Senior Editor

The Inertia

Surfing, as you likely know, just made its Olympic debut. Italo Ferreira and Carissa Moore took home the first gold medals, Ferreira representing Brazil and Moore representing the United States. If one were to ask Carissa Moore where she was from, she’d very likely say she was from Hawaii. It’s different in Hawaii — part of the United States, yes, but uniquely its own place with its own culture and traditions. And MOHO, a short animated film, questions why there wasn’t a Hawaiian surf team while pushing for one at the 2024 summer Olympics in Tahiti.

Since the 1960s, Hawai’i has been recognized as its own nation in professional and amateur surfing events around the world. “This distinction allowed competitors from Hawai‘i to compete under Hae Hawai‘i (the Hawaiian flag) and honor the birthplace of he‘enalu and surfingʻs ancestors,” says Dr. Cliff Kapono, the creator, writer, and director of MOHO and a professional surfer himself. (Kapono also earned doctorate in chemistry, in case you were wondering.) “In 2016, after decades of pushing by the International Surfing Association (ISA) – surfingʻs governing body – the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that surfing would debut at the 2020 Summer Olympics. In the process of the ISAʻs Olympic endeavor, however, a Hawai‘i Surf Team was not allowed to compete at the ISA World Games and the Olympic Games.”

Duke Paoa Kahanamoku advocated for surfing in the Olympics — in fact, it was he who expressed to the International Olympic Committee during the 1912 Olympic Summer Games in Stockholm, Sweden that surfing belongs in the Olympic Games. Part of his reasoning was likely the fact that he truly believed that surfing is something that can help create a kinder, calmer world for all of us. Dr. Kapono shares that sentiment. And although surfing is in the Olympics now, if Kahanamoku returned today, how would the native Hawaiian Olympic swimming champion and godfather of modern surfing feel about the absence of a Hawai‘i Surf Team at the 2020 Olympic Summer Games?


MOHO asks this question through the lens of a young, kanaka maoli boy named ‘Apo when the ‘uhane (spirit) of Paoa Kahanamoku returns to Waikīkī,” Dr. Kapono continued. “I think the initial inspiration for MOHO was the Olympics and the representation of Hawaiʻiʻs national pastime, surfing, on a global level. I feel like identity is a big part of my work – whether itʻs science, storytelling, or surfing – so naturally, the inspiration behind telling a story about Hawaiian identity and nationalism was second nature to how I think every day… We believe that everyone has the right to contribute to building a peaceful and better world through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind. We believe that the presence of a Hawai‘i Surf Team at the 2024 Summer Olympics will celebrate the ancestors of surfing while also elevating the future of our sport.”

Watch MOHO in its entirety here and sign a petition to allow a Hawaiian surf team to compete in the 2024 Olympics, here.



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