Papa Holua

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - CLASSIFIEDS -

In no way re­lated to the hula hoop, the name of this an­cient sport lit­er­ally means ‘‘to slide into the pit’’ in Hawai­ian. A favourite pas­time and cul­tural icon of na­tive Hawai­ians for over 1000 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. But what is so dan­ger­ous about papa holua you ask? 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 hear about papa holua as it holds the same ap­peal as th­ese ex­treme sports. In papa holua, par­tic­i­pants rode a 12-foot long, 25kg ‘‘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 face­first ride down the moun­tain. Some rid­ers would even be crazy enough to ride stand­ing up. The sleds have been known to make it up to speeds of 65km per hour, a rather nerve rack­ing ride we would imag­ine, be­ing only 4 inches off the ground. There have been re­cent at­tempts to re­vive this dan­ger­ous sport, with a pro­fes­sor at the univer­sity of Hawaii teach­ing over 150 stu­dents the art of build­ing and rid­ing a papa holua and has built over 100 him­self. It is be­lieved the sleds were orig­i­nally used as tools to move tree logs and were then adapted to be used in a rit­ual where Hawai­ians put their lives in the hands of the gods. Lo­cal Hawai­ians are be­ing en­cour­aged to hold their own papa holua com­pe­ti­tions once again.

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