Hawaiian Sledge Sliding

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Sledge Sliding

26. Hee-ho-lu-a - Sledge Sliding

[Page 214] Two persons, stretched at full length, slide together head-first down hill on a smooth board (ho-lu-a). Several often compete, the one down first winning a prize. My informants state that the game is no longer practiced.

Of this pastime Ellis1 says:

"The ho-lu-a has for many generations been a popular amusement throughout the Sandwich Islands, and is still practiced in several places. The pa-pa or sledge is composed of two narrow runners, from [Page 215] 7 to 12 or 18 feet long, two or three inches deep, highly polished, and at the foremost end tapering off from the under side to a point at the upper edge. There two runners are fastened together by a number of short pieces of wood laid horizontally across. To the upper edge of these short pieces two long, tough sticks are fastened, extending the whole length of the cross-pieces and about 5 or 6 inches apart. Sometimes a narrow piece of matting is fastened over the whole upper surface, except three or four feet at the foremost end, though in general only a small part for the breast to rest on is covered. At the foremost end there is a space of about two inches between the runners, but they widen gradually towards the hinder part, where they are distant from each other 4 or 5 inches. The person about to slide grasps the small side-stick firmly with his right hand, somewhere about the middle, runs a few yards to the brow of the hill, or starting place, where he grasps it with his left hand, and at the same time, with all his strength throwing himself forward, falls flat upon it, and slides down the hill, his hands retaining their hold of the side-sticks, and his feet being fixed against the hindermost cross-piece of the sledge. Much practice and address are necessary, to assume and keep an even balance on so narrow a vehicle, yet a man accustomed to the sport will throw himself with velocity and apparent ease a hundred and fifty or two hundred yards down the side of a gradually sloping hill."

Brigham2 states that:

"the ho-lu-a, or track, was built with great care on a hill-side, and the remains of one are plainly seen on the hill, mau-ka, of the Museum. Constructed of stone when a hollow in the track needed filling, the ho-lu-a was covered with earth well beaten down, and dry grass was spread over all, and a very slippery surface resulted. The sled, pa-pa ho-lu-a, was made of ma-ma-me (Erythrina crysophylla) or of u-hi-u-hi (Caesalpinia kauaiensis). Two long runners resembling skate irons were bound firmly to the upper stage 2 1/2 inches apart from the centers, the whole sled being some 11 1/4 feet long. This pa-pa was carefully oiled with ku-kui oil, and the rider ran with the sled to gather impulse, and then threw himself headlong down the course. This was an eminently aristocratic game."


Two sledges are preserved in the Bishop Museum; one of which (Plate XIa) is said to have belonged to the hero Lonoikamakahiki. The other (Cat. No. 321) consists of the runners only.

[Page 216]It is related that the goddess Pele enjoyed this game and frequently engaged in it. Ellis3 relates the story of the contest of the goddess with Kahavari, chief of Puna, in which she drove him from the island by a stream of lava.

1. Vol. IV, p. 299. 2. Preliminary Catalogue, part II, p. 56. 3. Vol. IV, p. 300.

Last update February 3, 2010