Once a place of healing and rejuvenation for Hawaiian royalty, this place remains in position for a warm welcome to Waikiki.
It’s while sitting at the stern of an outrigger canoe as it rushes down the face of a three-foot wave off Waikiki Beach in Hawaii that I gain more of an understanding of the Hawaiian passion for moana (ocean). Although the single-hulled canoes were originally created for livelihood and transportation around the South Pacific, today they are used to introduce tourists to the thrills associated with the water sport, which remains an integral part of Hawaiian indigenous culture.
A Hawaiian blessing
Faith Surf School instructor Isaiah Moniz observes the water whipping my face and laughs: “You just received a Hawaiian blessing.” While my maiden foray gliding toward the shore feels like a joy ride, the Polynesian connection to the boats made from native koa hardwood is a lot more profound. “The Polynesians performed great feats of navigation in the wa’a (canoes), sailing the ocean using the stars, wind and currents,” says Isaiah.
You gotta have Faith
Isaiah’s father started Faith Surf School in 2000 and the business is now Hawaii’s largest and most popular surf school. These ancient Hawaiian pastimes are some of the indigenous customs that Outrigger Resorts actively promotes in order to encourage travellers to ‘Escape Ordinary‘. This year, Outrigger celebrates its 70th anniversary, honouring the legacy of its founding members – Roy and Estelle Kelley – and the story of a brand that has morphed from a single Waikiki hotel into a global portfolio of some 37 properties dotted around Hawaii, the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean.
Passengers onboard Sail Holokai will also receive a Hawaiian blessing when they join the impossibly cool crew onboard the sleek catamaran, which departs from the shore near to the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort. The traditional thing to do here is to get dropped off in a zone where the turtles tend to congregate. With the reggae music blaring, we join instructor and passionate free diver Josh Munoz in uncloaking and bombing off the boat. The water mirrors the blue of the sky and the snorkellers oscillate between being enchanted by the underwater action below and watching the surfers shoot out of barrelling waves above.
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The Aloha State
While Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort celebrates the Aloha State’s “local beach and surf culture”, sister property Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort introduces visitors to Hawaiian traditions such as hula dancing and strumming a ukelele. Here, at Outrigger Reef, ‘ambassador of aloha’ instructor Luana Maitland shows us how to follow the kaholo, a four-beat pattern for our feet, and to move our hips like palms starting to sway. Luana’s moves are seductive, and her soft singing, which rises and falls in volume, helps us get a feel for the simple moves in The Hukilau Song.
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Language of the heart
Luana says while visitors to Oahu are initially enticed to its sandy beaches, world-class surf and the silhouette of the majestic Diamond Head mountain, they often leave the island State feeling blessed after learning about the local culture. She says she loves being the “ambassador of Aloha” for Outrigger Resorts as she devotes time each day to reviving aspects of the ancient culture.
“Being Hawaiian means always being surrounded by music and dance. Growing up, nothing was ever documented. What we were taught by the chiefs and our kahuna was so we would understand our culture and be able to pass it on,” she says. “It’s very important to me that I get to share the culture that was taught to me by my family. What I teach you is not what I learnt from a book. Hula is the language of the heart and everything in Hawaii comes from the heart,” Maitland says.
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This article was first published in November, 2018 and updated in December, 2020.