Issue 20.3: June/July 2017
Native Intelligence: Hawai‘i Island

The Bowyer of Hōlualoa

Story by Nathan Christophel. Photos by James Rubio.

It’s cool in the cloud forest near Hōlualoa, an area David Weaver knows intimately. He’s out “stump hunting”—shooting arrows into fern-covered tree stumps—with friends and family, including his young grandson. All of them are carrying custom recurve bows that Weaver helped them make out of local woods like koa, kiwi and hau. The group hikes from one target to the next, showing off their archery skills as Weaver tutors and offers his share of trash talk.

“You create a really interesting camaraderie when you go shooting in the forest,” says the 63-year-old Weaver, an avid archer since childhood. “It’s really not competitive. It’s more about a collective good.”

Weaver learned the art of making recurve bows from his neighbor in Costa Rica, where he applied his master woodworking skills to building custom homes. Weaver moved with his family to Hawai‘i Island seventeen years ago and started Axis Hawaii Archery in 2000 not only to sell his bows but to teach others how to make their own—and how to use them. Weaver teaches archery to anyone, young or old, with an interest in learning; he leads groups stump hunting in the forest, where he’s also placed targets among the koa and ‘ōhi‘a trees. Axis Hawaii currently has the only Laporte Archery skeet system on the island, so would-be archers can loose their arrows at moving targets as well.

Teaching archery has changed the way Weaver thinks about the sport he’s loved his entire life. He now works with elementary school students and other groups, including senior citizens, at least once a week, in part for the gratification of watching his students’ eyes light up when they realize archery is something at which they can excel. “When they make a perfect shot and they look back at you with that feeling of satisfaction, you know you’re passing something on,” he says.

It’s the continuation of something that humans have been passing on for centuries, Weaver points out. Archery may be sport, but for Weaver it’s also an art form that connects us back to our earliest selves. “Somehow it tends to awaken a primal instinct,” he says. “There’s a certain primitive satisfaction about that.”