A "come home" moment!
Surfing’s grand Olympic debut is now very much behind us but the impact of the historic day is still reverberating through hearts and minds. Italo Ferreira, plucky Brazilian all-star, won gold in the men’s division and Carissa Moore, Hawaiian-American, won gold in the women’s.
The Associated Press had made news ahead of the games by laying bare to our Sport of Kings, declaring it was culturally appropriated by California whites and deeply unchill. Bill Maher, days later, blasted the AP for pushing its “woke Olympics,” while singling the surfing coverage out as deeply unsettling, going so far as to doubt that it had been appropriated from Hawaiians because Hawaiians likely did not even invent surfing, saying, “How do we know that they were the first to stand on a board on water? It seems like its something that any person near any ocean would eventually do.”
The AP, undaunted, is now reporting that surfing has officially been re-appropriated from the appropriators by Hawaii, due Moore’s win.
Moore has now become a realization of Kahanamoku’s dream, at once the symbol of the sport’s very best and a validating force for an Indigenous community that still struggles with its complex history.
“It’s a reclaiming of that sport for our native community,” said Kūhiō Lewis, president of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, which convenes the largest annual gathering of Native Hawaiians.
Lewis said all the locals he knew were texting each other during the competition, glued to the TV and elated, even relieved, by Moore’s “surreal” win. He called it a “come to home moment” for a community that may never reconcile its dispossession.
After centuries of colonization by various European settlers, Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1898 after the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy by U.S.-backed forces in 1893.
“At times, we’re an invisible people. We’re lumped in to other ethnic groups. Our sport is being defined by other groups. This puts it into perspective,” Lewis said. “It feels like an emerging of a people, of a native community that has been invisible to many.”
Is cranky ol’ Bill Maher going to take another swing?
Moore as the story develops.