Makahiki games to be celebrated at ESPN 1420 Sports Festival

In ancient Hawai‘i, the appearance of the constellation known as Makali‘i would signify the start of Makahiki season.

It was a time when warfare and most day-to-day work was replaced with celebration, games, and sport.

Centuries later, Kamehameha Schools graduate and World Surf League rookie Ezekiel Lau is perpetuating the tradition. Lau is preparing for his second annual Hawaiian cultural day in association with the Triple Crown of Surfing this winter.

Until then, ESPN 1420 will feature a Makahiki Games area at its sports festival this Saturday at the Neal S. Blaisdell Exhibition Hall.

On Tuesday morning, KHON2 Sports was invited to join ESPN’s Gary Dickman, Lau, and Kamehameha Schools for a crash course.

“I just hope that everyone’s going to come out to that, and it’s a little eye-opener,” Lau said. “Give them a sneak peek preview of our culture and just show that we’re proud and we love to practice, and it’s just like any other sport. This is where our people originated playing and being athletic, so this is where it all comes from. Surfing was a part of that Makahiki time and they practiced surfing as part of the games.”

Kamehameha Schools culture specialist Laiana Kanoa-Wong is excited to grow the games among the local population.

“Hawai‘i is so broad and we have so many people here,” Kanoa-Wong said. “We love to share our culture and who we are from our perspective, and we think it’s a strong point to know that our people love to be healthy, love to play, and love to be active.”

Kanoa-Wong hopes that with growth, the games could one day work their way to becoming a part of the Hawai‘i High School Athletics Association.

“What comes with the games are the traditions and the language,” he said. “It’s special that we get to celebrate this and share this with the world. If you think about the Olympic Games, these games are just as old as some of them, and in fact older than a majority of the games that are being played at the Olympics. It would be really neat to see it elevated to a level where maybe for all of our high schools could play and win a state championship in these games.”

The ESPN 1420 Sports Festival will be held Saturday, July 1, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

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