The Tahiti Traveler

Tu’aro Maohi, discovering traditional sports… exotic!

If Polynesian paddle canoeing and surfing are at the top of the list in the Polynesian sports news, other sports, even more surprising are experiencing a remarkable comeback in recent years. In the mood for something a little exotic? Try climbing a coconut tree or a challenge in stone lifting. Couch potatoes should abstain!

Often seen around the sport pitches of Tahiti and the islands, they congregate in a huge corner around some Caterpillar tires. In the relative coolness of the Polynesian evenings, weightlifters of all kinds, men in burly wet tank tops, strapped with weight lifting belts around their hips, they train for hours to lift the sixty kilos of these huge rubber tires for practice! These are the participants of the Tua’ro (sport in the maori language) sporting championship of Polynesian traditional sport – stone lifting category, held between April and the big cultural festival, the Heiva (from 6 to 23 July 2016).


An age old tradition brought to life

On April 2, the Musée de Tahiti et ses îles will inaugurate the 2016 championship under the leadership of the Polynesian Federation of traditional sports and games, created in 2006. A relatively recent comeback, however reflecting the enthusiasm aroused by these ancient sports. As is the case of the traditional song and dance, traditional sports have acquired a larger following as well as a wider audience. A significant contribution, to the Polynesians’ reclaim of their culture.

Stone lifting, javelin throwing or coconut tree climbing, archery, coconut husking … The panel is as varied as the sports are impressive. A subtle blend of skill and extreme force, to which the Polynesians have the secret.

Stone lifting: a show of force

Originally the Tu’aro Mahoi: Based from the elements of the surrounding environment to sublimate the body and its phenomenal strength. Stone lifting is the perfect illustration of this basic principle. The selected stones for the competition are not easily lifted in one go, smooth as eggs and of massive, dense rock. Some athletes, like the “giant of Tubuai” manage to hoist the massive stones weighting over 160 kilos on their shoulder! The show is awesome.

Javelin throwing

Instead of a javelin in perfect aerodynamic form, Polynesians prefer a spear carved from wood. The right hand gives the impulse, while the fingers of the left hand guide the spear to a coconut perched ten meters above the ground! At this distance, the coconut has the size of a penny … It does not, however, prevent the most talented throwers to reach their target’s bull’s eye …

The ubiquitous coconut

It is found throughout Polynesia and it is natural that the coconut palm has inspired the inventors of traditional Polynesian sports. All honors are due to copra production; coconut oil which is extracted, this making the task of coconut husking a sport in its own right! The goal is to husk the coconut shell from its meat in the shortest time, husking as many coconut with a hatchet. While the amateur painfully manages to separate a nut in ten minutes, the specialist can husk dozens of coconuts in a fraction of the time! Try it on your next trip to Tahiti, you will soon understand why the coconut husking is a sport here and why the e-Tahiti Travel team prefers sipping it fresh, with our feet in the lagoon.