Surfers paddle back in history at O’lo Hui Nala


As thunder boomed and a rare display of lightning flashed on the western horizon, a crowd of 200 watched as Kumu Kaui Peralto, a hula teacher from Antioch, blessed a quiver of redwood boards on Cowell Beach Sunday morning.

“We honor the spirit of the mountains where the wood came from and the spirit of the oceans where they go,” Peralto said. “We ask for guidance and safety for the riders of the surfboard. Lastly, we honor the spirits of the alii, our royalty; the princes.”

The storied history of Santa Cruz surfing began when three Hawaiian princes paddled out near this spot on July 19, 1885. Exactly 130 years later, some of the region’s finest surfers attempted to replicate this moment on Hawaiian-style boards created by master-shaper Bob Pearson of Arrow Surf Shop.

The historic surf demo was part of Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History’s O’lo Hui Nala event. The museum is currently exhibiting the princes’ original boards, which are on loan from the Bishop Museum in Honolulu.

As the crowd cheered, the surfers labored to carry the boards down to the water’s edge. The largest, two 17-foot o’los, weighed 200 pounds each and required six men. Yet once the boards slipped into the water, they paddled remarkably well.

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