Tom Stone

Native Hawaiian


As one of the keepers of knowledge for the hōlua and papa he'e nalu, Tom Stone works with Native Hawaiian plant material to carve and shape these Native Hawaiian things that are used as an extreme sport. Once referred to as relics, Stone argues that these things are not of the past, but are used in present time IF a native learns and has the desire to use them. The practice of hōlua nearly went extinct, but Stone brought it back into practice by forging a path for Native Hawaiians to learn the techniques of those before us. As foreigners have bought lands that once held slides, and overgrowth of invasive plants have threatened the eco-system and terrains of our once indigenous lands, Stone has fought to bring these practices to light with the problems we face as indigenous people being a present conversation.

The wood and lashing that he uses to create these items are usually Native Hawaiian plants, however in modern times, he has dabbled in using invasive plants to see how they would fair. Although traditional Native Hawaiian woods are preferred due to the threat of extinction, he has found plant material that is significantly close to what traditional plants were used for.

Without the native plants, mea (things) are not as traditional. For instance, the flex of the ohia wood is different from the flex of the imported and invasive albizia. However, if we can find some sort of use for the albizia (floats well), then it is a plant material that doesn't go to waste. Due to his extensive knowledge of Native Plants, he can use his knowledge and what is needed, and find the right material that fits that need.

Pohaku was hanai at a young age, which is a common practice of the older Hawaiian people. Adoption was a way of passing on knowledge from one family member to the next. An uncle could teach you how to fish, an aunt could teach you how to pick ulu, and a parent might teach you how to cook. Family units were not singular. With this, Pohaku has been raised on every island in the Hawaiian chain making his network extremely expansive. The communities he serves are beyond just one island or one community. In addition, his ability to utilize media has taken his knowledge internationally. His curriculum has also given students access in academia that has helped shaped the history of Native Hawaiian extreme sports. His reach with the non-profit shows data of over 100,000 students. And knowing Pohaku, his reach is not done. With an award of this size, he will be able to document more media and share that with a larger audience. His ability to be liked within his own Native community, while having an impact and teaching those who are in the surfing community has combined history, mainstream sports, and the protection of indigenous knowledge to create programming and opportunity that keep our traditions alive.

In addition to his community and reach, he has also through his research discovered that most of these sports were dominated by women. Mo'olelo (stories) of Pele and Poliahu, and archeological discoveries show that women were the masters of hōlua and papa he'e nalu. Since his discovery, he has encouraged a shift in the industry of extreme sports such as surfing to encourage more women to be at the forefront and have equal if not additional rights to these sports. It is because of Tom Stone that female athlete in the Surfing world are fairly represented and have a standard of pay and expectations that are equal to men.

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