Text by Lisa Yamada | Images by Philip Lemoine, Jonas Maon and Haren Soril
Whatever happened to playing outdoors? It used to be that growing up in Hawai‘i meant that young, impressionable minds were filled with memories of moments in the sun, playing with nets, poles, kites, or cardboard even as the day melted into dusk. Technology, perhaps, has bested us, has caused us to look down instead of out and enjoy someone else’s day at the beach rather than experience it ourselves. Perhaps it has bested our kids, too. But count your lucky stars, because this is easy to fix. You’re in Hawai‘i, after all. Here are three simple and inexpensive ways to play outside and remind kids—and even adults—to be kids again.
Go for a Slide
Most locals above the age of 30 remember heading to Kaka‘ako Park at some point to slide down the area’s rolling, grassy hills on flattened cardboard. As rollerbladers and picnickers passed on by, those with cardboard in hand skimmed down on bellies, knees, or feet, rollicking, giggling, and occasionally tumbling all the way to the bottom. Nicholas Seymore, who grew up on Kaua‘i, remembers sliding down the hill by his house on bodyboards. Years later, when he saw his friends reviving the cardboard version on Kaka‘ako hills, he knew it was something he had to try. “It makes you feel like a kid all over again,” he says. “I think standing is the most fun, feels almost like surfing in a way. Sliding down the grass can be like dropping in on a wave.”
The perfect cardboard: Thicker is better, Seymore says, which will support your weight and create less drag in the grass. He recommends selecting large boxes from a storage facility or similar place and grabbing a few different sizes for multi-person slides. If you happen to be sans cardboard, however, don’t fret; generous sliders usually leave some behind.
The right conditions: Dry, short grass seems to create better sliding conditions, since wet grass, mud, and weeds cause too much friction.
Drop a Line
Slightly harder than using a scoop net but a whole lot easier than figuring out a reeled rod, fishing with bamboo poles is the perfect middle ground for those of all ages. Leryn Higa and Grant Fujishige fondly recall weekends spent with family near rocky shorelines. The first time Fujishige went, he was 3 years old: “My cousin caught her first fish, and I kicked it in the water and I got in trouble. I didn’t catch anything, but it was just fun.” With its tie-and-drop simplicity, the bamboo pole is perfect for younger children. “When we were kids, I would play with the bamboo pole while my family used the bigger poles,” Higa recalls. From āholehole to ‘oama, the fish Higa and her family would catch, often no bigger than a person’s palm, would be used mostly for bait to catch larger fish. But if they got big enough, they were good for eating. “People will fry it and make it crunchy and eat the whole thing,” Higa says. And even though all you might hook is reef or a passing crab, fishing still has its draws. “Catching a crab is totally not like catching a fish,” says Higa, “but it’s still a little bit exciting, for me at least.”
The strategy: Chum the fish out of hiding by dissolving slices of bread in the water. Then, drop your line in areas where they might be hiding, like small holes.
Do it yourself: Pick a stalk of bamboo (you must obtain a permit with the Department of Land and Natural Resources to cut bamboo or other vegetation in state forests), let it dry, sand it down, and spray with a quick varnish. Tie on a line with a weight and hook, add some bait (usually bread or shrimp), and you’re ready to fish.
Fly a Kite
Once upon a time, the skies above the grassy area along Sandy Beach Park on O‘ahu’s east side were filled with colorful kites. Today, the skies are filled with far less. Perhaps it’s because of the closing of everyone’s go-to store, High Performance Kites at Ala Moana Center. But Bradley Capello thinks it’s because we’ve forgotten how to play. In hopes of reminding us, Capello holds what he calls Art Clubs at Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House, where he is the museum educator. One such club focused on making kites. “It’s meant to explore play and art-making without too much pretense,” he says of the clubs. “It’s about connecting us to those things we did as kids that we have long since abandoned.” He remembers with fondness flying kites with his dad. “I had this amazing white diamond kite with an angelfish on it,” Capello says. “I still dream of it.”
What you need: You can make a kite out of pretty much anything. Cut a shape out of garbage bags, Tyvek, cellophane, fabric, or paper. Tape on thin dowels to support your shape. Thread a nylon string through the top, and find some wind. The easiest type of kite to make is one that is diamond shaped, which will fly easily with light to moderate tradewinds.
Continue playing: Visit the Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House from June 18–28 for Contempo #ArtShop, a 10-day fair filled with artist talks and workshops that celebrate art appreciation.