“A fair road leads across a barren a-a flow to Miloli‘i, the largest and best specimen of an exclusively Hawaiian village on the Island, which is seldom visited.”
“It is splendidly situated by a sand beach, the sea coming right up to the yard walls, and is inhabited by a rather large population of Hawaiians, who prosper through the fishing which is almost phenomenally good.”
“A fair trail leads south to Honomalino, where there are no houses, but a splendid sand beach, where turtle abound. The trail leads south, along the beach, to the Okoe landing, where there is only one house, and to Kapu‘a, used as a cattle shipping point, where there are two houses.”
“Just south of this is Ahole, where there is a perfect papa hōlua, about 400 to 500 feet long, appearing as if it had been built but yesterday.” (Kinney, 1913)
Hōlua are massively constructed ramps, made of stacked stone, that were used as tracks for wooden sleds by the ancient Hawaiians.
The flat slope was covered with grasses to make the narrow fragile sleds able to reach high rates of speed on their downward runs. It starts with a running platform along which the sledder raced before flopping down on the sled at the beginning of the slope down. (NPS)
Hōlua sledding was restricted to the chiefs. A track of rock, layered with earth and made slippery with grass, was made for tobogganing on a narrow sled.
Hōlua sledding was the most dangerous sport practiced in Hawai‘i. The rider lies prone on a sled the width of a ski and slides down a chute made of lava rock.
The sled or papa consisted of two narrow and highly polished runners (three inches apart,) from 7- to 18-feet in length, and from two to three inches deep. The papa hōlua (canoe sled) is a reflection of the double-hulled canoe.
The two runners were fastened together by a number of short pieces of woods varying in length from two to five inches, laid horizontally across the runners.
“Coasting down slopes… Sliding on specially constructed sleds was practiced only in Hawaii and New Zealand,” wrote historian Kenneth Emory. “The Maori sled, however, was quite different from the Hawaiian… One of the Hawaiian sleds, to be seen in [the] Bishop Museum, is the only complete ancient sled in existence.”
“The narrowness and the convergence of the runners toward the front should be noticed. Coasting on these sleds was a pastime confined to the chiefs and chieftesses.”
The Reverend Hiram Bingham provides a descriptive account of this sport: “In the presence of the multitude, the player takes in both hands, his long, very narrow and light built sled, made for this purpose alone, the curved ends of the runners being upward and forward, as he holds it, to begin the race.”
“Standing erect, at first, a little back from the head of the prepared slippery path, he runs a few rods to it, to acquire the greatest momentum, carrying his sled, then pitches himself, head foremost, down the declivity, dexterously throwing his body, full length, upon his vehicle, as on a surf board.”
“The sled, keeping its rail or grassway, courses with velocity down the steep, and passes off into the plain, bearing its proud, but prone and headlong rider, who scarcely values his neck more than the prize at stake.” (Bingham)
The Ahole Hōlua consists of a steeply sloping sliding ramp (about 200-feet long) and runway (75-feet long – high on the eastern or top end of the slide.)
An alignment of water-worn stones and a rise in height of approximately 1-foot marks the beginning of the slide itself. Aside from these water-worn stones, the rest of the slide surface and facing is constructed with aa stones of varying size.
The height of the slide varies to make a smooth steep slope. The first meter or so from the top is fairly flat; the next 100-feet are steeply sloping, at least 1:3. The next 50-feet form a very steep slope 5′:11′. The last 65-feet are again flat and the surfaces change to ‘ili‘ili and coral with only in small amounts of aa strewn about.
On the aa bluff to the north of the hōlua are large numbers of what appear to be the gallery terraces and platforms, walls, stepping stone trails, shelters and walled enclosures.
These are situated in such a manner as to present a good view of the slide and it is not improbable that these features were used for just that function.
The surface of the entire area between these features is covered with the ‘popcorn and peanuts’ of the day – opihi, cowrie, pipipi and conus together with kukui nut shells, animal bone and coconut fragments. (NPS)
This is one of the best preserved hōlua on Hawai‘i Island, arid within the entire state. Interesting and significant here is the presence of a number of platforms constructed of stone that are located alongside the hōlua. These were undoubtedly for the spectators who watched the sport.
A hōlua of this magnitude and elegance indicates the complexity of ancient Hawaiian culture wherein large labor forces could be marshalled to produce a luxury structure dedicated to a recreational use by the higher ranking Hawaiians.
The creation of a proper slide, with its required slope (much like that of a western ski jump), flatness of top, and proper length to ensure both sled speed and a deacceleration area, are indicative of the highly developed skills of the ancient Hawaiians in stonework engineering. (NPS)