Surfing has been a significant sport and cultural practice in Hawai'i for more than 1,500 years. In the last century, facing increased marginalisation on land, many Native Hawaiians have found refuge, autonomy, and identity in the waves. In Waves of Resistance, Isaiah Walker argues that throughout the twentieth century Hawaiian surfers have successfully resisted colonial encroachment in the po'ina nalu (surf zone). Drawing from Hawaiian language newspapers and oral history interviews, Walker's history of the struggle for the po'ina nalu revises previous surf history accounts and unveils the relationship between surfing and colonialism in Hawai'i.
The work begins with a brief look at surfing in ancient Hawai'i before moving on to chapters detailing Waikiki surfers of the early twentieth century (including Prince Jonah Kuhio and Duke Kahanamoku), the 1960s radical antidevelopment group Save Our Surf, professional Hawaiian surfers like Eddie Aikau, whose success helped inspire a newfound pride in Hawaiian cultural identity, and finally the North Shore's Hui O He'e Nalu, formed in 1976 in response to the burgeoning professional surfing industry that threatened to exclude local surfers from their own beaches. When the media began labeling Hui O He'e Nalu members as violent extremists who terrorized haole surfers, Hawaiians contested, rewrote, or creatively negotiated such stereotypes in the waves. The po'ina nalu became a place where resistance proved historically meaningful and where colonial hierarchies and categories could be transposed.