Haoles, Take Note

This has everything to do with surfing HawaiiIllustration by Noa Emberson

ON THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS, THE MORES OF CONDUCT ARE MANY AND VARIED. DO NOT WEAR SHOES IN A HOUSE. Do not bring sand in a house. Do not stare unnecessarily at locals. Do not paddle for the same wave a local is paddling for because no, he will not miss it. Punishment for transgression is swift and harsh. It is three times as swift and four times as harsh if the transgressor happens to be a haole.

The exact origin of the word “haole” [pronounced HOW-lee] is lost in the mists of time. Some say its literal translation is “no breath,” referring to people who were unfamiliar with the Polynesian greeting of touching noses and inhaling each other’s breath. Others insist it means “robber” or “lazy.” Whether “no breath,” “robber” or “lazy,” any surfer who has been to the Hawaiian Islands assumes that, today, it simply means “Caucasian.” And not in a nice way.

It is true that Caucasians from Europe and the United States were responsible for many of the ills perpetrated on the Hawaiian land and people. And whether they know this, or whether they simply do not want to cause unnecessary trouble, the Caucasian surfer accepts the angry “Eh, beat it, haole!” yells from locals without consideration. The Caucasian surfer knows to tread lightly and keep his head far down.

THIS HAOLE PARADIGM, THOUGH, HAS A GLARING EXCEPTION. THREE, ACTUALLY. THEY ARE TALL AND GANGLY WITH EYES AS BLUE AS SAPPHIRES, LIPS AS RED AS RUBIES, HAIR AS WHITE AS SNOW AND AS STRAIGHT AS FLAX. They smile, broadly, at everything. Their voices are the Southern California beach stereotype. Their first names, Dane, Pat and Tanner, belong on the marquee of a San Diego dentistry practice. Their last name, Gudauskas, is from Lithuania, a country where 98.7 percent of the people are white.

The Gudauskas brothers are so haole that they make my tan, dishwater blonde, Anglo-German self appear downright soulful. They are the haoleist haoles on the planet. They are so haole that when surf judges screw one of them out of a deserved score they all get together and, no, not punch, no, not choke out, no, not yell. They get together and toilet paper the judges’ house. Toilet paper. The color of white suburban youth. And yet I have witnessed Dane stand among the biggest, angriest angriest Hawaiians and be accepted like he was one of them. I have seen Pat throw shakas and give hugs to Hawaiians I would not be able to look at. I have seen Tanner be hooted into Pipeline bombs and applauded by the locals when he shoots out. How in the world? Their haoleness should be an affront to everything Hawaiian. It should, regularly, be beaten off their pristine faces.

Curiosity at how they are even allowed to set foot on a Hawaiian Airlines flight has chewed at me for years. Finally, I could take it no more and I asked Dane. “Fffaaaa…” he let out a Southern California beach stereotype breath of air “…YOU KNOW, LOOK AT US. WE NEVER TRY TO BE ANYTHING ELSE. THERE IS OBVIOUSLY NO HIDING WHAT WE ARE. WE JUST GO AND ACT LIKE OURSELVES.”

“But how?” I pressed. “What is your mindset?”

“Ssshhhiiii…” he let out a Southern California beach stereotype breath of air “…every year my brothers and I go we are so thankful. Our whole approach is to give everything and take nothing. There is something about Hawaii that makes everything very real, whether it is the people or the waves, that can break even the strongest guy. It is just…real. And so we enjoy every moment. When we are sitting, looking over the ledge of a bomb and somebody shouts ‘go,’ we go, because that is what we are here to do, you know? WE ARE JUST VERY, VERY APPRECIATIVE.”

His answer could sound canned except it is not. The Gudauskases are some of the realest people I have ever met. They are, exactly, what they are and try to be nothing else. True, their whiteness is blinding. It is offensive even to me. But maybe whiteness is not, strictly, haole. Maybe shifty, pretentious, two-faced behavior is haole. Maybe an entitled attitude is haole. Maybe trying to act like something you are not is haole. Maybe. We will never know because, again, the exact origin of the word is lost in the mists of time.

Whatever the case, we will always have Dane, Pat and Tanner Gudauskas cruisin’ the islands, gettin’ classic, probably listening to Lawrence Welk records and not getting punched. —Chas Smith