The Aloha Spirit
Difficult to sum up, the Aloha spirit relates to reciprocal action, our connection to others and with the world, and honouring that connection through positive interactions. Let's share Aloha!
Hawaii, the birthplace
Hawaii is the oldest of surf places, where classic surfing means something. It's home to an array of legends and standout surfers who founded the tenets of surf conduct: respect, humility and a broad willingness to learn from the native people. In Hawaii, the ocean calls.
The influences for modern surfing can be directly traced to the surfers of Ancient Hawaii. Surfing was a central part of ancient Polynesian culture and predates European contact with the Hawaiian people who integrated surfing into their culture and treated it as more of an art than anything else.
In Hawaii, this art is referred to as heʻe nalu which translates into English as "wave sliding."
The Word "Aloha" (alo-HA)
Aloha is the Hawaiian word commonly used as a simple greeting, but it has a deeper cultural and spiritual significance to native Hawaiians, for whom the term is used to define a force that holds together existence.
When working toward spiritual growth, certain words carry strength and wisdom to help us along the path. The pursuit of advancing our humanity is a large part of this growth and some spiritual concepts are universal, however differently we describe them, however different our cultures.
Aloha in the Hawaiian language means affection, love, peace, compassion, mercy, goodbye and hello among other similar expressions. Generally, in Hawaii it's used as a greeting meaning hello and goodbye, but the word aloha actually derives from the Hawaiian words alo meaning "presence," or "share" and ha meaning "breath of life" or "essence of life." According to native Hawaiians, "aloha" is an invocation of the Divine and an acknowledgement of the Divinity that dwells within and without.
In Hawaiian Law, as written in Chapter 5 of the Hawai'i Revised Statues 1959, "aloha" is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence. "Aloha" means to see what cannot be seen, to hear what is not said and to know the unknowable.
The spirit of surfing
It's well known that surfers claim surfing as a spiritual salvation.
In an interview with Surfer Magazine in 1978, famed American psychologist Timothy Leary, said that both surfing and evolution dealt with waves, which he called the fundamental structure of nature.
"It's just the individual dealing with the power of the ocean, which gets into the power of lunar pulls, and of tidal ebbs and flows," he told Surfer.
"There is something essential about the ocean that promotes mystical experiences and surfing is a way to tap into that."
Surfing legend Tom Blake, who died in 1994, offered one of the best explanations for the relationship between surfing and spirituality after decades of surfing and studying the sport's cultural roots in ancient Polynesia. Blake developed the concise philosophy: Nature = God.
Kelly Slater famously said surfing was his religion, and that the barrel was the ultimate ride for any surfer - "like being in the womb."
Buddhist surfer Jaimal Yogis says that surfing not only helps people understand the cycles of samsara but can also help them handle the chaos it occasionally produces.
"One of the highest insights in Buddhist traditions is to realise that samsara is, in fact, nirvana. There is no need to escape because everything is originally pure and perfect. In a small way, surfing has begun to teach me this," he said.
Hawaiian big wave surfing champion, Paige Alms describes surfing as simply the time she feels most happy.
"For me, it's when I feel the most alive and the most present You have to truly be in the moment and not have other things on your mind. But it's also an accumulation of all your time spent in the water and all of your training put into that wave," she says.
"So, it's also pulling everything that you've been through in your life to ride that wave."
Feeling the spirit of aloha
Native Hawaiians have always had a deep reverence for the natural world. The late Haleaka Iolani Pule, a teacher of Hawaiian spirituality, described aloha as "our innate sense to love things unconditionally... It's a symbiotic relationship and the acknowledgement of that symbiotic relationship that you have with everything in the universe around you and recognizing exactly your space within it."