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Mauloa was completed, in 1993, by Clayton Bertelmann, Tava Taupu, and many others, under the guidance of Papa Mau. She was created and birthed in the customary and ceremonial practice of kālai waʻa. The purpose of this was to prepare these men to carry on this kūleana and receive the blessing from kūpuna to build the voyaging canoe Makaliʻi. Mauloa is a four man outrigger fishing canoe made out of all natural materials.

The building of Mauloa began with searching for a koa tree in the upland regions of Keauhou Forest. This was one of the few places koa trees were still found that were large enough for canoe making. The koa log traveled on Honaunau after the ceremonial protocols to fell the tree. Mauloa was carved using only customary tools, koʻi (adze), coral and stone abraders, pitch made from kukui and ʻulu sap, ʻaha (coconut sennit rope), and other native materials. 

manamana art-pomai_edit

Hokule'a Cowboy Crew

In May of 1990 the search for a tree that could be used to build a traditional canoe was started in the Keauhou forest of Kaʻū. At the time, PVS was trying to build Hawaiʻi Loa from native Koa trees, but could not find any big enough to use. While Hawaiʻi Loa’s logs ended up coming from Alaska, the Bishop Museum and a group of Hawaiian voyagers known as the “Hōkūle’a Cowboy Crew” continued their search for a log that could build a canoe. 


In 1991, after a year of searching, the crew found the tree that would become Mauloa. The men marked the tree in a perimeter of ʻaha (sennit) and ti-leaf, setting the kapu space. The boundaries set, the Hōkūle’a Cowboy Crew set about to prepare for the tree’s sacrifice to become a canoe.

Koa Tree Ceremony

Kahu Kealiʻi Tauʻa and Kahu Charlie Ka’upu led the ceremony to fell the Koa tree that would become Mauloa. The men conducted pule in the form of chants, blessed their koʻi (adze), and went about felling the tree in a week’s time under the instruction of Papa Mau Piailug. ʻAwa was offered and the men committed the tree to the purpose of a canoe. The image features the men in front of the felled tree in the forest.


The name gifted these men is Nā Kālai Waʻa which translated means, “the canoe carvers”. All 23 men and their families spent time in the process of searching for the logs that were intended to become Hawaiʻi Loa and then on to the eventual process that would birth Mauloa. These men and their families are the keepers of the story and memories. 


Hālau Wa'a Pu'uhonua
'o Honaunau & Nā Kāla'i Wa'a

The Mauloa log was transported from the Keauhou forest in Kaʻū to the hālau waʻa (canoe shed) at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Park in Hōnaunau, South Kona. The kapu space was maintained in the hale, where only men were allowed to enter to work on Mauloa, and traditional clothing was highly encouraged. 

Nā Ao Koa ʻo Puʻukohola served as kiaʻi and the keepers of the ceremony. Hālau Kealaonamaupua was called in by kupuna to document and record the stories that were unfolding in real time.

Mauloa was built to ensure that another generation of Hawaiian men would know the skill of searching for and finding the appropriate tree in the forest that would allow for the art of traditional canoe carving to continue. This intention of NHCAP meant that skills of various intelligences would be introduced to these men and that they would collectively learn as a whole, the multiple layers of canoe skill and building. This meant that the training for Nā Kālai Waʻa was essential. They came together twice month from throughout Hawaiʻi to Hawaiʻi moku to make their own tools, to learn the natural resources needed to aid in the the pratice, and to “become pili”  with the the kanaka they were learning from.


The spirit of Mauloa became as familiar to them as the backs of their hands. Papa Mau taught them the value of both the stone and metal adze blades, the timing of when to use them, and the effects that would come through when used for the necessary purpose. Both stone and metal blades were used to carve Mauloa into existence, with each stroke. 

manamana art-pomai_edit

Native Materials

All the parts of Mauloa were made from natural fibers and materials native to Hawaiʻi Island. The Kālai Waʻa were taught the process from sourcing the materials in the local environments, processing the material, and finishing with a product that was strong enough to sail with. This was the process with the rope used to lash Mauloa together. The green coconuts were collected, the husk was separated from the nut and then soaked in a pond near the Hālau Waʻa at Hōnaunau.


After soaking for a determined amount of time the husks were taken out, cleaned to just fiber, sorted, and dried in the sun. This coconut husk fiber was then rolled carefully between the palm and thigh to make the ʻaha, or sennet that is used to lash the parts of Mauloa together, and to rig her sails. 


The parts of Mauloa were lashed together and final preparations were made using various flora resources to bring color to the hull, to bug seal Mauloa, and make Mauloa water tight. Abrasion stones and shark skin were used to sand and polish her hull and parts. ʻUlu sap was collected to caulk the lashings. Maʻi stain was prepared and used to debug and to bring color to the canoe. Kukui oil was prepared and mulitiple layers were applied on thick to protect all the wooden parts of Mauloa and act as a water repellent seal.


Looking back, when the log entered the Halau Waʻa at Puʻuhonua o Honaunau, it was put in with the poʻo of the log facing mauka and the hiʻu of the log, i kai. Once a log entered the hālau waʻa, that log was preparing to leave as a canoe. 



In the Nā Kālai Waʻa tradition, every canoe is born. The birth of a canoe is no different from the birth of a child. The whole village comes together to prepare. 

While the process of Kālai Waʻa (canoe carving) was predominantly a male activity, all genders were very much involved in the preparation for the birth of a canoe. As the launch date came into view, families of the kālai waʻa would gather at Honaunau over the weekends from all islands. They watched the men in their work, observed Papa Mauʻs mastery, assisted where needed, spent time in the kai, and provided sustenance as they worked. Na Ao Koa, Halau Kealalonamaupua along with members of the DOE kupuna program would also gather to prepare for future ceremony and document the becoming of Mauloa through oli and hula that would commemorate the canoe’s emergence into this world, and seal the kālai waʻa into a bond of family.


The men prepared the ceremonial foods and ʻawa dedicating each item to a specific function in the ceremony. Finally, all the preparations had been made for Mauloa. The individuals had been cleansed, the tools had been consecrated.


On a warm quiet morning in May 1993, the men, who had walked the path of their ancestors, gathered to celebrate their learnings. The prepared ʻawa was offered one cup at a time to each man. Their testimonies were shared in that intimate circle with singular intent. Men took on the mantle of Kālai Waʻa, canoe carver, in the traditional fashion, at that ceremony with the birth of Mauloa.

E Ola Mauloa 

Ia Waʻa Nui, Ia Waʻa Kialoa…30 years ago, in 1993, our first canoe Mauloa was launched at Keoneʻeleʻele, Hōnaunau. She was lifted by the many hands present, physically and those in the realms of our ancestors. She was light as she emerged from Hālau Waʻa facing ma uka, and was brought around and introduced to the ocean for the first time. Once the ceremonies were complete, she touched water and her sails filled with the wind of Hōnaunau. 

Hānau ʻO Mauloa, he waʻa. Mauloa was born, a canoe.



Celebrate 30 Years
E Ola Mauloa


Educational Resources


Mauloa Current Projects

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