Big Island resort leads attempt to beat Guinness World record for longest lei
February 13, 2023, 4:00 AM HST
At Friday’s lei making class in the foyer of the Waikōloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa, Bryson “Lanakila” Diprete added more ti leaves to the nearly 11,000-foot lei coiled around a water hose reel.
Only 15,400 feet or so to go. Diprete is leading the Big Island’s attempt to break the Guinness World Record for longest fresh flower lei.
Chennai, India, of all places, currently holds the record. That lei, measuring 3.11 miles long, was completed on Jan. 2, 2012. It was made by 120 volunteers and consisted of 80,000 carnations of various colors. Diprete hopes to break that world record by twisting a 5-mile-long ti leaf lei by May Day on May 1.
“I thought it was bizarre that the record for the longest lei wasn’t here in Hawai‘i,” said Diprete, who is the resort’s guest activity coordinator. “I wanted to do 5 miles because I don’t want the record to be taken over right away.”
Diprete started making the ti leaf lei in November, with the help of local residents and visitors. Each leaf adds about 12 inches to the lei, which is preserved by being kept in a freezer. The green ti leaf can last up to a year in frigid temperatures.
With ice clinging to the twisted leaves, Diprete said people have asked if it is mold.
The reel is brought out daily to be worked on.
The lei is made in the one of the oldest ways: Hilo braid style, with two leaves twisted together. As leaves come to their end, another is woven into the twist to lengthen the lei until it reaches the lei maker’s desired length. 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 and is plentiful around the island.
“It’s one of the biggest connections to the culture we have,” Diprete said of lei making. “It does take practice.”
As the resort attempts to beat India’s record, they have been holding lei making classes every day at 10 a.m. in the resort’s foyer, garnering anywhere from one to 17 guests. After learning how to twist ti leaves together, guests have the opportunity to contribute to the spool.
Diprete said he wanted to attempt the making the longest lei last year around May Day but his application to Guinness World Records to challenge India’s record was not approved in time.
The lei making class is already an established part of the resort’s cultural program that educates guests on a variety of Hawaiian practices. They also teach hula and bracelet weaving with leaves from the Hala tree, which is indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands.
Diprete said his main goal for the lei making classes is to teach guests something about the Hawaiian culture: “It comes down to them understanding our history.”
The ti leaf 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.
Ti leaf is used to wrap food, in various ceremonies and blessings, for healing, safety and protection.
Pua Ka‘ahanui was teaching two guests how to make a ti leaf lei Friday morning. She said the attempt to break the world record not only is educating the guests, but also is bringing local lei makers together.
“For the Guinness World Record, it’s sharing our culture to the world,” Ka‘ahanui said.
The final push to complete the lei will be at the 2nd Annual Lei Festival, which takes place on April 30, set up between Kings Shoppes, Queen’s Marketplace and the Waikōloa Marriott. Dieprete said he wanted the lei to be an activity that tied the three venues together — and bring guests and local lei makers together.
The official measuring of the lei will take place on Lei Day, May 1. Diprete said they haven’t figured out where the lei will be put on display, but they want it to be in a place where people can take pictures with it.
Those interested in contributing to the lei are invited to come to the Waikōloa Marriott any day at 10 a.m. For more information, contact Diprete at 808-886-6789 ext. 7473.