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Canoe Lashing

'Aho hoa wa'a is the term used for the process of  binding the 'iako to the Ka'ele (hull) and the 'iako to the ama. When lashing the 'iako to the ka'ele, several wraps were made around the wae then over the 'iako then through the puka 'iako (holes in the gunwale) then back over the 'iako and around the wae. When lashing the ama to the 'iako, several turns were taken around the ama then crossing over the top of the end of the 'iako then returning around the ama.  The process of lashing called for the wraps to cross over each other at different points creating a system that prevented the lashings from coming undone should one or more of the individual lashing strands break.  The lashings were also done in such a way as to absorb and dissipate the thousands of pounds per square inch of torque caused by the slamming waves in open ocean.


The rigging of a canoe was a solemn and personal event.  Talking was kept to a minimum and concentration on correctly placing each wrap was kept at the highest level.  The area in which the canoe was being rigged was Kapu and those not involved in the rigging process were kept away.  There were many different variations to  lashing patterns with each lasher having their own unique "tweaks" creating a unique form of self expression.



The lashing names presented here are in our hoʻomaʻa. Other hoʻomaʻa have different names for the same lash pattern presented here.


Kua 'iako lashing refers to the main 'iako to Ka'ele lashing. The Kua 'iako is the part of the 'iako that spans the hull directly over the wae. There were reportedly many forms of Kua 'iako lashings but today there are two main forms of lashing that are still known.  In our Halau they are called the Pa'a Li'a lashing and the Pa'a Li'a Pa'a lashing.  There are variations in how the lashing was started.  The first of the two used in our Halau is the "Pa'a Piko" . It begins with one end secured to the wae with a clove hitch. The entire rope was then woven over the 'iako and through the puka 'iako.  The second method called the "Puka Lou" starts with a  loop made in the middle of the rope  then securing this loop to the middle of the Wae. Each end was then woven over the Kua 'iako and through the puka 'iako to complete the lash. Below are two examples of Kua 'iako lashings.

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Pa'a: Firm, Solid, tight, secure

Li'a:  Strong desire, crave, wish for ardently

The Pa'a Li'a style of lashing is more common today.  This lashing secures the 'iako to the wae in one central place.  The turns around the outer sections of the 'iako are secured to the mo'o by going through the puka 'iako.

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Doubling up on Pa'a emphisizing the "Firm, Solid, Secure,with the Strong desire.

The Pa'a Li'a Pa'a style is less common than the Pa'a Li'a style. This lashing, however, is very firm because the 'iako is lashed to the wae in three places. One in the center of the wae and two at the edge of the wae near the mo'o.


Lanalana, which means "to float" refers to the lashing of the 'iako to the ama.  The end of the 'iako that was lashed to the ama was called the Kapu'ai.  There were many ways to lash the ama to the 'iako some of which were very intricate and beautiful.  At times multicolored lashing cord was used to enhance the beauty of the lash.  Below are two examples of Lanalana lashings.


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Hi'i: To hold or carry in the arms (like a child)

Au:  movement or current


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The Hi'iau lashing consists of interwoven turns of rope that cross at the end of the 'iako directly above the center of the ama then drop down and around the ama.  In this example a (Pou) or peg is used to keep the aho or cordage from slipping off the end of the 'iako.  A groove could be cut at the end of the 'iako to replace the pou.


Kākua: To bind or fasten on, as a belt or sarong.

The Kākua lashing also has an interwoven cross at the end of the 'iako but also wraps around a peg or "pou" secured at the end of the 'iako specifically for this purpose.

Common Lashing Variations


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Hili : means to braid, is used to describe the lashing pattern where each turn over the 'iako and under the wae alternate.


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Kaukahi: is used to describe the form of lashing where one side of the pattern is  completed before completing the other side of the lashing.


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Pueo: is used to describe the method of finishing a lashing where the end of the line is slipped under the main lashings on the top of the Kua'iako in an alternating pattern. 


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wi: means to squeeze, and is used to describe the method of finishing a lash by squeezing the center lashings with several wraps and tieing it off with a knot.

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