Surfing & Hawaiian Ingenuity | Isaiah Walker | TEDxLaie

Native Hawaiians invented the global phenomenon of surfing more than 1000 years ago. Over the years, the evolution of surfing has developed at the hands of modern Hawaiians. But they have also influenced important advances in competitive swimming, lifesaving, sailing, skateboarding, snowboarding, and more. As surfing proliferated outside the islands, so did other Hawaiian innovations in music, dance, and culture. Although Hawaiian influences on popular music are lesser-known, they profoundly shaped this industry too. Who are these innovators and what inspired their ingenuity? Contrary to the idiom, “necessity is the mother of invention” or the idea that money drives ingenuity, it seems that the Hawaiian concepts of pono (spiritual balance) and aloha ‘aina (love for the land) were far more inspiring.

Mr. Walker reported photos and video from slides coming from:
Slide 1:
2: Polynesian Researchers, William Ellis, 1831
5: public domain (left), (right)
7: www.worldsurfleague (left), (right)
9: Video from Hawaii Rooted: Tom Pohaku Stone,
16: Honolulu Star Bulletin. June 7, 1999
21: Isaiah Walker was born and raised in Hilo. After graduating with a Bachelors in History from BYU Hawaiʻi in 1997 and earning a Master’s degree from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Isaiah completed a PhD. from the UC- Santa Barbara. Isaiah studies Hawaiian history and colonialism from a unique perspective, from the vantage of Hawaiian surfers. Focusing primarily on a Hawaiian surfing club formed on the North Shore of O‘ahu in 1976, his dissertation analyzes the history of surfing, resistance, and masculinity in Hawai‘i. Contending that the ocean surfing realm was a sanctuary and borderland for Hawaiians, his research creatively analyzes a space where Hawaiians were empowered and colonial hierarchies were often turned upside down. He is currently revising his dissertation to be published in book form by the University of Hawaii press. He is currently a professor and department chair in the History Department at BYU-H where he teaches World, Hawaiian, and Pacific Islands history. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at


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