An informational piece where you can pick up all kinds of esoteric knowledge to baffle your friends in the pub … Or win pub quizzes. Or not. This one is about the motherlode: Hawaii.
It’s long … and big
The State of Hawaii maybe invisible on most globes but the little bits of rock which stick up above sea level to make the islands and the reefs of the most famous surfing real estate in the world are part of a mammoth geographical feature. 132 islands, reefs and shoals stretch over 1500 miles from the Big Island of Hawaii to the Midway Atolls (famous for the big ass battle in WWII). If you picked them up and dumped them on the good old US of A they’d stretch from San Francisco to the Gulf Coast. Not just that the city of Honolulu is the largest in the world, due to some state constitution small print stating any isles or islets not belonging to a county default to Honolulu … So it’s got the longest border of any city by freaking miles.
Mauna Kea on the Big Island has a snow capped (and snowboardable) summit that scrapes 14,000 feet above sea level. Below sea level it goes down another 18,000 to the sea floor … which equals a total height of 32,000 feet. Making it the biggest mountain on earth. Mount Everest, in comparison, is a paltry 29,035 feet, not even in the 30G club. And to make matters worse the boffins reckon Everest has got four foot shorter in recent times due to glacial melting.
It’s been surfed for a long time
They may have a strong claim to being the oldest surfing race on earth, having invented the whole deal, but the Polynesians/Hawaiians aren’t a patch on the Peruvian goat boaters that have surfed on wave-skis made of reeds since year dot. But as goat boating doesn’t really count then the Hawaiians can take the honour.
The Union Jack is on the flag
Odd as it seems the Hawaiian flag has the British flag in its top left corner, much the same as the Aussie Flag. The rest of the flag consists of eight red, white or blue stripes that represent the eight main islands (Nihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and the Big Island of Hawaii). It goes back to the early nineteenth century when the Hawaiians agreed to be a protectorate of Great Britain. We didn’t run the show, they ran their own affairs, but we looked out for them against the French and the Americans.
We’ve just moved in
The Hawaiian chain was one of the last places on earth to be colonised by mankind.
Earliest evidence suggests some traces of man around 100 A.D, but the Polynesians didn’t properly colonise the joint until 400 A.D. First contact with the western world was made on January 19, 1778 by Yorkshire’s finest, Captain James T Cook, he first hit land on Kauai.
There’s no shelf
It’s the lack of continental shelf that gives the waves so much power on the North Shore. In Europe, and the SW of the U.K particularly, we have a shallow water zone that extends way out to sea that slows up the swells. As the Hawaiian Islands are all volcanic islands that have grown steadily up from the sea floor there is no shelf to slow up the waves. The Big Island of Hawaii is less than 500,000 years old, cos its so new and fresh the lava reefs there are extremely sharp as they haven’t had time to erode.
The Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated bits of land on Earth. It’s over 2400 miles to the continental USA and the other Polynesian islands in the South Pacific.
24 miles is a long way to go in a canoe. 2400 is off the scale, especially when you consider the Polynesian explorers had no idea where they were going or if there was even anywhere to go to. They must have been so glad when they finally hit Waikiki and Ala Moana mall.
Spelling is easy
There are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet. Cool huh? The vowels: A, E, I, O, U and the consonants: H, K, L, M, N, P, W. So that’s why so many place names, like Waimea, Haleiwa etc have such a distinctive ring to them. It also shows that few surf spots go by their local names, Banzai Pipeline is hard to make from only those letters.
Hawaii is the only state in the US that produces coffee beans. Considering how much coffee the Americans drink it’s kinda odd. The Arabica beans grown on the Big Island that are sold as Kona coffee make for a damn fine brew. Coffee is grown on the slopes overlooking the North Shore of Oahu between Wahiawa and Waialua, they also taste good.
Lava lava lava
Mt Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world and has been since 1983. Which makes the mapmakers in Hawaii angry, because every couple of weeks they have to redraw the map of the island, as it keeps getting bigger. This might not be a problem soon as a huge fissure, known officially as the Hilina Slump, and unofficially as the Big Crack is opening up and a 4,760 cubic mile chunk of the Big Island is poised to fall off. Cue much tsunami action for Oz. At the moment it’s moving four inches a year, but has moved up to 26 feet in one day.
Spam is king
The residents of Molokai eat more spam than any other citizens of this good Earth. 6,700 of them smash 20,000 tins a week.
Words & Photos By Sharpy