Ancient Hawaiian Lava Sledding- Kevin

Papa Holua was a cultural ritual and favorite sport for the ancient Hawaiians for over 1,000 years. It translates into “to slide into the pit.” It ended in the 1800s when missionaries got to the island and forced them to stop because they thought it was a dangerous and barbaric tradition. It was also called lava sledding

It was similar to surfing but on rock and with a wooden sled. They would start running down a steep rocky hill and dive head first on to the sled or rode standing up. They ride down lava rock that sometimes would be padded with a thin layer of grass.

The Holua sleds were 12 feet long, 6 inches wide and weighed about 50 pounds. It was made of wood and had runners down it. There were handrails at the top and crosspieces to balance on. They were capable of reaching over 50 mph and  people sled 100s of miles to the bottom of a mountain.


This cultural tradition had to do with the worshiping of their goddess of fire, Pele. They honored her and worshiped her by riding down the volcano. They also held rituals and competitions for speed and distance.

The christian missionaries stopped it in the 1800s, and it wasn’t known to be done until around the late 1900s. The sleds are being built again with the same design as before and it is becoming a popular sport again. They are trying to hold the first lava sledding competition since 1825.

This sport was created from the idea of surfing on land. Surfing was around a long time before the lava sledding. The first people to stand on a wooden board in the Pacific Ocean are thought to do so before 400 AD. Petroglyphs of surfers were found on lava rock which proves its been around for a long time. Early surfboards were made of wood and couldn’t be used for too long. It has been around for thousands of years and led to later the invention of later sports such as snowboarding and skateboarding.

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