Ancient Hawaiians called their form of surfing "wave sliding," and everything from the selection of the tree from which the wood for the board would be taken, to the construction of the board, to the actual riding of the waves, was considered an essential aspect of the art to be practiced.
Three types of trees were typically used to make surfboards in ancient Hawaii: the koa, the 'ulu, and the wiliwli. A surfer would select his tree, dig it out of the ground himself, and fill the hole where it stood with fish as an offering to the gods. The tree was then turned over to a skilled craftsman, who was responsible for shaping it into a surfboard.
There were also three types of surfboards: the 'olo, which had a thick middle that gradually tapered off toward the ends; the kiko'o, a board that could be as long as 18-feet and took great skill to maneuver in the water; and the alaia, another long board (up to 9 feet) requiring great skill to master. These last two types of boards were usually reserved for the upper class, the chiefs and warriors, who were considered the most skilled surfers of their communities.
Surfing was a spiritual experience to the ancient Hawaiians, and surfers would be blessed by priests before entering the ocean. Surfers would also appeal to priests (known as kahunas in the language of the Hawaiians) to bless the surf and pray for some good waves to ride.