The concise dictionary of English-Hawaiian surfing terms

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Hawaii: this is what surfing in Waikiki looked like back in the day

How do you say "surfing" in Hawaiian? Are there multiple Hawaiian expressions to say "wave"? Learn how to translate English surfing expressions into "Olelo Hawai'i" (Hawaiian language).

John R.K. Clark, author of "Hawaiian Surfing: Traditions From The Past", has extensively studied the presence of surfing in the Hawaiian language.

The sport of kings is richly portrayed in the Hawaiian culture. Historians have proved that surfing is intrinsically connected to the Polynesian archipelago.

That is why there are words, expressions and meanings for the whole wave riding universe. Naturally, in many cases, English names have similar - not identical - interpretations in the Hawaiian language, and vice versa.

"During the 1800s, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian writers described surfing as a 'national pastime,' a phrase that highlights the prominence surfing held among native Hawaiians," notes John Clark, in his must-have dictionary.

Traditional surfing language is a treasure of hidden meanings, so the "poetic interplay of words often makes translation into other languages difficult or perhaps impossible at time."

However, here's a short and concise English-Hawaiian dictionary of surfing expressions. For HTML reasons, we removed the macron (kahako) symbol and replaced the okina mark by a simple apostrophe. Try to say the words and dive into the spirit of Aloha:

Afraid - maka'u

Back of a wave - ha'i muku, halehale, halehale po'ipu, kawaha, po'ipu, puku, uhi, waha, wahawaha

Backwash - ha'i ka nalu a ho'i hou i waho

Barrel - ha'i muku, halehale, halehale po'ipu, kawaha, po'ipu, puku, uhi, waha, wahawaha

Base of a wave - konua, kumu

Beach - kahakai, kahaone, 'o, one, one loa

Beginner - 'akahi akahi, hemahema, holona, malihini, mea hawawa

Board - papa, papa alaia, papa he'e nalu, papa hoe he'e nalu, papa he'e one, papa kiko'o, papa la'au, papa lana, papa li'ili'i, papa olo, papa omo, papa pae po'o

Bodysurf - he'e umauma, kaha, kaha nalu, pae po, pae po'b

Break - kalana nalu (lineup), po'ina nalu (shorebreak)

Buoy - mouo, pua

Canoe - wa'a (outrigger), wa'a pakaka nalu (surfing)

Catch a wave - pae

Channel - kowa, kai kowa

Contest - heihei, ho'okuku

Coral - 'ako'ako'a, ko'a kea, puna, puna kea

Crest of a wave - 'ako, 'ako'ako, weleau

Curl - muku, 'opi

Current - au

Dawn - molehulehu

Dunes - pu'e one, pu'u one

Fin - kuhoe

Flat - nalu 'ole

Foam of a surfboard - papa lana

Harbor - awa, kai kuono

Help - kokua

Home break - nalu kama'aina, nalu o ka 'aina

Injury - 'eha

Lagoon - kai kohola, kua'au

Lifeguard - kia'i ola, po'e ho'opakele ola

Limestone - pa'akea

Lineup - kulana, kulana he'e nalu, kulana kai, kulana nalu, kulana nalu kupono

Longboard - pa loa, papa lo'ihi, papa nui

Lost at sea - nalowale

Nose of a surfboard - ihu, maka, po'o

Ocean - kai, moana, moana hohonu lipolopo (deep blue), moana lipopo (dark blue)

Outside - waho o kua nalu

Paddle for a wave - hoe, ka, oma

Paddle out - 'au

Rail of a surfboard - 'ao'ao

Reef - 'apapa, hapapa, laupapa, papa, papapa

Rescue - ho'opakele

Ride - he'e, holo, kakele, pae, pae pu

Ripples - 'ale'ale

River surfing - he'e pu'e wai

Sand - one

Sandbar - pu'e one

Sea - kai, moana

Sea spray - 'ea, 'ea'ea, 'ehu, 'ehu kai, huna kai

Seaweed - limu

Set of waves - kaka'i

Shaper - kahuna kalai papa alaia he'e nalu

Shark - mano

Shell - pupu

Shorebreak - po'ina nalu, po'ina one

Shortboard - pa poko

Shoulder of a wave - hokua, po'ohiwi

Skimboard - papa he'e one

Skimming - he'e one

Slide - he'e, lala

Sound of waves - 'a'ina nalu, halulu, haluku, kapo'o, nakolo, ne, nehe, 'owe

Sport - hana le'ale'a

Stand-up surfboard - papa hooe he'e nalu, papa ku

Stand-up surfing - hoe he'e nalu, ku hoe

Storm surf - 'ale'ale 'ino

Stormy - kupiki'o puleileho

Sun - la

Sunset - napo'o ka la

Surf, surfing - he'e, he'e nalu, kha, kaha nalu, kakele

Surfboard - alaia, kiko'o, olo, 'onini, papa he'e nalu, papa he'e nalu ha niu, papa hoe he'e nalu, papa ku, papa la'au, papa lana

Surfer - kanaka he'e nalu, wahine he'e nalu

Surf spot - kahi o ka nalu, kai he'e nalu, wahi he'e nalu, wahi nalu

Surf wear - lole 'au'au kai, malo kai, malo puakai, pa'u, pa'u he'e nalu, pa'u puakai

Swim - 'au, 'au'au, 'au hula'ana, 'aukai, 'au umauma, ho'au

Swimmers - po'e 'au'au kai

Tail of a surfboard - lemu

Tandem - he'e koko'olua

Tsunami - kai ho'e'e, kai mimiki

Wait for the wave - ho'olana

Wave near shore - nalu

Wave in open ocean - 'ale, opu, 'opu'u

Wet - pulu

Whale - kohola, kohola kuapu'u

White cap - kuakea

Whitewater - hu'a, hu'ahu'a, kapa kea, kuakea

Win a contest - eo, lanakila

Women of the sea - po'e wahine o ke kai

Wooden board - papa la'au

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