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The World In The Curl
An Unconventional History of Surfing
Peter Westwick and Peter Neushul
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Sandalwood the first market that drew Western traders to hawaii. Chinese valued it for building, incense and medicine. By 1830 most of Hawaii's sandalwood trees were gone. Most of the income went to the chiefs, who developed a taste for Euro clothes and furniture.
Whaling the next major boom, but this time virtually nothing went to Hawaiians. Honolulu became a major port, but Hawaiians found themselves laboring for low wages.
Then from 1850, sugar became cash crop. But land reform allowed individual ownership, which quickly was transferred to whites. The natives didn't want to work the canefields, so first Chinese, then Japanese workers imported. They brought rice with them, and today it's a staple of Hawaiian diet. Hawaii is only place in US where you can go to McDonalds and order a bowl of rice.
Waikiki started out as a narrow sandspit barely above sea level. Just a few miles from Honolulu, and away from polluted harbor waters, but mainly wetlands. The key to developing Waikiki was a a canal dredged out behind the sandspit, to carry the three rivers away from the wetland. Walter Dillingham won the contract to dredge. This was not a coincidence. His father Benjamin had built up a prosperous trading business after marrying into one of the Hawaiian missionary families. The man who gave the contract to Walter was a long-time employee of Benjamin's before being appointed to office.
The Dillinghams built their fortune by buying land cheap and then planting sugr cane, then by building railways to take theirs and other farmers produce to the port. Walter followed his father's example by buying up Waikiki land for a song and then selling it to developers. The govt then mandated that all building had to start above sea level, so Dillingham then made another profit selling the dredged soil back to the developers to top off gtheir plots of land.
The hotel owners built sea walls to maximise their land area, but this quickly led to the erosion of beach sand. Eventually they had to resort to importing sand, mostly from California.
Duke Kahanamoku became the face of Hawaiian surfing. (Duke wasn't a nickname - his father was also Duke, named after the Duke of Edinburgh who visitesd the islands in 1869). He first came to notice as a swimmer - he won 3 Olympic golds in 1912 and 1920. But he was just the first of a long line of pro surfers with little education or business experience who sold their name but ended up with little money.
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