Hawaii: learning over one hundred surf-related words can be useful | Photo: Loiterton/Creative Commons

Are you an avid surfer looking to immerse yourself in Polynesian culture? We have compiled a comprehensive list of Hawaiian words every wave rider should know.

Whether you're a novice surfer or a seasoned pro, learning the Hawaiian language is a fantastic way to gain a deeper appreciation of the islands' rich culture.

And if you're headed to the North Shore or the South Maui coast, understanding basic 'Ōlelo Hawai'i can help you better connect with your surroundings.

Plus, while out in the water, you'll be able to communicate with locals in their language.

From traditional terms to modern-day expressions, this guide will give you an inside look at Aloha State's vibrant language.

So grab your surfboard and get ready to learn the lingo of the islands and add some local flavor to your seaside conversations in no time.

'Ai - to eat;

Aea - to come up from underwater;

Alaia - a traditional Hawaiian surfboard made from breadfruit or Acacia koa;

Alo - face, front, as of a wave;

Aloha - hello, goodbye, love, cheers, and affection;

Au - current;

Awa - bay, harbor;

Ea - to rise up from below, as waves lift up;

Eo - to win, as a contest or race;

Hala - to pass by;

Haluku - thunderous roar of big surf;

Hana - an activity one does, such as surfing;

Haole - a non-native Hawaiian person;

He'e nalu - to surf waves or surfing;

Hio - ghost or spirit;

Hokua - shoulder of a wave;

Holo - to go, to ride;

Honua - base of a wave;

Hu'a - foam or whitewater generated by a breaking wave;

Hui - a group, association, or club;

Hula - the traditional Hawaiian dance;

Huli - to turn or veer to one side, or to overturn, as a canoe or surfboard;

I'a - fish;

Ihu - nose of a surfboard or bow of a canoe;

Ili - to come to rest on something;

Inu - to drink;

Iwi - long line, as of a wave;

Kaha - to bodysurf;

Kahakai - beach, coast, shoreline, seashore;

Kahuna - an acknowledged expert in a traditional Hawaiian occupation, such as canoe building or surfboard making;

Kai - sea, ocean, or sea water;

Kai make - low tide;

Kai pi'i - high tide;

Kaka 'ula - set of waves, as waves in succession;

Kama'aina - A local person or villager;

Kanaka - a man;

Kani - sound;

Kau.lua - double canoe;

Keiki - a child;

Kimo - to dive or fall headfirst;

Koa - a native tree whose trunk was used for making canoes and surfboards;

Kokua - help, assistance;

Kona - the leeward side of an island or a particular wind pattern;

Kua - back of a wave;

Kukuli - to kneel, for instance, while surfing;

Kīoe - small surfboard;

- to stand or rise as a wave;

Lala - to slide, angle across the face of a wave;

Lani - sky;

Lele - to fly, jump or leap;

Lemu - back end, as the tail of a surfboard;

Lu'u - to dive;

Lulu - to be calm;

Luna - top or above;

- sun;

Mahalo - thank you;

Mahina - moon;

Maka - front end or nose of a surfboard;

Makai - towards the ocean;

Malama - to care for or preserve;

Malino - to be calm, glassy, as the surface of the ocean;

Mano - shark;

Mauka - inland or towards the mountains;

Mea 'ai - food;

Mele - music;

Miki - to recede, as a wave onshore or as the rise and fall of the tide;

Milo - to curl, as a breaking wave;

Moana - ocean, open sea;

Moe - to lay down, to be prone, to sleep;

Mouo - buoy;

Muku - curl or breaking part of the wave crest;

Mumuku - squall;

Mākaha - fierce, ferocious, or mean;

Nai'a - dolphin;

Nalu - near-shore wave, surf;

Ni'o - peak or highest part of a wave;

Niu - coconut tree;

Ohana - family, including those not related by blood;

Olo - long, thick, narrow surfboard, usually made out of wiliwili wood;

Oma - to stroke, as when swimming or paddling a surfboard;

One - sand;

Ono - delicious;

Pae - to catch or ride a wave;

Paena - landing place where a surfboard, canoe, or waves come ashore;

Pahe'e - to slide;

Pahu - to push;

Pakika - to slip;

Papa he'e nalu - surfboard;

Papa nui - longboard;

Pau - to end, complete, or finish a surf session;

Pe'a - edge, as of a wave;

Pi'i - to rise up as a wave;

Piholo - to drown, to sink, as a body or boat;

Po'e - people;

Po'i - to break, as a wave;

Po'o - head, front end, as the nose of a surfboard;

Pohu - to calm down, as a lull between sets of waves;

Pu'e - dune;

Pua - buoy used to mark the finish line in a surf race;

Puku - barrel of a breaking wave;

Pulu - to be wet;

Puna - coral, reef;

Pāka - park;

Uahi - mist, spray, as from a breaking wave;

Uhi - to cover, conceal, engulf, as a wave breaking over a person;

Wa'a - outrigger canoe;

Waha - the curl of a wave or barrel;

Wahi nalu - surf spot;

Wahine - a woman;

Waho - outside, as in the ocean at the lineup;

Wawā - the sound of a distant roar, as of waves;


Have we missed a Hawaiian term, name, or expression? Send us an email.

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