So, you’ve purchased your SUP board and taken your first tentative steps toward alluding to being a part of the surfing fraternity, which along with it, brings entitlement to wearing ‘aloha’ patterned shirts and board shorts, exchanging ‘shakas’ and funny hand shakes, covering your vehicle with frangipani stickers and related brands, whilst from your rear view mirror, swings a brightly coloured plastic lei, advertising your embrace of surfing culture in true quasi-Bohemian style.
Not withstanding the fact you may live in London or Amsterdam, the up to side to this, is that you are now transcending reality and transposing yourself to another world; a far away tropical island paradise, of palm trees, sunshine and the dulcet tones of ukuleles.
But there’s more to come. You begin to sign off on your emails, ‘Aloha’ because you’re now a part of the idiosyncratic world of the waterman and women, of which you believe yourself to be a part of. If you’re particularly brazen, you may even voice this out, exchanging, ‘aloha’ in the car park, or at the beach, a signification of your outward confidence in becoming every more deeply rooted in something you know exists, but not quite sure what, but of which you want to belong.
But what is aloha and where does it come from? Aloha is an emotional Polynesian prism, spawned from an affinity with the ocean, canoe building, sailing and navigation, the mountains, nature and existence itself, of which European culture embraces, all be it only in a romantic, naive context. It’s a cultural thing, which, if not a part of that culture from which it originates, makes it extraordinarily hard to fully understand or live by.
In the context of Hawaii, aloha, stems from the ‘huna’ faith, from which another much over-used and abused word originates, ‘kahuna’ being the priest or, ‘keeper of secrets’ so named because of a lack of a written language. Spiritual knowledge was passed on only by oral means, from the young to the old so that these secrets were only known by key individuals, not written out for all to know.
Aloha takes you beyond the physical world to that of the spiritual world as embraced by the ancient Polynesians – and not just the Hawaiian Islands as you may believe. That being said, visit Hawaii and youʼre likely to hear it a couple of hundred times a day. More than a word, it is a way of life, with divine undertones, shame then that it is used so poorly today, commercialised to the point of non-sense.
In the context of present day Hawaii, aloha is omnipresent for all the wrong reasons and fundamentally elusive in its true sense, a worn out clichéd anachronism for the most part, with little real meaning, the tourist industry and off-island investors having made into into a brand and commercialised its use and meaning to the point of non-sense. Car rental firms, airlines, laundry services and many other enterprising businesses have snapped up the word; conveniently beginning with ‘A’ it insures high placement in the Yellow Pages Directory and conveys a trusting message.
Fundamentally, aloha is an extraordinarily complex notion of what love, life, compassion and understanding alludes to being. I once heard it described being, not about politeness, repression of instinct or sensibility, but about bone deep emotion. It grows out of a feeling, not limited by written language, but out of the senses and primal instinct. Aloha per se, is a sense of spirit which alludes to faith in self, life, the universe and fundamentally an acceptance that nature is bigger than the sum of the whole of humanities collective thoughts and concerns.
Just how it relates to water sports can be a conflicting process, especially where competition exists or competing for waves. Competitive sport and the notion of aloha, is a concept diametrically opposed and while many competitors certainly strive to live and race with an, ‘Aloha Spirit’ many who do not. In these instances, the ‘Spirit of Aloha’ would often seem but skin deep as a false outward image of what a person wishes to be live by and soon eludes them when the going gets tough at the exact moment it should become operative.
If guided by an aloha spirit, you will be guided by mutual respect, honour and fairness in being the one who rises above conflict or in seeking it in all circumstances befitting a waterman and women’s life.