Big Island’s world record attempt of longest lei falls short — but connects people
In the hot sun on Monday, several people watched in anticipation at the Queens’ Bowl in Waikōloa as Bryson Lanakila Diprete began to unwind a lei wrapped around a spool.
Would it be long enough?
Would it become the “World’s Longest Lei?”
About six months earlier, Diprete, the guest activity coordinator at the Waikōloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, began the volunteer effort. The goal was to make a lei longer than the 3.11-mile lei created by a group from India and bring the Guinness World Record home to Hawaiʻi — where Diprete thought it rightfully should be.
Since November, dozens of volunteers came to workshops held daily at 10 a.m. by Diprete to learn about Hawaiian culture, help wrap the ti leaf lei, and be a part of trying to return the title to the islands where lei making is an art and tradition. Diprete was only 5 years old when his mother taught him how to make a lei while growing up in Waimea.
On Monday — May 1 and Lei Day in Hawaiʻi — Diprete kept unwinding the lei at the Queenʻs Bowl. It went around the green field once, twice, and when it got to about six times, it stopped.
With members of the Hawai’i County Police Department as witnesses, the official measurement was announced: 5,877 feet and 8 inches. Just over a mile, but too short.
In order to have beaten the record — set by 120 volunteers on Jan. 2, 2012 in Chennai, India — the lei would have had to exceeded 16,364 feet, said the resortʻs director of engineering Ikaika Pestana, who oversaw the measurement.
“I’m super proud of our team and how they brought so many people together to contribute to the project,” Pestrana said.
And while they didn’t make their goal, Diprete said it’s not over yet: “I do not feel defeated. It was a great attempt and we’ll be continuing the effort.”
On Monday afternoon, staff discussed how they could proceed. They decided to submit the information to Guinness as the Longest Braided Ti Leaf Lei.
Jaydene Kanekoa, senior marketing manager with the resort, said in a release it is a new category, and the process for approval will take approximately 12-weeks to be verified by Guinness.
For now, the weaving continues on the lei.
Diprete’s attempt was not only to set a record but to share the culture of the Hawaiian Islands by including volunteers and guests at the resort.
Pua Ka‘ahanui, a cultural ambassador at the resort, said she was proud to be a part of the goal to bring awareness and mindfulness to guests and to help them learn about the stories of her home. She was there Monday morning with her hula sister and cousin, and said she helped to teach guests more about what lei making means to Hawai’i during the process.
The ti leaves came from Hawai’i Island with a majority being brought in from Hilo. They were frozen then thawed and dried before being laid out and wrapped by a handful of helpful volunteers.
The lei was made in the Hilo braid style, where two leaves are twisted together and as leaves come to their end, another is woven into the twist to lengthen the it. Diprete said the ti leaf lei is the traditional lei before the flower lei. The ti leaf plant comes in various colors of red and green.
The ti leaf also is considered a canoe plant brought over by the Tahitians in their migration to the Hawaiian Islands. Its use is varied and is considered sacred. It is used to wrap food, in various ceremonies and blessings, for healing, safety and protection.
“This is a story about how we’re connected,” Ka‘ahanui said. “It was a way for us to share our culture and to instill in the guests what is true to us. Iʻm super proud of our team and how they brought so many people together to contribute to the project.”