Getting Stoned: Lava Sledding on Hawaii

If surfing the waves isn’t enough of a thrill, try “he’e holua,” or Hawaiian Lava Sledding. This 2,000-year-old tradition started with barreling down grassy slopes on tea leaves and banana stumps. Today, it’s evolved to riding 4″ high, 6″ wide, 12′ long hardwood Papaholua sleds that weigh about 50 pounds down man-made courses of hardened lava rock sprinkled with grass at speeds up to 70 mph!

One of the Big Island’s best-known sledders is Tom “Pohaku” Stone, owner of the Hawaiian Boarding Company. He says, “It looks like you’re riding just fluid lava. It’s death-defying.. but it’s a lot of fun.” Stone is now a community college professor who leads classes on sled building and riding. He first heard about the sport from his grandfather’s stories, who told Tom about Tahiti and New Zealand lava sledders.

Stone builds sleds, too, charging up to $3,000. The sleds are carved from Kauila or Ohia native trees and are hand-lashed with coconut fiber.

He has discovered 57 rock slides on Oahu, the Big Island, and a few others. His goal is to complete a mile-lock rock slide and hold the first event on Hawaii in over a century.

Find out more: The Hawaiian Boarding Company.

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