The Waikiki Beachboys

Waikiki Beachboys & Duke Kahanamoku Popularized Surfing

The beachboys were symbolic of everything that was great about Hawaii.

History

The Beachboys of Waikiki are a renowned group of Hawaiian watermen who worked on the beaches of Waikiki from the 1920s to the 1950s when guests from all around the world began arriving to stay at the two luxurious new Waikiki hotels: the Moana Hotel and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

Many of the guests coming to stay at the Waikiki hotels would stay for lengthy periods of time, allowing them a chance to develop friendships with the Beachboys who would share the Hawaiian culture and aloha spirit. The first official Waikiki Beach Patrol was formed in the 1930s, and one of the most famous of the Beachboys was renowned Hawaiian swimmer and Olympic gold medallist Duke Kahanamoku who had formed Hui Nalu (Club of the Waves) in 1911. Many of the original members of this club later became Waikiki Beachboys.

Fact: Without the Waikiki Beachboys, Hawaii’s ancient ritual of surfing may have been forgotten

Among the clients of the Beachboys were many wealthy and often famous visitors who enjoyed outrigger canoe rides and also liked to try surfing the waves of Waikiki. The Beachboys also catered to the Hawaiian royalty of the time. Over time the Beachboys also developed somewhat of a reputation for their amorous adventures with the many women who sought out their services and aloha. Since many of the Beachboys were also talented musicians it is likely that more than one female client was wooed with sweet tropical melodies.

Waikiki Beachboys

Duke, in the red aloha shirt on the right

The Beachboys were experts at reading the ocean—including the waves, tides winds, and currents—as well as fishing and harvesting limu (seaweed). Skilled at much more than surfing and steering canoes, the Beachboys were leaders in the revival of surfing and other watersports in the early 20th century. Despite the rumors, the Beachboys were required to adhere to a strict code of conduct that showed great respect for all guests, and they also worked to keep the beach clean and safe. Many of the Beachboys had colorful names such as Blue Makua, Toots, Turkey, Chick, Panama Dave, and Steamboat. Other renowned beachboys were Rabbit Kekai and Sam Kahanamoku.

Eventually the nature of Hawaii’s tourist industry began to change as average U.S. citizens, and not just wealthy people, were able to travel to the Islands. The typical visit to Hawaii became shorter and shorter. Things changed drastically in 1941 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor when the United States entered World War II. With the imposition of Martial Law, Hawaii’s famous carefree lifestyle was put on hold and this also signaled the end of the golden era of the Beachboys of Waikiki. Decades later in 1973 the Waikiki Beach Boys Canoe Club was formed. The goal of the group was to revive the original image of the famous Waikiki Beachboys which included not only the water skills of canoe paddling and surfing, but also the aloha spirit that embraces a unique Hawaiian sense of generosity and friendship.

© 1997-2011 Aloha from Hawaii