One of the great sights of the dog days of summer is a surfer riding the perfect wave. In those instants of frothy flight, athleticism and grace combine in pure harmony with the rhythms of the sea. It’s no wonder that the sport inspired its own musical genre, epitomized by the happy-go-lucky melodies of the Beach Boys. Indeed, “everybody’s gone surfin’. Surfin’ U.S.A.”
Perhaps because of its popularity as an escape, surfing is often mischaracterized as the refuge of the eternal beach bum, not the sport of kings (and queens)—which it is.
For the Hawaiians, who invented the sport, surfing was no mere pastime but a profound expression of their religion and culture. They called it “he’e nalu,” or “wave-sliding,” because it was about communing with the sea, not dominating it.