Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 26th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Surf City Meditations

guest_dukekahanamokuThe Story of the Three Princes Comes Full Circle
One of the great conceits—and, really, deceits—of historical writing, and indeed of all journalism and literature, is that stories have nice, tidy endings that can be packaged and wrapped in a bow. In a certain sense, all story-telling requires such deception. Real life is never so easily confined to a constructed conclusion. Not even in death, of course, does a life-story end.

Last week, my friend Kim Stoner and I told the story in these pages of the three Hawaiian princes— David Kawananakoa, Edward Keliiahonui and Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana'ole—and the rather remarkable, if unlikely, saga of how these three teenage boys with strong links to the local Swan family first introduced board surfing not only to Santa Cruz, but to the mainland of the Americas as well.

We ended the story by encapsulating the lives of each of the young men, and concluded with a lovely Hawaiian chant written to the youngest prince, Kalaniana'ole, a widely celebrated and beloved figure in Hawaiian history nicknamed “Cupid,” but who was known popularly throughout the islands as Ke Ali'i Maka'ainana (“The Prince of the People”). Thus, our 4,000-word historical package was neatly wrapped.

But the story of the three surfing princes did not—and does not—end with their death, or as the poet Jack Spicer reminds us, with a poem or chant. Life begets more life. Art and culture

triumph over mortality.

One hundred twenty five years since the first recorded “exhibitions of surf-board swimming” in the Americas, the gift that the three princes brought to the central California Coast in the 1880s remains eternal and immortal.

Every good yarn requires a story-teller. In the case of the three princes, two of the earliest to weave this tale were the legendary Santa Cruz newspaperman Ernest Otto (1871-1955), who encountered the three princes here in Santa Cruz during his youth; and the colorful Boardwalk promoter Warren “Skip” Littlefield  (1906-1985), who was a close friend of Otto’s.  A Pacific Coast swim champion in his own right, Littlefield later was to bring the immortal Hawaiian surfer and Olympic swimming champion Duke Kahanamoku to Santa Cruz for a final visit in the 1930s (pictured above.)

In Kahanamoku, the three princes’ legacy was not only brought full circle, it was extended into the 20th Century and beyond. Littlefield, who was both a friend and mentor to Kim and me (and whose spirit informed our tale), kept carefully documented notes on all aspects of Santa Cruz waterfront history in his files at the Santa Cruz Seaside Company.

One of the delightful details in Littlefield’s notes reveal that when Kahanamoku returned for surfing and swimming exhibitions in Santa Cruz that “he remembered these vintage boards of redwood” ridden by the three princes. Perhaps most significantly, Kahanamoku (who was given an outrigger canoe in Honolulu by Prince Jonah) arrived in Santa Cruz with a board fashioned out of redwood in Honolulu. The redwood planks grown in the Santa Cruz Mountains crossed the Pacific and then crossed back again.

Friday morning at Lighthouse Field, there shall be another re-crossing of sorts. A beautiful brass plaque honoring the three princes and also forged in Honolulu—conceived of by historian Kristin Zambucka and graciously donated to the City of Santa Cruz by descendants of Prince David Kawananakoa—will be unveiled in a ceremony beginning at 11:30 a.m. and sponsored by the City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Department and the Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society.

The history of the three surfing princes in Santa Cruz will once again come back full circle. Only this time we needn’t pretend the story has a tidy conclusion. It is clearly a story without end.


Santa Cruz writer and filmmaker Geoffrey Dunn is the author of “Santa Cruz Is in the Heart” and is currently completing a book for Macmillan/St. Martin’s entitled “The Lies of Sarah Palin.” His most recent film “Calypso Dreams” (co-directed with Michael Horne), was recently named “one of the great films of the English-speaking Caribbean.”
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Santa Cruz Gives

A look at the organizations we’re asking you to support in our new holiday giving campaign


Gratitude—For Each New Morning With its Light

The full moon of Wednesday brings light to Thanksgiving (Thursday) under the Sagittarius Sun and Mercury. Mercury in Sag offers humanity the message (Mercury) of thankfulness and joy (Jupiter). No other sign represents food, music and joy better than Sagittarius (only Pisces, when not in despair). Beginning on Thanksgiving, we can list what we’re grateful for. Then we can continue the list, creating a daily Gratitude Journal. What we are grateful for always increases in our lives. On Thanksgiving Saturn/Neptune square (challenging) is in full effect. This can manifest as traditions not being honored, disappearing, falling away. It can also create a sense of sadness, confusion, of things not working out as planned. It’s best to be as simple as possible. And to focus on gratitude instead. Gratitude is a service to others. It is scientifically and occultly a releasing agent. Releasing us from the past, allowing our future—the new culture and civilization, the new Aquarian laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarius, the Age of Friendship and Equality—to come forth. Gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution for humanity and the world’s problems.” The hierarchy lays great emphasis upon expressing gratitude. Gratitude illuminates all that is in darkness. Let us be grateful during this season together. Being, for others, the light that illuminates the darkness. A Poem by R.W. Emerson: We are grateful … “For each new morning with its light/For rest and shelter of the night/For health and food/For love and friends/For everything thy goodness sends.” (poem by R.W. Emerson). I am grateful for my family of readers.


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Pluck of the Irish

Mid-century immigrant tale engagingly told in ‘Brooklyn’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Second Street Café

Pies and tarts for all tastes—from traditional to adventurous


How are you preparing for El Niño?

Getting ready to buy some rain gear. Cory Pickering, Santa Cruz, Teaching Assistant


Fortino Winery

Cabernet and superb fruit wine from Fortino Winery


Tap Dance

West End Tap & Kitchen’s impressive menu to expand to Eastside location