a haole friend that wants to surf on the North Shore, I try to take them to a "secret" spot so they can enjoy themselves.

C: OK! Let's surf together, friend!

D: And by the way, the West Side is so much gnarlier than the North Shore for localism.

C: That is what I've heard. Do you feel that Hawaii is a melting pot?

D: Totally. Racism and stereotypes are jokes here. Since we're all a "minority" it's OK to joke around about it and perpetuate stereotypes.

C: There is so much diversity. Polynesian, Hawaiian, Portuguese, Filipino, Japanese, European…

D: Only haole people get bummed on it because they get called out for being different.

C: Haoles are sensitive pussies. They need to get false cracked more often.

D: What are your sentiments on the Seven Mile Miracle?

C: I love that miracle. It is frustrating and weird but I have grown to love it. There is nowhere in the United States like it. Nowhere that you'll get your head cracked for looking at someone the wrong way. People say that sort of thing happens in Compton, or other inner-city places, but I have never experienced it. I experience it on the North Shore every time I go, though. And it makes me love it, oddly.

D: It's an all-around gnarly environment, huh?

C: It sure is. All around. From the waves to the folks on the land.

D: I think the extreme danger of the surf mirrors the repercussions for stepping out of line.

C: I think that is a good assessment. The surf almost requires that heaviness on land. But it sure doesn't feel good to get punished by either.

D: Rajah dat. What's the worst experience you've had on the North Shore?

C: Probably when I got dragged out of the Mick Fanning party and a small pack tried to beat me good.

D: I heard about that. I think that's one of the most extreme stories I've ever heard on the coconut wireless. Don't worry though, my little brother got an open hand to the head at V-Land from a certain enforcer. I think it happens to locals a lot but it's just not published or talked about openly because it is embarrassing.
C: What do you think Pipeline means to Hawaii?

D: Pipeline is everything. It's the reason that the surf industry comes back to Hawaii every year.

C: What does Pipeline mean to you?

D: I'm very grateful that people hold Pipeline in a high regard because it perpetuates the mana of this land. It's also humbling for both locals and visitors.

C: Oooh, let's talk about the mana.

D: Mana is often defined as "power," which is somewhat accurate. There is a deeper meaning to mana. In the old days, mana was a spiritual currency that could only be obtained in a few ways. One was to be born into royalty and/or marry into it. Another way to gain mana was to defeat a warrior with more mana than you. For example, when they killed Captain Cook those warriors' mana increased. Do you want to hear the funniest and third way to gain mana that somebody might be bummed that I mention?

C: Yes!

D: There was a process called aikane which literally means to "eat man," which gained more mana for the consumer.

C: "Eat man" like a blow job or literally eating? Like cannibalism?

D: BJ. [heavy sigh]

C: Oh, wow! Amazing!     

D: So in the most basic and lewd way: If you "took one" from a higher-ranked male (most likely a chief, priest or warrior), you would gain mana.  

C: Was that common?

D: Common? Must have been common enough for the practice to be documented and known about to be taught in schools these days.

C: That's incredible.

D: Hey, have you ever eaten at Storto's in Haleiwa?

C: Is Storto's that sandwich shop?

D: Yup. Unreal hoagies.