How Does a Hawaiian Sling Work? (Explained for Beginners)

Hawaiian Sling Tips for Spearfishers You Should Know

Spearfishing is an ancient tradition in Hawaii. So much so that the Hawaiians came up with an ingenious device not dissimilar to the bow and arrow that helped them snare fish underwater. Not only does the Hawaiian sling live in their tradition, but it has also been widely adopted by spearos everywhere.

What distinguishes the Hawaiian sling from other spearfishing tools is that it is more effective in close quarters and allows the spearfisher more control over the aim and trajectory of the spear. It’s no wonder then that many spearos favor it over spearguns and pole spears. The raw power of this ancient device makes it handy for both novice and experienced spearos alike.

But to handle this raw power one has to know all about the Hawaiian sling, how to handle it, when to use it, and what makes it a favorite among spearos. This guide will answer all these questions and more.

How Does a Hawaiian Sling Work?

The Hawaiian sling works the same way a bow and arrow or a speargun works. There are moving parts, in this case, the spear shaft and the rubber tubing, and the stored energy of the pulled rubber launches the spear toward the target at higher speed and more power.

The power of the Hawaiian sling lies in its simplicity. As far as mechanical devices go, this one is pretty much straightforward. You plug the shaft into the hole and hook it to the loop. Then you pull it back to load it. Once it’s cocked and loaded, you’re ready to rumble underwater.

However, I need to add that the simplicity of the Hawaiian sling is quite deceptive. You might get the idea of how it works within a few minutes of laying eyes on the device, however, to get used to it in your hand and to use it efficiently underwater are two different things. It will take a lot of practice and a whole bunch of tips. We’ll offer a lot of these tips along the way.

Hawaiian Sling Length

We mentioned that the greatest advantage of the Hawaiian sling besides its raw power and ease of operation is its efficiency in close quarters. That’s because the Hawaiian sling isn’t very long and doesn’t take much space. You can easily maneuver around shipwrecks, caves, covers, and other hiding places without getting encumbered by the unwieldiness of the weapon.

However, since people vary in height, the Hawaiian sling needs to have more than one standard length to accommodate the different arms and heights of the spearos. You can get it as short as 60 inches or as long as 75 inches. And of course anything in between those ranges.

So which one is good for you? Only you can answer that question. While a short sling makes it easy to manage aiming and shooting in cramped places, it doesn’t do so well when you’re operating in open waters. This is especially true if the fish you’re targeting is a fast one that won’t allow you to get close. In this case, a 75-inch sling lets you fire from a distant position or a hiding place without having to approach the fish.

Hawaiian Sling Shafts

The spear shaft is an integral part of the whole apparatus. This is the part of the Hawaiian sling that launches into the water and under the right circumstances pierces the body of the fish preventing it from getting away. And because of the key role it plays in the whole spearing thing, it needs to be made of sturdy materials.

In most cases, the shaft is made of stainless steel or fiberglass. It tapers at the end making it sharp and pointy to easily pierce the body of the fish. Some shafts come with a slanted prong near the end that keeps the fish from wiggling loose and swimming away after you capture it. It works the same way the sharp end of the fish hook does to keep the hook latched to the mouth of the fish.

Because of the corrosive effects of saltwater, it’s preferable you get a shaft that resists erosion or rust. A shaft made of wood or aluminum isn’t as durable as one made of stainless steel. Also, make sure it’s not too heavy since that can thwart your aim.

Hawaiian Sling Rubber

The rubber is where all the energy is stored. When released it hurls the shaft toward the fish with high speed and velocity. The rubber tubing has to be made of superior material to ensure high tension and maintain the power of the launch as the sling shaft makes its way in the water.

The best rubber tubing in the market is made of natural latex. This material isn’t impacted by the salinity of the water nor the varying temperature. As one of the few moving parts of the Hawaiian sling, the rubber tubing carries most of the heavy lifting. You might find rubbers made of dry rubber or synthetic materials.

Something else to consider when looking for a rubber tubing is the amount of protein in the material. In the water, protein can cause an allergic reaction to the diver. Aim for a rubber tubing made of natural latex with 50 micrograms or less of organic protein per gram. This means even if the protein interacts with the water, it won’t have a great impact on your skin when you handle the rubber tubing.

Hawaiian Sling Price

Seeing as we’ve been stressing the difference between top quality materials and low-grade ones, you can imagine that the price of the Hawaiian sling fluctuates dramatically. You can spend as little as $40 on a decent Hawaiian sling or go all the way up to $100 or more.

It’s all about the quality of the device. With little to go in the way of accessories or embellishments, you’re practically buying the same device no matter what price you pay for it. There might be some whistles and bells here and there such as equipping the sling with an integrated shaft holder for easy loading.

But what you need to focus most on is the quality of the rubber tubing and the spear shaft. The higher the quality of those two the more durable and longer the shooting range your sling. You might also consider a three-pronged spear over a single prong since it makes it easier to capture smaller fish.

How to Use a Hawaiian Sling?

You won’t need a manual to teach you how to operate this device. As we stated earlier, the idea behind the Hawaiian sling is simple and this simplicity is what makes it endearing and enduring throughout millennia. Once you take a look at the apparatus, it’s easy to figure out how to use it.

First, you have the shaft holder. It holds the spear shaft in place and helps you with your aim. The rubber tubing provides the raw power that propels the shaft. Once you’ve loaded the shaft and pulled the rubber, the device is ready.

As we’ll explain later in the next section, your approach and aiming skills play a major part in your success as a spearo. While the Hawaiian sling is no brainer, it still needs a highly-functioning brain to guide it toward the fish and release the shaft at the right moment. So it’s time to explore some of those techniques that set the boys from the men.

Hawaiian Sling Techniques

Let’s get the basics out of the way first. If you have no prior experience with spearfishing whatsoever, then you need two things to get you off to a good start: a Hawaiian sling and shallow water. The first is easy to handle and much safer than a speargun or a pole spear. The shallow water lets you work on your skills without getting worried about holding your breath in deep water.

Next, you need to practice your breathing techniques. The idea is, when aiming and shooting, you need a steady hand. And that won’t happen if you’re blowing bubbles out of your mask or something. It’s important you refrain from breathing as you aim and shoot. This chest heaving act thwarts your aim.

Another important thing to keep in mind is to keep calm and stay relaxed. Why? Because if you’re tense you can’t hold your breath. And if you’re tense your hand will jerk this way or that and you won’t get that fish in your proverbial crosshairs. Not to mention that your heartbeat sends reverberations in the water that the fish can pick on easily.

Hawaiian Sling vs. Pole Spear

While both the Hawaiian sling and the pole spear work practically under the same principles, there are crucial changes between those two that warrant your attention and discerning eye. The Hawaiian sling for one uses a shooter. It’s usually made of wood and gives you better control over the apparatus.

So in a way the Hawaiian spear is an underwater bow and arrow. It uses the rubber tubing to launch the spear shaft the same way the bow hurls the arrow towards the target. The pole spear, on the other hand, has detachable spear heads.

While the interchangeable spear tips are an advantage and you can replace them on the fly as you set your eyes on different targets, there’s no denying that the Hawaiian sling is the more powerful of the two. It is easy to handle and doesn’t put the spearo at risk the way the pole spear or the speargun does.

What Type of Fishes Can You Hunt with a Hawaiian Sling?

There’s a reason the Hawaiian sling has endured over the ages. It has sustained a whole civilization and fed generations of Hawaiians. And if all of these factors are an indication, then you can rest assured that your Hawaiian sling will help you catch all types of fish from the small to the moderately large.

Some of the fish you can hunt with a Hawaiian sling include:

  • Grouper
  • Hogfish
  • Cubera snapper
  • Tiger sharks
  • Lobster
  • Reef marine life and many more

Whether the fish is fast or slow, hiding, lurking, or swimming in open water, you can get it with a Hawaiian sling.

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