Native Intelligence: All Islands

Stone Cold Aloha

Story by James Charisma. Photo by Elyse Butler.

The game is simple: You paint a rock, hide it, take a photo of where it is and post it online. Then others try to find it. Or, when others hide and post photos of their own painted rocks, you go looking. No one wins. Or loses.

“That’s basically it,” says Shane Fivella, cofounder of 808 Rocks, a local group of rock painting (and hiding) enthusiasts. Last year he and Brandy Maalouf started painting rocks when one of her friends suggested the idea as something artsy and fun to do with the kids. “It’s trending right now on the Mainland, so we decided to start a group here,” Fivella says. “All it takes are inexpensive brushes and acrylic paint that you can just get at Walmart.”

That and the rocks, which Fivella purchases in bulk from Lowe’s or Home Depot. “We never take and paint rocks from our ‘āina [land],” says Fivella, who, along with Maalouf, created a Facebook page for people across O‘ahu to post pictures of painted rocks they’ve hidden or to look for rocks hidden by others. When discovered, people can post photos of themselves discovering the rocks and re-hide them. Or they can just keep the rocks, which Fivella says is cool, too. Memorable past drops have included rocks with little pineapples painted on them (hidden among the pineapples at Whole Foods), rocks with images of coffee cups placed at coffee shops or painted to look like flowers and hidden near trees. Recently, someone hid a rock with an image of a Spam musubi at 7-Eleven, near, of course, the musubi. Wherever they are, the rocks are placed with safety in mind. “Rock drops are always in a public area that’s easy to reach,” says Fivella. “We’re never hiding rocks on private property and telling people to go there or to climb a tree and risk getting injured.”

“It doesn’t matter what the art looks like; some rocks just say ‘aloha’ or ‘howzit’ or have a picture of a shaka,” Fivella says. “It’s the message that’s important. Maybe someone’s having a rough day, but then they find a rock and smile. Maybe it encourages them to make positive rocks of their own, and this will continue to grow.”