On Saturday, October 8 the Big Island of Hawaii will host the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championship. Nearly 2,000 competitors from across the planet will gather for what many consider to be the ultimate triathlon, consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike race and a 26.2 mile marathon. Though this event began in the late 1970’s, this sort of physical exhibition and competition is nothing new to the Hawaiian Islands.
For centuries, extreme “sports” were the norm for Hawaii’s warrior and chiefly classes. For example, it was said that a skilled Hawaiian runner could circumnavigate the Big Island in about 8 days (250 miles across rugged lava coastline). Warriors could travel down steep lava hills at up to 70mph on a holua sled. A visiting chief would be met with up to a dozen spears being hurled at him, requiring catching, dodging and deflecting all of them at once. During the makahiki season (Autumn), warriors would compete in many athletic events that included stone rolling, throwing spears and distance running. Even for normal commerce and communication, men could paddle over 100 miles over the open ocean to the other islands. Of course, the most recognized Hawaiian sport, surfing, was a dangerous and arduous competitive sport.
Probably the one historical figure that epitomized this “extreme” sportsmanship of the Hawaiian culture was Kamehameha the Great. As a young boy, he was known to carry a large round stone through the valleys of Kohala. When he was about 20 years old, he turned over the massive Naha Stone in Hilo, which weighs about 2 tons (the stone now sits in front of the public library in Hilo). His physical prowess was unmatched during his lifetime.
As a park ranger in the historical National Parks of the Big Island of Hawaii, it seems very fitting that every year the Ironman triathletes traverse the same rugged landscape and swim the same waters where Kamehameha and his fellow warriors and chiefs competed. The swim portion of the triathlon begins in front of Kamehameha’s Ahu`ena Heiau in Kailua-Kona (where he died in 1819). The bike portion of the race parallels the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, taking the competitors up to Kohala, the birthplace of Kamehameha and through Pu`ukohola Heiau National Historic Site, where Kamehameha began his conquest of the Islands in 1791. The marathon portion passes Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, where traditional extreme sports took place in the form of holua and surfing. In many ways, the Ironman competitors are retracing the footsteps of the ancient athletes that came before them.
So whether you are a triathlete or not, remember as the Ironman gets going that our modern competitions here in the Islands are a continuation of centuries of such activities. And also remember, you don’t have to be a triathlete to get into the Great Outdoors! Mahalo for stopping by today…Aloha!
It’s almost time for this year’s Hawaiian Cultural Festival at Pu`ukohola Heiau National Historic Site!
August 13-14, 2011
Mark your calendars for the 39th Annual Ho`oku`ikahi Establishment Day Hawaiian Cultural Festival at Pu`ukohola Heiau National Historic Site on the Big Island of Hawaii!
The public is invited to experience Royal Court ceremonies, traditional warrior exhibitions, cultural demonstrations, traditional crafts, music, games, double-hulled canoe rides, traditional food tasting and many more activities.
The Royal Court, Ho`okupu (Gift-Giving Ritual) and Sham battle will take place on Saturday, August 13 from 6:30am-10:00am.
Ever ride in a traditional double hulled canoe? Join us for free rides along the beautiful Kohala Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island.
NĀ KE‘ENA HANA (Cultural Workshops and Activities 10:30am-3:00pm Sat. & Sun.)
Hula Kāhiko (Ancient Hula), Lei Haku Ame Lei Wili (Ancient Lei Making), Hana Kapa Kuiki (Quilting), Ulana, Lauhala (Lauhala Weaving), ‘Ohe Hanu Ihu (Nose Flute), Kūkūweke La‘ī (Rain Cape), Hana ‘Upena Kiloi (Net Making), Ku‘i ‘Ai (Poi Pounding), Holo Wa‘a (Canoe Rides), Hana Hū (Spinning Tops)l, ‘Ohe Kāpala Ki‘i (Bamboo Stamp, Designs), Pahu (Drums), Ulana Lau Niu (Frond Plaiting), Kahili (Fly Brush), Nī‘au Pūlumi (Hawaiian Broom), Ipu (Gourd, making), Hana Pala‘ie (Loop and Ball Making), Makau (Fishhook), Kumu La‘au (Woodwork), Ku‘i, Wauke (Tapa Pounding), Awa (Traditional Drink)
The following are photographs were taken by Kai Markell at the August 14, 2010 ceremonies at the Bicentennial Ho`oku`ikahi Hawaiian Cultural Festival at Pu`ukohola Heiau National Historic Site and are used by permission.
We thought we’d share one of the most celebrated accounts in Hawaii’s modern history that occured between a courageous woman and the legendary goddess of the volcano, Pele.
Some of the most important events in Hawaiian history were undertaken by powerful women. In 1819, Queen Ka`ahumanu overthrew the age-old kapu system of rigid laws and for years to come exerted her influence on the successors of her late husband Kamehameha the Great. Later in the mid-1800’s, Queen Emma began the first hospital for her people, which still operates to this day as the Queen’s Medical Center. It is understandable that women like Ka`ahumanu and Emma would be held up as an example of greatness by the Hawaiian people, though their names remain little known to most outsiders. However, another Hawaiian woman gained worldwide notoriety because of her deeds.
In 1824, just a few years after the first Protestant missionaries had arrived, Chiefess Kapiolani marched down with many Hawaiian onlookers and stood defiantly at the edge of a rolling, churning lake of molten lava in what is now Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. For generations, Halema`uma`u was believed to be the home of the powerful, and often temperamental, goddess Pele.
As Kapiolani stood at the edge of this molten abyss, she declared the superiority of her new faith and (it is said) ate the sacred `ohelo berries without first giving some to goddess. Although she had been told by a kahuna (priest) of Pele that she would die, Kapiolani stood her ground and defied centuries of tradition, to the awe and amazement of the onlookers. Her act at Halema`uma`u was a defining moment that illustrates for us today the profound change that took place at that time in Hawai`i.
In a matter of just a few years, many of the traditional beliefs that had been held for centuries were tossed aside in exchange for new ideas from the West. Years after this event, artists and poets tried to capture this important moment, including the famous British poet Lord Alfred Tennyson, who penned a poem describing his feelings concerning this act by Kapiolani. He wrote,
When from the terrors of Nature a people have fashion’d and worship a Spirit of Evil
Blest be the Voice of the Teacher who calls to them,
“Set yourselves free!”
Noble the Saxon who hurled at his Idol a valorous weapon in olden England!
Great, and greater, and greatest of women, island heroine Kapiolani
Clomb the mountain, and flung the berries and dared the Goddess, and freed the people
A people believing that Peelè the Goddess would wallow in fiery riot and revel
Dance in a fountain of flame with her devils or shake with her thunders and shatter her island,
Rolling her anger
Thro’ blasted valley and flowing forest in blood-red cataracts down to the sea!
Long as the lava-light
Glares from the lava-take,
Dazing the starlight;
Long as the silvery vapor in daylight,
Over the mountain
Floats, will the glory of Kapiolani be mingled with either on Hawa-i-ee.
What said her Priesthood?
“Woe to this island if ever a woman should handle or gather the berries of Peelè
Accursed were she!
And woe to this island if ever a woman should climb to the dwelling of Peelè the Goddess!
Accursed were she!”
One from the Sunrise
Dawned on His people and slowly before him
Gods and Goddesses,
None but the terrible Peelè remaining as Kapiolani
Ascended her mountain,
Baffled her priesthood,
Broke the Taboo,
Dipt to the crater,
Called on the Power adored by the Christian and crying, “I dare her, let Peelè avenge herself!”
Into the flame-billows dashed the berries, and drove the demon from Hawa-i-ee.
We are sad to hear of Hawaiian artist and historian Herb Kawainui Kane’s death this week. He was a great friend to the National Parks in Hawaii. Whether in the form of artwork on wayside exhibits, brochures, multimedia, or in original artwork, Herb Kane’s passion and knowledge of Hawaii and her people will continue to be told through the incredibly rich artwork he has left behind. Herb Kane will be greatly missed. Aloha.
Visible from space: Hawaiian vog from Kilauea volcano, on the island of Hawaii, has been erupting continuously since 1983. This image, taken by the crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis (after completing the capture of the Hubble Space Telescope), shows the volcanic plumes from Kilauea rising up from Halemau Crater and along the coastline from lava flows entering the ocean from the East rift zone. The volcanic activity has created a blanket of volcanic fog, called vog that envelops the island. (Image Courtesy NASA)