Mae's Real Stories

Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa and anyone else who would like to be here

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Old Hawaiian Surfing Stories

Riding on a surfboard is fun for a lot of people, especially in Hawaii. The shore and the waves often allow someone with a long surfboard to paddle out, lying on his stomach on his board, and then to "catch a wave" -- that is, to stand up and ride the wave in towards the shore as it is breaking. This photo from the 100-year-old book of Hawaiian tales shows a woman and a man on their surfboards. First only Hawaiians knew about surfing, but now it's popular at beaches all over the world, as long as there are some big waves to catch.

The ancient Hawaiians not only invented surfing, they also invented sled-like boards that allowed them to ride down the slippery, hard lava mountain that they believed the goddess Pele had created. Once long ago, some chiefs and other important men were racing their lava sleds, called holua sleds, down the lava. A woman they didn't know came to their sledding contest. She asked a chief if she could borrow his holua sled. Of course he said: "No way, you aren't my wife, you can't ride my sled."

Well, next thing the chief knew, the stranger looked very different. Her eyes glowed as red as fire. She took a sled from someone and started to ride down the sloping lava behind him. The chief knew he had made a big mistake to be rude to a woman he didn't know: it might be Pele. And this was Pele.

As Pele rode down the lava on the holua sled, the chiefs and their families saw red-hot lava start to gush out of the ground. Pretty soon, Pele was speeding downhill on flowing hot lava. The wooden sled began to smoke. Riding in front of her, the chief said goodbye to his wife as he sledded by as fast as he could, trying to get away from the hot lava.

In this story, Pele didn't get to hurt anyone, even though she was very mad and tried to engulf the chiefs in lava. This time the chief slid down the lava so fast that he reached the ocean before Pele could catch him. Some other gods must have been helping him.

When he reached the waves, he started surfing. The people from the chief's tribe were waiting in the waves in a big outrigger canoe, and he jumped aboard. The men and women all paddled fast, and they all got away from Pele. They paddled to Maui, the next island, and never dared to come back to the Big Island where Pele can make hot lava.

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