Calif. city dedicates plaque honoring surfing princes from Hawaii
By J.M. Brown
Santa Cruz (Calif.) Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — It wasn't the brilliant sunshine or crashing waves that reminded Princess Kapiolani Kawananakoa of her native land as she sat at Santa Cruz's Lighthouse Point on Friday morning.
"What really reminds me of Hawaii is the warm feeling out here," she said. "Everyone is so nice."
Flanked by hundreds of Santa Cruz residents, Kawananakoa was the guest of honor at a ceremony unveiling a bronze plaque commemorating her grandfather and two other princes who introduced surfing to Santa Cruz, and the Americas as a whole, 125 years ago.
Amid cheers from surfing fans decked out in Hawaiian-print shirts, dignitaries wearing lei made of yellow plumeria dedicated the 27-by-27 inch plaque, which faces the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum at Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse. Celebrants said the tribute deepens ties between Santa Cruz and Hawaii.
"I am so emotional, I can't tell you," said Honolulu's Kristin Zambucka, a chronicler of the Hawaiian monarchy who first contacted Santa Cruz officials two years ago about honoring the three princes. "It is so touching. Today is an unreality."
Historian Geoffrey Dunn and a host of city officials and enthusiasts from the Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society worked to bring Zambucka's idea to life. Princess Kawananakoa's families in Hawaii and Italy, where she is the Marchesa Marignoli by marriage to an Italian nobleman, paid for the plaque, the brick base for which was fashioned by Santa Cruz artist Sean Monaghan and Tom Ralston of Ralston Concrete.
"This day is not about history, it's about us," Dunn said. "It's a day of mana. It's a day of spirit. It's a day of aloha."
Hawaiian native Kalae Miles, an entertainer now living in Santa Cruz, set the ceremony's reverent mood by offering up two ancestral chants, "Oli Aloha" and "Oli Alii." Afterward, he said, "I'm honored to be a part of it."
While on summer break from a San Mateo, Calif., military school. Princes David Kawananakoa, Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole and Edward Keliiahonui ordered 15-foot redwood surfboards from a downtown mill and took them out at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River in 1885.
A newspaper account of the times said the young men were "giving interesting exhibitions of surf-board swimming as practices in their native islands." Another report in 1896 said boys from Seabright were seen surfing in the Hawaiian style.
"We owe a lot to these three princes," said Mayor Mike Rotkin, noting the cottage industry that developed around surfing in Santa Cruz. "All the legal battles are over, and trademarks aside, this is Surf City."
A Santa Cruz memorabilia shop settled a dispute in 2008 with Southern California's Huntington Beach, which had trademarked the name Surf City USA several years earlier.
Although she hails from Huntington Beach, 50-year Santa Cruz resident Charlene Barnes said the Hawaiian royal family's acknowledgment of Santa Cruz's surfing culture is deeply meaningful.
"I came to bring my aloha spirit," said Barnes, who donned a white lei and red-and-white floral blouse to match the Hawaiian-inspired bandana worn by her Jack Russell service dog, April. "I brought my son here when he was 9 months old. He grew up surfing. We're native Californians, but we have the island spirit."