Several years ago, at the beginning of the new millennium, I sat on the beach in Waikiki observing the sacred surf where nearly one hundred years earlier a young Duke Kahanamoku leaned down, lifted a young surfer to his shoulders and began the rebirth of tandem surfing. In the chants of the ancient Hawaiian mele’s (hula chant) there are stories told of lovers choosing each other while surfing. If a young wahine was interested in a man she would a ride a wave with him and let him know she had chosen him. Stories that are hundreds of years old tell of young men paddling away with the woman they loved. It’s the natural progression for a people of the sea to be one with the ocean by surfing and to be one with their lover by surfing with each other.
I had just come out of the water after tandem surfing. I felt refreshed. The ever present manna (power) of the ocean and the still lingering manna of the great tandem surfers that had surfed these very waters in earlier times flowed through the texture of my soul.
It was rare for me to see anyone else tandem surfing these waters. So often after a tandem surf, the beach boys would come to me and tell me of earlier times of the great tandem surfers of the fifties, sixties and seventies. The Duke, Pete Petersen, Leroy Ochoi, Smokey Bear Okuma, Blackout Whaley and John Oye to name a few. But now, as the sunset over these waters I could not help but feel that tandem was fading over the horizon with it.
I was like a man searching for the Holy grail. In my youth I had seen tandem below the Cliffs of Steamers Lane in Santa Cruz and then I had not seen it for twenty more years. Where were these great tandem surfers of the past. A new Hawaiian chant sings about Billy Fields and his continuing work to restore the ancient heaus (altars) and walls of the Hawaiian people. To do this he has to find the Nihau stones; the teeth stones. These are the ones that are the foundation stones. And they are pointed upwards like teeth so they can support and hang on to the stones above them. These walls were built without mortar just stones woven together in an invincible pattern.
In tandem surfing the man is like the Nihau stone in more ways than one. Yes he is the support he is the one that is the foundation and hold the woman above him. But, also, he is the Nihau in the sense that he reaches back in time to the ancient visceral DNA inside of him and taps into that very masculine desire, to lift protect and display the beauty of the woman as she trusts in him.
If you look at both modern and ancient pictures and paintings of a man, it is usually of a man in action not at rest. To be in motion displays the essence, the mana of a man. If you look at ancient and modern paintings of pictures of a woman you can see the women are usually at rest as they display beauty.
So in tandem the man is lifting and carving, slicing through sometimes heavy water and in contrast the woman trusts in him and bravely and athletically holds her form in perfect stillness and calmness. The man’s displays the woman’s beauty
The women utilizes her graceful power to leap into position and uses her core strength while at the same time sensing and flowing with her partner’s energy. The man flows with the wave’s energy and the woman senses that flow through her partners body flows with it too.
The men are great surfers and incredibly great athletes, displaying strength, balance, wave knowledge and ocean safety. The Hawaiian language says it best Manna and manao; strength and wisdom. The man has his focus; to surf, lift and balance while the womea has hers; to hold her position and lock it in with beauty and grace. They each rely on the other to do their jobs and do it right every time.
So at the beginning of this millennium I began to revive the ancient Hawaiian art of Tandem Surfing first by co-founding the International Tandem Suring Association (ITSA) World Tour and then by founding Bears Aloha Tandem Expression Teams. ITSA is a tight little box with a lot of rules and great judges and it focuses on those that are on a serious competition track. My latest venture with the Aloha Expression Teams focus on the freedom, fun and beauty of tandem and to bring focus to worthy causes. Being a two time Masters World Title holder does not make me a champion. A champion champions a worthy cause and this is the essence of what Bears Aloha Tandem Expression Teams do.