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Certainly, Oceania, if not Polynesia, was the center of wave riding since ancient times and into the present.In ancient Hawaiian times "the construction of the few remaining papa he'e nalu (pa-pa HAY-ay NA-lu) -- the wave sliding boards of ancient Hawaiians -- still show sophisticated parabolic contours, demonstrating a high degree of development.He is also an avid bodysurfer and one of the founding fathers of the Sandy Beach Bodysurfing Championships in 1972, and was the head judge (and a competitor) until 1989. During the early 1900s, the term paepo'o was commonly used in Waikīkī, and it meant riding a wave with only the body.After World War II, this particular word took on an alternate definition, referring to bodysurfing with a small board. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.] identifies and describes the types of surfing that native Hawaiians did, one of which was pae po'o, or prone board riding.Photograph courtesy of Malcolm Gault-Williams, from the chapter, Wallace "Wally" Froiseth: Legendary Hot Curl Surfer, in Legendary Surfers: A Definitive History of Surfing's Culture and Heroes, By Malcolm Gault-Williams.Updated: 10 April 2005, accessed on the Internet on June 19, 2009.
The popular spelling used today, paipo, was coined by Hawaiian surfing legend Wally Froiseth, who, besides being an excellent surfer, was an exceptional paipo board rider who was famous for standing on his twin-fin board while riding big waves.Beaglehole (1967); as quoted in "Surfing, a History of the Ancient Hawaiian Sport," by Ben Finney and James D.Houston (1996, Pomgranate Artbooks, San Francisco). Forced to migrate into the vast region by the push of population and the pull of the horizon, the first Polynesians arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in the fourth century A. The Polynesians who made the arduous journey from Tahiti and the Marquesas to Hawai'i were necessarily exceptional watermen and women who brought a deep love and knowledge of the ocean with them.From 1956 to 1986, Froiseth made approximately 150 paipo boards, which he sold to friends and other surfers, putting a decal on each board to identify it as his product. by Froiseth." Froiseth sold some of his boards to surfers from California, which helped to introduce the word and its spelling outside of Hawai`i, and today paipo is the accepted term for wooden bodyboards.
No one before him, however, had ever spelled pae po, so without the benefit of seeing the word in print, Froiseth spelled it as he heard it, pai po. Additional note by John Clark: "Wally made his first Hawaiian Pai Po Board in December 1955, but he didn't like the way it rode.
The Polynesians who made it to Hawai'i also brought their customs with them, including playing in the surf on paipo (belly) boards.