As a little kid, we’d go down to Waikiki Beach and visit my grandmother at the Uluniu Swimming Club.
Back in those times, it seemed like it was a place only grandmothers went; from my sub-four-foot perspective, the place was packed with old ladies.
It figures, Uluniu was originally founded as the Women’s Auxiliary of the Outrigger Canoe Club.
The facility was right on Waikiki Beach between the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the Moana Hotel, next door to the old location of the Outrigger Canoe Club.
I remember the hau-covered trellised walkway into the club.
Shortly following the organization of the Outrigger Canoe Club in 1908, wives of members demanded facilities for women at the Club so they, too, could enjoy the ocean waters in front of the Club.
Uluniu started in Waikiki in 1909; it was located in a grove called Helumoa (they say there were 10,000 coconut trees; in 1795, King Kamehameha I established a home in the Helumoa coconut grove.)
The Women’s Auxiliary provided women and girls with a recreational environment, away from the men’s club.
In 1914 Uluniu was the first women’s club to be affiliated with the Amateur Athletic Union when Ellen Fullard-Leo became the first woman member of the AAU.
The Uluniu was asked to design “sensible bathing costumes” for women (short sleeves and legs). These bathing suits not only were used in Hawaii, they became the standard for all National AAU competition. (Uluniu)
In 1925, the Club separated from the Outrigger and became the Uluniu Women’s Swimming Club, accepted male spouses as non-voting members, and sponsored swimming programs, meets and competitions with trophies sought by local high schools.
The Swanzy Cup, named for Julie Judd Swanzy, the first club president, was given to individuals, mostly for high school swimmers.
The Uluniu Bowl trophy was awarded to teams, and was won so many times by the Punahou School team that the Club has given it on permanent loan to the school.
“Our club stands for something valuable and solid, not only in its direct influence on the beach but indirectly on the community at large.”
“The club offers a chance to use the beach here to our members and their children and for the older members without children, there is always this lovely shaded lanai with a view out over the ocean and enjoyment in the late afternoon.” (Castle; OCC)
On October 9, 1939, a new clubhouse was opened. Previously the clubhouse was located between the OCC and the Moana Hotel; it was later moved Waikiki of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and remodeled.
In 1965, the Club changed its name for the third time to the Uluniu Swimming Club and admitted men as voting members. This was in preparation for the loss of the Waikiki lease, when both Outrigger and Uluniu had to leave their Waikiki properties.
The club no longer has a place at Waikiki; its last day on Waikiki Beach was June 26, 1968.
In the 1970s, the club purchased the present clubhouse property in Lāʻie, overlooking a large coconut palm-lined lawn extending to the beachfront.
Members and their guests can stay at the clubhouse, “Kaiwao” (literally, “inland of the sea;”) it’s located just past the Polynesian Cultural Center.
It’s actually a beach house used by members as an overnight-retreat. With about 100 members in the club, members share responsibility of management and care for the house.
In 2008, about five-decades after first visiting Uluniu as a little kid, I joined the Uluniu Swimming Club; we enjoy our retreats to the beach house.