What is a Hawaiian Sling? Everything You Need to Know

In 2019, more than 50 million Americans engaged in recreational fishing, making it one of the most popular outdoor activities. People use multiple fishing tools based on their experience level, the fish they’re targeting, and the nature of the water.

So what is a Hawaiian sling? How does it work? In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about this fishing tool. Keep on reading to find out.

What is a Hawaiian Sling?

A Hawaiian sling is used in spearfishing, which is different from using bait. Spearfishing was quite popular in Paleolithic times, and rock art engravings show fishermen using various tools to catch fish over 16,000 years ago.

Some historical journals mention Hawaiian slings as early as 1917, but they became quite popular among fishing enthusiasts in the 1950s. This tool works just like a bow and arrow work on the land. It’s made of rubber tubing that stores the energy and drives a spear to catch the fish.

Previously, the Hawaiian sling was made of bamboo or another type of lightweight wood. The wood is drilled to hold the spear, and a rubber band is held tightly to propel the spear towards the fish. This design hasn’t changed much over the past 70 years.

Compared to other fishing tools, a Hawaiian sling is characterized by its ability to catch fish from a long distance successfully. It’s one of the most accurate and fastest ways to catch fish.

With no shooting lines, there are hardly any safety issues related to entanglement with this tool. Thanks to its penetrating power, a Hawaiian sling is used for hunting bigger fish and crustaceans like lobsters.

Moreover, due to its size and length, a Hawaiian sling is the perfect tool to use when another spearfishing tool doesn’t fit. It can be used around fish wrecks, in underwater caves, and other hiding places because it’s easy to maneuver.

Most Hawaiian slings are between 60 and 75 inches, so you’ll be able to get the most appropriate one. A shorter sling will fit into tight places, but a longer one allows you to shoot at a longer distance when you’re in open waters.

The best slings are made of natural latex because it’s durable and doesn’t get affected by the salinity of water or the changes in temperature. However, there are other models made of synthetic materials or dry rubber.

The spear was usually made of any piece of steel or another sturdy metal, where the edge would be sharpened to enhance its penetrating properties. Originally the spear had no barb, but this design was later modified by adding a cut nail to keep the spear in the fish’s body. Nowadays, a Hawaiian sling has a barb that stays closed before firing the spear, then opens to stay in the fish’s body.

Modern Hawaiian slings feature spears that are made of stainless steel or fiberglass. It tapers at the end, making a sharp point that easily penetrates through the body of the fish. It’s important to get a shaft made of corrosion or rust-resistant material to withstand saltwater use.

However, without proper training, using a Hawaiian sling can be a little tricky. It’s a little more complicated than pole spears, so it’s recommended to train with a certified instructor.

How Does a Hawaiian Sling Work?

Compared to other spearfishing tools, the Hawaiian Sling is more efficient when the target is too close or you want to make a quick decision. This is why most spearfishing enthusiasts prefer this tool over spearguns and pole spears.

The Hawaiian sling is a simple yet powerful device. The power stored in the rubber band propels the spear to the front, so it can penetrate your target fish with no issues. After plugging the shaft into a hole in the rubber band, you hook it into a loop. Then, you pull the shaft back to load it, so it will be ready to penetrate your target.

However, despite being a simple device, a Hawaiian sling shouldn’t be taken lightly. Some people rush into using this tool without enough practice. You need to practice how to use it efficiently underwater to make sure that it’s safe.

How Do You Use a Hawaiian Sling?

A Hawaiian sling is very close to the bow and arrow and works in the same fashion. However, because it’s used underwater, the shaft usually travels at a slower speed.

To use the Hawaiian sling, you need to put the sling in your sling hand. In most cases, the back edge and the lifeline are placed into your palm, so your hand stops it from slipping back.

Next, you need to wrap your fingers and thumb around the middle part of the sling. You can also point your index finger to line it up with the shaft. Some models have a thumb brace to balance the sling.

After that, you should insert the shaft through the sling into the cup at the back of the band and pinch it with your thumb and index finger. Wrap your fingers around the rest of the cup.

When you get into the water, remove the cup and band from the shaft. Draw your hand fully back while keeping the shaft aligned with your jaw or cheek. This is the anchor point and should be maintained for more accuracy.

Here are some tips to help you use the Hawaiian sling successfully.

  • A Hawaiian sling should have a tip protector on the shaft to minimize the risk of injuries.
  • It has no trigger, so it shouldn’t be used on land.
  • Start practicing using a foam fish target, as it will hold the shaft in place. Position yourself about 6 feet away from the target and shoot your Hawaiian sling at an angle.
  • It’s best to use a Hawaiian sling in shallow water until you’re more experienced.
  • Keep on practicing until you have developed an instinctive shooting skill.

What’s the Difference Between a Hawaiian Sling and Pole Spear?

Hawaiian slings can be easily confused with pole spears, especially among less experienced users. However, there are a few differences that set them both apart.


The Hawaiian sling has a shooter, which is powered by a rubber band to propel a spear shaft forward to penetrate the fish’s body. The shaft is kept in place using a spear holder.

A pole spear has a band attached at the end of the spear. You can switch the detachable spearheads depending on the fish you want to catch.


A Hawaiian sling is easier to handle and has more power than a pole spear. It operates just like the bow and arrow on land.

The pole spear has a rubber loop at the end of the spear, and you have to use the same hand to reach up the shaft to create tension. You shouldn’t place your hand too far to avoid bending the spear.

Ease of Use

Beginners prefer using a Hawaiian sling because it’s easier to control. It also offers a better grip. A pole spear is more suitable for experienced users and can help target fish in deeper waters.

To learn more about the benefits of a pole spear, click here to an article with more information.

Best Hawaiian Slings

If you’re interested in spearfishing using a Hawaiian sling, there are multiple products that you can experiment with. Check out these Hawaiian slings.

1.   Sea Slinger Plastic Hawaiian Sling for Spearfishing

This is an interesting choice for beginners because it’s straightforward to use. It’s quite affordable and lightweight, as it’s made of durable plastic. It can accommodate shafts up to 3/8 inch in diameter and allows for easy gripping. You can use it with the HAMMERHEAD Shaft for Hawaiian Sling Shooter.

2.   AB Biller Speed Shooter Hawaiian Sling Package

This is a complete set that you can use if you’re using a Hawaiian sling for the first time. It comes with two different ¼-inch shafts. One of them measures 60 inches, while the other measures 66 inches, so you can catch fish at different distances. The stainless-steel spring can be straightened if bent, so your Hawaiian sling set will stay functional.

3.   Marine Sports Manufacturing Hawaiian Plastic Shooter

This Hawaiian sling is an excellent choice for first-timers. It’s lightweight and easy to control, so you can use it in tight corners with no issues. Because it’s made of lightweight plastic, this Hawaiian sling won’t weigh you down as you’re swimming around. It’s compatible with various types and sizes of spears, depending on the fish you want to catch.

Wrap Up

A Hawaiian sling is one of the most popular tools for spearfishing. The spear is held and propelled forward to penetrate the fish’s body at great speed and accuracy.

Although some people confuse them together, a pole spear doesn’t look or function like a Hawaiian sling. A Hawaiian sling is more suitable for beginner users and can be used in shallow waters and tight corners with no issues. It’s crucial to practice using a Hawaiian sling before trying to use it for spearfishing. However, it’s essential not to use it on land to avoid injuries.

Click here to look at the top 10 spearfishing locations in the world.