‘Surfing & Society’ is an H-designated course that will deeply explore the history, politics, and development of surfing in America, and beyond. During our first several class meetings, our course has focused on the development and early history of surfing, and for your first Blogpost of the semester you will be asked to do a few (relatively) simple things to get you thinking about the assigned reading for Tuesday, February 2, and to explore certain ways in which it connects up to what we did in the first week of class. For this initial trial run, there are three options for you to choose from, and you should choose TWO of these prompts and respond to them (with your writing amounting to at least two robust paragraphs overall):
1) One of the very first things we did on our first day together was define and discuss “the stoke.” For this option, you should apply your ideas about “the stoke” to one of our recent readings. It would certainly be sensible to articulate how “the stoke” is seen, articulated, and examined in one of the literary/historical accounts we have read so far (by Captain Cook, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, and Jack London). But if you would like to apply this premise to a historical event or colonial topic mentioned in ‘The World in the Curl’ instead, that would be totally fine. Whatever text or topic you wish to discuss, you should explain where and how “the stoke” is seen, and why this particular reference serves as an important and illuminating example of the early history of surfing.
2) The four historical/literary texts listed above (by Cook, Melville, Twain, and London) are fun and quirky and provide an interesting window into the premodern world of surfing. But there is a darkness lurking beneath the surface when it is realized that they are also products of colonialist expansion and exploitation in Hawaii, and the Polynesian islands nearby. For this option, then, you should choose one of these texts and consider it as a kind of political document, a text about war and peace, kingship and rule, imperialism, xenophobic hatred, and so on. To address these issues, your response should focus on a particular passage where issues of power and authority are subtly at issue. How does your chosen passage bring to the page such notions as violence, religion, hatred, justice, misunderstanding, authority, and/or negotiation? Place the passage specifically within the colonial context of the day, consider its meaning and significance, and by all means feel free to offer some thoughts about what YOU think about the topic, text, and theme in question.
3) An important intellectual skill is comparison, and in fact one of the things we will do frequently in class is compare ideas, sources, places, and people from the broad culture and history of surfing. So for the third and final option for this Blogpost, you might do some comparing and contrasting and see what comes of it. For example, you might compare and contrast such things as: Christian missionaries vs. Hawaiian religious leaders; native surfers vs. the white settler population; the morals of Polynesians vs. the morals of tourists; the US government vs. Hawaiian kings; surfing in Hawaii in the early twentieth century vs. surfing in California and other mainland locales; and/or premodern surf techniques and ideals vs. the “modern” notions of the sport that arose in the United States. Whatever topics or ideas you choose to compare, your paragraph should articulate some of the notable similarities and differences but, more to the point, what is learned through the comparison. What does your comparison reveal about early surfers and the rise, “death,” and rebirth of surfing?
Thanks for your efforts, gang – I’m looking forward to seeing what you all come up with for this first Blogpost of the semester!!