Healthy Family | Home Safety | Health and Wealth | Relationship Issues | Career Advice | Growing Family
Get the SixWise e-Newsletter FREE!
Google Web
Free Newsletter Subscription
Get the Web's Most trusted & Informative Health, Wealth, Safety & More Newsletter -- FREE!


Share Email to a Friend Print This

Papa Holua: Hawaii's Ancient and Insane Downhill Sport Poised for Comeback

To begin your papa holua ride, grip the papa
("sled") with your right hand. Run a few yards
to the launching point, grasp the sled with your left
hand, throw yourself forward with all your might,
fall flat on the sled face-forward, and enjoy your
ride that can reach velocities up to
50 mph down the hill!

Papa Holua is not the father of the hula hoop. It's the name of an ancient Hawaiian sport that literally means "to slide into the pit" in Hawaiian.

A favorite pastime and cultural icon of native Hawaiians for over 1,000 years, everyone in Hawaii did papa holua until about 200 years ago when missionaries came to the island and forced them to stop, calling it a "dangerous and barbaric" tradition.

What is so dangerous about papa holua?

Well first a warning: those of you with kids (either the young or grown-up variety) who are into skateboarding, snowboarding and other "extreme sports," do not let them get their hands on this article! Papa holua holds the same appeal as these extreme sports, though we'd stick it in the "insane sports" category.

In papa holua, participants rode a 12-foot long, 50-pound "sled" the width of a ski down a rocky slope. But that's not all -- riders would run a few steps with sled in hand, then dive chest-first onto the papa holua for their face-first ride down the mountain. Some would even ride standing up!

Professor Tom Stone of the University of Hawaii, who also happens to be an established surfer, is the current expert on this long-lost sport and is almost single-handedly trying to revive it. Said Stone, "It's like sledding on your stomach ... You're doing 40 miles per hour, just four inches off the ground."

Stone has already taught 250 students the unique art of how to build and ride papa holua, and has built more than 100 sleds himself. He believes the sleds were first used as tools to move tree logs, and then were adapted to be used in "a ritual by which Hawaiians put their lives in the hands of the gods."

That sounds like a rather accurate description.

Stone's ultimate goal? To encourage local Hawaiians to hold their own papa holua competitions once again, and then add in a touch of his own flare: a competition between a sled rider and a surfer in which, after a flag is dropped, a rider races down a mountain and a surfer rides a wave, both to a designated spot on the beach. The winner is the first one to make it to the spot first ... or at least in one piece.

If you're thinking of taking up this sport, perhaps you'd like to start with one slide at Kahikinui on Maui. It's 5,000 feet, or nearly a mile, long. In all honesty, though, highly recommends you do NOT try this at home -- or at work, or on your next vacation to Hawaii.

If you're itching for your own version of papa holua, you're better off grabbing your old trusty snow sled and heading off to that hill down the street. Then, if you're really daring, you may want to try it stomach-first, but you didn't hear that from us!


Surfer Magazine

The Honolulu Advertiser

To get more information about this and other highly important topics, sign up for your free subscription to our weekly "Be Safe, Live Long & Prosper" e-newsletter.

With every issue of the free newsletter, you’ll get access to the insights, products, services, and more that can truly improve your well-being, peace of mind, and therefore your life!

Share Email to a Friend Print This