Categorized | Multi-sport, Sports

Ironman: A new era on the wings of a noio


This will be the 31st year that athletes from around the world will be coming to Hawaii to celebrate what has become much more than just a race. Ironman is a lifestyle, a passion, a sport, a discipline … well, it can mean so many things to so many people.

The Ironman World Championship takes all that to a new level. Once you’ve finished Kona, your life is changed. Race director Diana Bertsch passed on this information about the artistic interpretation of the Noio that will grace this year’s Ironman World Championship poster and program.

He Au Hou i ka Eheu o ka Noio – A New Era on the Wings of a Noio


2009 is a year of change and new beginnings. It is a time to reflect on the past and respect what it has taught us, but it is also a time to move forward – Imua. We enter this year on the “Wings of a Noio,” embracing change and welcoming new beginnings.

The Noio was an important bird to the Native Hawaiian sailor. The Noio is a land bird and typically travels no more than 40 miles offshore.

If a Noio bird was sighted at sea, it was understood that new beginnings were ahead – land meant a new life. During times of change and new beginnings there is always hope in the wind and in the currents that carry us – this is the Flight of the Noio.

The artistic interpretation of the Noio for the 2009 Ford Ironman World Championship was created by Alika Hoomana.

The black circle in the Noio head represents Po (darkness) while the white around it represents light, life and new beginnings.

The wings of the Noio are represented by Kalo. Kalo is the Hawaiian word for taro, an important food staple in Hawaii. Kalo was known to have the greatest life force of all foods and also represented one’s genealogy and roots.

Within the Body of the Noio are the Koru. In the New Zealand Maori culture, Koru represents strength, growth, new life and new beginnings.

In between the Koru is Kukuna O Ka La, “The Rays of the Sun,” which is another symbol for first light or new beginnings.

Below Kukuna O Ka La is Wai, the symbol for water, and Kai, the ocean. In Hawaiian culture, everything and everyone needs water and water is life. In relation to the Ironman, it represents the first discipline, the swim.

Below the Wai or Kai are three triangles that represent the three main mountains of our island: Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Hualalai. For Ironman, this represents the second discipline of triathlon, the bike.

Beneath the mountain triangles are the tentacles of the He’e (squid), which symbolize Grasping of Knowledge. The tentacles of the Hee also represent the final Ironman Triathlon discipline, the run, and the athletes grasping for knowledge as they complete their journey.

In the Tail of the Noio you will find more Kalo, bringing us full circle.

Mahalo nui loa for embracing the 2009 Ford Ironman World Championship …

There’s a reason some of the greatest our sport has ever seen are quick to describe their spiritual connection with the Big Island.

This artistic interpreation of the Noio makes me reflect on some of the amazing things we’ve seen in Kona over the years: Dave Scott’s incredible run. Paula Newby-Fraser’s ability to change the playing field for women’s sport. Mark Allen’s hard-earned place in the Ironman history. Is there anyone more connected to the Big Island than Natascha Badmann?

Reflect, yes. Look ahead, too. Those great athletes simply served to inspire the generation that is taking the sport by storm right now.

Can Chrissie Wellington carve her own place in Ironman lore? Will the men’s race be as exciting as it should be? What more do we have to look forward to in Ironman’s future?

“Mahalo nui loa for your endless support and passion for Ironman,” wrote Diana Bertsch in the e-mail that contained this message.

Right back at you, Diana – and thanks for helping us reflect on what makes our passion so special.

(Reach Kevin Mackinnon at

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