William Finnegan: Surf for Love, Not for Gold

by Chris Dixon

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THE New England missionaries who began arriving in Hawaii in 1820 were horrified to find, as they sailed in, people surfing. “Some of our number, with gushing tears, turned away from the spectacle,” wrote Hiram Bingham, the missionaries’ leader. This devastating display of half-nude “barbarism” — really, it was the ancient practice of he’e nalu, which was rich in traditional religious meaning — clearly had to be stamped out. Twenty-seven years later, with Hawaiian culture being destroyed by changes that the missionaries helped set in motion, Bingham wrote with satisfaction of the “decline and discontinuance of the surfboard.”

Read more from Finnegan’s Sunday Review op/ed at The New York Times, and stay tuned for the final installments of my interview with him this week. Check out his book Barbarian Days here.–CD

 

 

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