Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
May 04th
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

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Mountain Mystic

When Cora Evans died in Boulder Creek in 1957, her thousands of pages of religious writings hadn’t yet been published. More than a half a century later, Evans’ fiery visions and spiritual devotion have inspired a crusade within Catholicism to make her the Santa Cruz Mountains’ first saint

 

Wesak (Water) Taurus Solar Festival, Buddha Blesses the Earth

A most important celebration occurs Sunday, May 3—the Wesak Taurus Buddha Solar Festival/full moon. At the moment of the full moon the Buddha’s presence enters the Earth plane for eight minutes. He brings the Will-to-Good from the Father, which, when reaching humanity becomes goodwill (Mother Principle). Held yearly in a valley hidden deep within the Himalayas, the Wesak festival is prepared for for months in advance (beginning at Winter Solstice). On festival day, amidst pilgrims, disciples and Holy Ones gathered in the valley, the Buddha is invoked through movement, symbols and mantrams. At the moment of the full moon, hearing the words, “We are ready, Buddha, come,” the Lord of Illumination (brother of the Christ) appears in the clouds above the altar to emanate forth the will and purpose of God to earth. The blessing of the father is then held in safekeeping for distribution at the June full moon Goodwill Festival. The day of Wesak (May 3, 8:42 p.m. West Coast) all disciples (east and west) place crystal vessels filled with pure water outside (in gardens, on rooftops, porches and steps) under the heavens. As the Buddha blesses the world, all waters, including waters within our bodies, are blessed. The Buddha is accompanied by the Forces of Enlightenment to illuminate humanity’s minds. Humanity then begins to express new constructive, productive and beneficial ways of the Art of Livingness. Wesak covers five days—two days (before) of dedicated preparation, the actual festival “Day of Safeguarding,” and two days (after) distributing goodwill (the NGWS to humanity). Join us in the Valley by reciting the Great Invocation, mantra of direction for humanity.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of May 1

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Hole in the Wall

Popular Aptos spot opens for dinner

 

How do you connect with the natural world?

My connection to the natural world is through my art. I totally feel it there very physically in nature and even right here on the street. Jonathan Rosen, Felton, Pastor

 

Hess Collection Winery

My friend Emma from London came to visit for a few days in early March, so I took her wine tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains—a rare treat for her, as there aren’t too many vineyards in the middle of London. Her visit reminded me how fortunate we are to live in this paradise of ultra-fresh produce, with grapes growing in wild profusion.

 

Springtime Walkabout

May Day Flower Festival, free tours of the UCSC Farm, and a nondairy chocolate indulgence