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Ku’emanu Heiau- Pray for Surf

Ku'emanu heiau and waves breaking at Kahaluu Bay in Kona, HawaiiIn ancient Hawaii, the Hawaiians created temples known as Heiau’s (hey-ow) which were used for praying.

Each Heiau was created to pray for something different. Some were used to pray for rain, or a healthy harvest, some were even used to conduct human sacrifice. The Ku’emanu heiau, located on the North end of Kahaluu Bay, a popular surfing and snorkeling spot in Kona, Hawaii, was used by the Hawaiians to pray for good surf conditions. Hawaiians would offer a giving of some kind such as fish or a lei and pray for waves.

Kahaluu Bay has always been a popular surfing spot on Hawaii island since the days of the ancient Hawaiians. It was considered an honor to surf there and the waves were usually reserved for the Ali’i or royalty. The heiau was used as an area to view the waves of Kahaluu Bay. There is also a freshwater pond next to the heiau were it is believed that the Ali’i would bathe or wash off after surfing.

Today, the heiau still remains as Hawaii’s only surfing heiau. A plaque has been erected and can be viewed by the public today. It reads;

Plaque telling the story of the Ku'emanu heiau

A plaque stands in front of the Ku’emanu Heiau at Kahaluu Bay

In the past, Hawaiian religious practices included the worship of many gods, both through individual and family rituals at small shrines and through larger community ceremonies at heiau (temples) such as this one. In 1819, King Kamehameha II renounced the traditional Hawaiian religion and the wooden god images, thatched houses and other perishable structures that once stood on the stone heiau foundations were destroyed or allowed to fall into ruin and decay. What we call heiau today are the foundations of the temples themselves.

Prehistorically, the Kahalu’u area supported a large population, including high ranking chiefs. Many of the once numerous heiau and other archaeological sites left behind by the ancient Hawaiians are being lost to the rapid growth and development that Hawaii has seen during this century. Ku’emanu Heiau, said to have been used to pray for good surfing conditions, has been preserved by the County of Hawaii. Ku’emanu was recently repaired and portions of the walls you see have been reconstructed.

It is very important that you do not stand or walk on the rock walls of the heiau as it is a very sacred and important cultural site that must be preserved for many years to come.


1 Response to "Ku’emanu Heiau- Pray for Surf"

  1. Sarah Perkins says:

    We came to the Big Island last year and wanted to try surfing for the first time but the waves were flat. I guess we should have went here to pray for better conditions, hahaha. Great article!

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