From the waters off the shore of Kailua-Kona, various he’e hōlua tracks can be seen. The slide at Keauhou is the largest and best preserved in the archipelago.
He’e hōlua, also known as ‘land sledding’ or ‘sled surfing’ is a popular sport that was practised by the Ai’i, the Hawaiian ruling class. The hōlua slide was made of rocks, covered in fresh dirt and reeds, and lubricated with kukui (candlenut oil). Riders would then slide down the slope on a papa hōlua (a long, narrow sled) made of wood and palm fronds from local trees. The sleds would reach speeds of almost 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph) and some of the tracks were over a kilometre (0.62 miles) long.
The sport was usually played during Makahiki, the season of the ancient Hawaiian New Year festival. The race was said to resemble the lava flowing down the mountainous terrain and was seen as a way of worshipping the goddess Pele.
British missionaries banned the practise of the sport and the last documented competition was in 1825. Today the sport is being revived by Tom “Pohaku” Stone, a Hawaiian native, surfer and lecturer of cultural studies at the University of Hawaii, Manoa.