Hokulea

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Linda Furuto

 

Linda Furuto is a math education professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and uses math regularly as she trains as an apprentice navigator on the Polynesian voyaging canoe, Hokulea. Math didn’t always come easy to her; she struggled in her tenth grade algebra class at Punahou. But she worked hard to pass the class. “I really did learn the importance of a positive attitude, working hard, and having a support network of people who want you to succeed can help you,” Linda says.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, May 18 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, May 22 at 4:00 pm.

 

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I studied about six hours day, just on mathematics, because I wanted to keep up with my peers. And um, one of the greatest accomplishments of my—of my life as far as passing that class um, and uh, above and beyond passing that math class, I really did learn the importance of a positive attitude, working hard, and having a support network of people who want you to succeed an—and can help you. I wanted to go into mathematics because I struggled with it, and I know so many of our local kids struggle with mathematics.

 

 

Linda Furuto is next… On Long Story Short.

 

Aloha Mai Kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox.

 

University of Hawaii Associate Professor Linda Furuto is an accomplished math teacher who shows students how to use math to better understand their world. It’s one of the reasons that in 2010… Linda Furuto was named one of Hawaii’s top “40 under 40” professionals. She’s cerebral and she’s physical. She was invited to train as an apprentice navigator on the double-hulled Polynesian voyaging canoe… Hokulea, and she is picking up different legs of its current worldwide voyage. While math was acquired passion, Furuto took to the ocean right away, as a keiki growing up in Hauula on the windward side of Oahu.

 

I had the most wonderful and best childhood. I grew up in a 12.5-mile stretch between Kaaawa and Kahuku, and to me, the most important things in life are ohana and values. Um, I’m really grateful for the opportunities that I had to um, let’s see, go spearfishing. With—with my dad and uncles. And um, borrow the plastic trays from McDonald’s to go bodysurfing with my friends. But we always returned them.

 

We just really—

 

Bodysurfing with the—

 

Yeah.

 

–plastic trays?

 

Yeah.

 

They’re kind of small, aren’t they?

 

Oh, but they’re the perfect size if you reach under your arm, like that.

 

Oh, like that.

 

Yeah!

 

Oh, bodysurfing.

 

M-hm.

 

Right.

 

M-hm. And we always returned them.

 

Just maybe not in the same condition.

 

That would be which McDonald’s? The—

 

Uh—

 

The one in—

 

Laie. Um, but my favorite was um, jumping into the dumpsters be—behind Hauula Shopping Center. Used to be Pay ‘n Save there. And we’d grab out the cardboard boxes. My three younger brothers and I; Matt, Nick, and Dan. We—we’d flatten the cardboard boxes, and see who could ride them the fastest down the dirt hills behind Hauula Shopping Center. It was so fun.

 

Dirt and mud, or just dirt?

 

Um, it was mostly dirty. But that’s a great question, because it was—

 

Mudsliding—

 

–even better.

 

–would be fast; right?

 

Exactly.

 

Mudslides were the best. But that was—that was my world.

 

So, your parents saved a lot on toys for you.

 

I think so. Nature was—provided all the toys that we needed. Yeah.

 

What’s your family like?

 

My family . . . my family’s just amazing. They’re kind, they’re loving, unconditionally loving, and generous. And supportive in everything that I’ve done so far. I also want to clarify that—that to me, ohana is not just necessarily the people that we’re related to by blood, but to me, my definition of ohana is the extent to which we’re willing to do something for another person. The commitment that we have to each other, the dedication to the projects and visions, and love. And so, my ohana is really stretch—really stretches from hanabata days in Kahuku, to transferring to Punahou as a tenth-grader, leaving the islands for school and work, and then coming back home to be part of the University of Hawaii, East-West Center, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the Polynesian Voyaging Society ohana, among others.

 

Did your parents explicitly give you values, or did you just soak them up by osmosis?

 

I would say both. I would say that it’s extremely difficult to measure the size of my mom’s heart.

 

Tell me about your mom. I believe she’s a social worker; right?

 

M-hm; yup. So, typically, when the kids—the four kids would come home, and my dad, who’s a—a mathematician would say, Okay, tell me what you did chronologically, from the time you got out of school until the time you went to soccer practice, or hula, to the time you arrived home. And then my mom would say, Honey … you know what, tell me how you feel.

 

Oh, you’ve got one on this side—

 

–and one on that side. Perfect blend.

 

Yeah; my mom instilled in me a sense of social justice and equity in all I do. I strive—

 

And your dad could measure it.

 

And my dad could measure it. Yeah; yes. My dad is very strict, growing up. And he … he showed us—showed his love in different ways. So, instead of saying, I love you, he would show us his love by the things he did, his actions.

 

For example, when my family moved from Kahuku to Punahou, I was in the tenth grade. My parents commuted from Honolulu to Laie, five days a week, sometimes more. So that—

 

Rather than make you commute, they commuted.

 

Yup.

 

Wow. How long did they do that?

 

Uh … maybe about a decade.

 

Linda Furuto’s Transition from Kahuku High School to Honolulu Prep Academy Punahou School in the 10th grade was not easy. And although her father is a mathematician…she struggled with the subject in school.

 

That was a culture shock, as well as—

 

M-hm.

 

–an academic shock; right?

 

M-hm. M-hm.

 

What was that like for you socially?

 

It was socially very difficult at first. I remember eating lunch in the bathroom, because I didn’t have any friends, and felt like a lot of folks all already had their cliques.

 

M-hm.

 

But life has a way of always opening a door, sometimes in the least expected ways. And I found a network at Punahou School of friends, lifelong friends who I cherish to this day.

 

How’d you find them?

 

I think Punahou—Punahou has a very nurturing environment.

 

M-hm.

 

And so, I … tried out for the swim team, track, marching band, jazz band.

 

Speech and debate. Yes, Golden Key, Honor Society, various clubs and activities where I learned to find my voice, literally, like in speech and debate.

 

Were you getting As?

 

No.

 

No; I was getting Ds and Fs.

 

I had Ds and Fs my first quarter. I received demerits because I wasn’t passing my classes and I just remember thinking, I’m working, I’m physically, intellectually, mentally working as hard as I possibly can, but I’m still not passing.

 

 

The hardest math class that I’ve ever taken to this day was Algebra II Trigonometry Honors in the tenth grade at Punahou School with uh, Mrs. Craven and Mr. Best. So, that was the year I transferred from Kahuku to Punahou. I was about two and a half years behind my peers. Um … but I really—I really love a challenge, and maybe I’m a little bit stubborn too. But I didn’t want to drop that class.

 

Did your father see you struggling with math—

 

M-hm.

 

–so much?

 

M-hm.

 

And what were his thoughts about that?

 

He let me struggle.

 

Not an enabler.

 

Um, he would say … hypothetically, say I was working on the derivatives, the math problem in—in calculus. He would say … Okay, kid; you want help? I want you to prove to me the fundamental theory about calculus, and then I’ll help you. By the time I had proven a theorem or postulate that would actually help me answer the question, I didn’t need his help anymore. So, it was a life lesson again in helping me – guide my path along—along um, learning about … my own self, my identity, the values, what I—what I was … and continue—continuously willing —to work hard for, to [Indistinct] for.

 

 

Linda Furuto’s perseverance is a defining trait. She works hard on her goals. She earned a math degree from Brigham Young University in Utah, a Master’s in math education from Harvard University and she studied at UCLA for her Doctorate. After almost a decade on the mainland… a job offer…brought Furuto home.

 

I’m very passionate about ethnomathematics, and—

 

What is ethnomathematics?

 

Ethnomathematics is defined as the intersections of culture, historical traditions, sociocultural roots, among others. It encourages the investigations and adaptations of these concepts, both within and outside of the classroom in real world experiences. The goal—

 

That’s the answer to the question, then, when kids say, How is this relevant to me? Why should I take this?

 

Exactly; exactly as you’ve said. The goal of ethnomathematics is to acknowledge that diverse systems and cultural frameworks have existed since the beginning of time, and to help educators foster pathways that lead to increased student engagement through disciplines like mathematics, science, technology, and engineering.

 

… I’m so grateful that the University of Hawaii West Oahu hired me. I was hired as the first math faculty to—to build the math program um, and … I was the only math faculty for the first six years as UH West Oahu transitioned from a two-year to uh, a four-year liberal arts comprehensive university. It was an amazing opportunity to be part of that, because … I utilized Hokulea and ethnomathematics to help me build that program, to seek out, help from the other campuses within the University of Hawaii system, all who helped me design, from the ground up, um, institutional learning outcomes, go through accreditation, admissions and graduation requirements, design a baccalaureate degree in mathematics, um, which would not have been possible without enrollment in mathematics courses increased fourteen hundred percent. We started off—

 

Wow.

 

–with a population of about eight hundred sixty-six students in 2007, and when I left, there were approximately twenty-four hundred students. We had a couple math classes when I started. There were upwards of twenty math classes by the time I left. And, those are quantitative statistics, but qualitatively when we take a look at the individual students who would say things like … I hated math, I used to think that it was … boring and I felt no connection to it, but now I see that math is my culture, that math celebrates me, and mathematics validates who I am, and because of that, I want to be a secondary math teacher in Hawaii. I want to go back to my community on the Leeward side of Oahu, because this is … this is what matters to us and our students. And I think that, to me, speaks … volumes, much more than the quantitative part, just knowing that, the life of a student has in some way, shape, or form been transformed, because that student is a link in generations and will help to raise many, many generations—

 

M-hm.

 

–to come afterwards.

 

In 2013, Linda Furuto accepted a job as an associate professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. There…she continues to encourage her students to think about math in a new way… to integrate math into their everyday process and world view. She has been recognized with two Excellence-In-Teaching awards from the U.H. Board of Regents and the Math Association of America.

 

Could you tell me, if you’re trying to introduce or recruit a student to the study of mathematics, and they want to know, why should I care—

 

Mm.

 

What do you tell them?

 

On the first day of class, I always share with my students is the—is the old adage that, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. And I really believe that’s true. People … people don’t really care about your CV or your resume until you know that you’re gonna walk beside them in their mathematical journey, and beyond that in life as well. I always strive to help my students understand that their knowledge matters, and that their culture matters, and what they bring to the mathematics classroom is … centuries, centuries of rich mathematical traditions. And that just because … their ideas of mathematics aren’t written in a mathematics textbook doesn’t mean that’s not exactly what it is.

 

 

Seems like, Linda, as you talk, I’m thinking very literally and you know, mathematics. And you always kind of take it metaphorically and to … a more expansive place.

 

Mm.

 

A more visionary place. But it all starts with—

 

M-hm.

 

–your sense of how things work.

 

M-hm.

 

Right?

 

So, maybe we can—I’ll go back to the ethnomathematics and STEM institute.

 

Sure.

 

So an example of a literal example, a specific example of mathematics, actually, STEM is, for example, when we go to from the heavens down to the valleys, when we go to Waimea Valley, we um, debark some of the trees with the workers there. And we talk about rock wall formations and the significance of the pohaku stones. And we talk about vectors. So, direction and magnitude in the placement of these stones. We need to know where they go, because we don’t have cement. And as we talk about vectors, we connect them to standards, such as the mathematics common core state standards or the next generation science standards.

 

In terms of the makeup of the rock wall?

 

And the mathematical content involved with attention to precision and finding … beauty, power, clarity, and precision, and symbolic reasoning. So, making the connections be—uh, really in P-20 education, from early childhood education through higher ed. At the four hundred year old Waikalua Loko fishpond, with the Pacific American Foundation, we talk about ellipses and foci. So, why are fishponds oriented in a certain way? Why is the auwai um, the connection between the ocean water and the fresh water – why does it have a certain placement?

 

M-hm.

 

How does that relate to rates of change or derivatives? And how do we take that back to the classroom? And how do students understand what a derivative is, and how does that impact the way that they … not just memorize them for a math test or a physics exam, but then carry it with them so that we can eventually prepare them for college, career, and community readiness?

 

How did math figure prominently in the life of ancient Hawaiians? Who didn’t have our tools. But who loved tools.

 

Great question. There’s no exact or formal term for a mathematician or a scientist, but what they did in order to build with pohaku or what they did to design the—like the structural engineering involved with designing a fishpond, or what they did to … take a look at the ecosystems and how—how we’re connected through place-based education, those are—those are some other ways that they incorporated mathematics.

 

University of Hawaii Associate Professor Linda Furuto is using her knowledge of math principles…as an apprentice navigator and education specialist on Hokulea’s Worldwide Voyage…which was launched in 2014. The Journey is called Malama Honua or “Caring for Island Earth.” Furuto was there at the very beginning of the epic travels-that first leg from Hawaii to Tahiti.

 

Our kumu, like … Nainoa and Bruce Blankenfeld, Kalepa Baybayan, Bob Perkins, as part of my apprentice navigator and education specialist training, they would ask me questions like, Linda, what do you think is the purpose of education? When do you think a child starts learning? And where do you see yourself in forty years? Uh, no pressure.

 

And do it in twenty-five words or less.

 

So, we studied really, really hard. We looked at charts, we mapped things out. And because we had done all that work beforehand . . . as Uncle Pinky Thompson said, ninety percent is preparation, of voyaging is preparation. We’d done that preparation. So, we’d reached the point where we had to trust ourselves. And that’s really hard sometimes, between the squalls and the massive waves, to trust what your naau is telling you. But I do know from experience that … it helps you, and that you need to know that, because when you’re trying to find coconut trees after twenty-five hundred miles … something inside of you has got to trust itself and to know that … that we’ve done the preparation, and to also know that we never sail alone, and even if there’s thirteen people on Hokulea, thousands of people are guiding Hokulea on her journey … on her journey to Keala Kahiki.

 

 

What was that first trip like, the first leg of the worldwide voyage? Tell me a little bit about that.

 

I remember when we left Hilo … Kumukahi, in May 2014.

 

We waited until … nature told us it was the right time. And it was the right time, because when we hit the … the intertropical convergent zone and the doldrums, which can typically be dark, very dark, we had the full moon, the light of the full moon guiding us like a spotlight. And we could see the door, this like quadrilateral at the end of the horizon, just showing us where we needed to guide Hokulea to get through. We barely touched the sweep, which is how we steer the canoe, because it’s Keala Kahiki Hokulea was finding her way home, from Hawaii to Tahiti. And we used principles of science, technology, engineering and math to um, use weight distribution, forward or aft so that we could, guide the canoe into the wind or off the wind. We also used … sails. We brought so many sails, so we could use the dynamics of the winds to get us there.

 

Rangiroa was the first land that we saw after sixteen days of being out on the open ocean. And Nainoa said, Okay guys, you know your calculations, but you need to put that on the side and you need to trust your naau. You need to trust what it’s telling you, because those are the signs that are gonna help you find the land. And we did.

 

I love the Promise to Children document that we’re carrying with us on Hokulea around the world. And part of it reads, We believe the betterment of humanity is inherently possible, and we believe our schools from early childhood education through graduate studies are a powerful force for good. As we sail forty-seven thousand nautical miles around the earth, we will share Hawaii’s gifts of kindness and caring with our—with our brothers and sisters.

 

To me, the real highlight was just seeing the smiles of the children and … having them experience um … their, our shared culture. And thousands have been able to come onboard the floating classrooms, Hokulea and Hikianalia, models of island sustainability and exploration of ancient wisdom and modern connections.

 

What’s it like, just day-by-day, on the Hokulea, heading out across a huge expanse of ocean? Where do you sleep?

 

We sleep in the hulls. The hulls are pretty deep, and there’s a platform that goes on top of the hull, with a little puka, so you can descend below. And when you descend below, we keep, there we keep like food, water, miscellaneous supplies, and then … so you have a puka. And then, there’s a hatch cover. On top of the hatch cover is a plywood. On top of the plywood is a foam mattress; it’s maybe a few inches thick. That’s what we sleep on. And then, there’s a canvas … a canvas tent above us. But we’re not dry.

 

You’re not dry?

 

No, we’re not dry.

 

Throughout the night, you’re not?

 

We are not—well, um … people like me who are apprentice and at the very bottom, we’re never dry.

 

And you could still sleep well?

 

M-hm; m-hm. Because we know we’re exactly where we need to be. And so, when our master navigators they sleep at the—at the back of canoe, where it’s drier. But eventually, maybe we’ll get to move back–a little bit more each voyage.

 

Linda Furuto says navigator Nainoa Thompson…one of her mentors…asked her several times to become an apprentice before she said yes. Furuto had to be sure she was ready for the monumental responsibility.

 

… I realize that this is a lifelong commitment, and that this is something that I’m pledging to do for the rest of my life, not just for myself, but to help in schools and to help through … education, P-20 education and beyond the classroom through place-based education. And these are things that I think about every day, because this is my commitment to—to honor my teachers

 

This is—this is my path, this is not something I asked for, and never asked to be an apprentice navigator. I never asked to be on that first leg from Hawaii to Tahiti. It’s a gift that comes with lifelong kuleana, and I embrace it.

 

 

It’s a lot of kuleana. And you’re looking for the—I mean, you’re on your way to having that burden.

 

I do think about that. And Leslie, if I could share with you a quote. Just because I think navigating past, present, and future visions is one of my pillars, and something that I think about every single day. As we were getting ready to leave for Tahiti, Nainoa called me up about eight-thirty at night. He’s like … Eh, Linda; what you doing?

 

But Leslie, I was really watching TV.

 

But I didn’t want to tell him that.

 

I was looking at the stars, Nainoa.

 

Exactly. And it—yes, I saw this, at this declination. We ended up meeting about ten-thirty at night, and we went walking at Paiko’s. And …

 

That’s East Honolulu.

 

M-hm.

 

Lagoon.

 

M-hm.

 

Okay.

 

M-hm. And we watched the star constellations, Hokulea, Hawaii’s Venus star, and her companion star Hikianalia. So, our Taurus and Spica just rising in the heavens. And Nainoa imparted wisdom that I hope I’ll always carry with me. And he said, Linda, you have to have a vision. If you don’t, someone will take it away from you, or they’ll give you theirs. And that’s really important. We need to always be grounded in what we’re willing to sail for.

 

At the time of this conversation in 2015, Linda Furuto had sailed on 3 legs of Hokulea’s voyage around the globe. Mahalo to Math Education Associate Professor Linda Furuto of the University of Hawaii at Manoa for sharing your story with us. And thank you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha A Hui Hou.

 

 

CREDITS: (30-40 SEC)

 

Two of my favorite places on Hokulea are the front and the back. On the back is a plaque; it’s for our na aumakua and it starts with Pele. And when we have the gods and goddesses, and up to this day, people who have gone before us uh, Papa Mau Piailug, our very first teacher and master navigator, um, and we have Lacy Veach, NASA astronaut and Punahou alum who says you need to take Hokulea around the world because Hawaii is a laboratory for living well on islands, including Island Earth.

 

Mm.

 

And when you have Eddie Aikau, whose plaque on the front of the canoe—so that’s my other favorite part. It reads, No greater love hath a man than this, that he laid down his life for his friends.   And I’m filled with courage, and I’m filled with peace, that I know I’m in the right place.

 

[END]

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Nainoa Thompson

 

As a young boy growing up in ahupuaa o Niu, now known as Niu Valley, Nainoa Thompson would go to Maunalua Bay with a family friend, Yoshi Kawano. “And we would go fishing. And that’s where my love for the ocean started, through fishing,” Thompson remembers. Today, Master Navigator Nainoa Thompson is sailing the Polynesian voyaging canoe, Hokulea, on a voyage around the world to raise awareness about the importance of taking care of our earth and the ocean that he loves.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Nov. 22 at 4:00 pm.

 

Nainoa Thompson Audio

 

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Transcript

 

You know, we do things ‘cause we believe they’re right. We’ll take voyages or we’ll move forward because we believe that they’re necessary to be active. The worst thing in our time is ignorance, and it’s apathy, and it’s inaction. And especially now, ‘cause the world is changing so quick, you need to be in front of it, not behind. And so, you create an idea, you create a vision that is based on something like taking a canoe forty-seven thousand miles, going to twenty-eight countries, eighty-two ports around the only island we have called Earth in a way in which you hope in the journey that you can create awareness and better understandings and moving community towards being active. And so, inherently for the success of the mission of the Worldwide Voyage, it requires both a strong local community connected to a global community. Otherwise, you’re gonna fail your intention. I see myself as part of the responsibility to do certain pieces to make that happen.

 

Nainoa Thompson is a master navigator who has learned how to rely on nature and his instincts to guide the double-hulled Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokulea across vast stretches of open ocean to faraway destinations. And he’s using wayfinding skills on land, navigating political and diplomatic terrain to reach with the Hokulea across the globe to raise awareness about the importance of taking care of our Earth. Nainoa Thompson, next on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Nainoa Thompson was the first Hawaiian in over six hundred years to sail a canoe between Hawaii and Tahiti without the use of modern navigational tools. He has the vision to see an island thousands of miles away, and the courage to leave the safety of land, because he feels the long voyages connecting people will make the world a better place. That’s come from a lifetime of training and community, starting here in the East Honolulu ahupuaa of Niu, also known as Niu Valley, where Thompson grew up. From this place, his sense of community has grown to encompass the world.

 

When does a child learn values, caring for the Earth, caring for your place, caring for ohana, caring for your family, caring for elders? When do you learn that? And for me, it was very young. And that was because my two greatest teachers were my mom and dad. Here is my primary school, in my mom and dad’s house. It sets the course for my life. And right down the road, right here was my grandfather’s dairy. I mean, I’m so old that there were no supermarkets, no Costco, no Foodland, no nothing. There was nothing in Niu Valley. It was a dairy farm and a chicken farm, and Kuliouou had a meat house. Hawaii Kai marina was the largest fishpond in the State of Hawaii, and Aina Haina had a few stores. And my grandfather made milk, and it would be delivered in glass bottles at night. And the guy that would deliver it, his name was Yoshi Kawano, and he was the man that taught me kindness, he was the man that taught me compassion. He lived in an old wooden house. My mom and dad, when they would leave us with someone, we would always be with the Kawanos, ‘cause they were the ones that they trusted the most. And you felt that, you know, as a child. You were taken care of, you were nurtured, you were safe, and you were clean. And so, in Yoshi’s house, everything was Japanese. And so, you bathed in the furo, and you ate Japanese food. You could smell it in the house. You ate on futons and everything was Japanese. But he was my greatest ocean teacher, my primary ocean teacher. When I was about five years old, he gave me a fishing pole. Too bad for him to do that, because he gave me this little bamboo fishing pole, and then he was the one who delivered the milk at ten-thirty at night, worked all night ‘til eight o’clock in the morning. And then I would be sitting on his old wooden doorsteps with the fishing pole. And then, he’d put me in the car every single time, and we’d drive what seemed very far to me to Maunalua Bay right out here, and we would go fishing. And that’s where my love for the ocean started, through fishing, ‘cause Maunalua was so full of life. And so, that was classroom, that was school, and Yoshi became my definition of community that was caring, that kept you safe. We were safe as children here, and we could be left here on the land or with the community. It was a beautiful time. And Yoshi, in his house, everything was Japanese, and it was fully respected. He’s Nisei, so he was born in Hawaii. But everything outside of his house, once you stepped out the door, was Hawaiian. And so, this whole valley here, or this ridge Kulepeamoa, this is where he taught me about the spirits and the blue light. He talked about the Menehune when Kalanianaole was a coral road. And that that beautiful blending and mixing of who he was, of Japanese ancestry, but on a place that’s Hawaiian, and honoring both sides. It was hugely impactful on how I look at our amazingly beautiful mixing of many cultures around the world that created a fabric of a culture that is more based not on race, but it’s based on values. And that makes Hawaii powerful. Not just a nice place to be, but it makes it powerful.

 

In addition to Yoshi Kawano, the teachers whom Nainoa Thompson most often recognizes are Mao Piailug, one of the last traditional navigators from Micronesia; Nainoa’s father, Pinky Thompson; Lacy Veach, an astronaut from Hawaii; and Eddie Aikau. Eddie was an outstanding waterman and crew member on Hokulea, and was lost at sea when he went for help on his surfboard after the canoe capsized in 1978. When that happened, the dream of a Hawaiian navigating a canoe voyage to Tahiti could have ended.

 

My dad was saying that, you know, you guys, your community, you need to find Tahiti. Not for you, but for your people. And he was so forceful. You need to get up, get off your knees; you’re on your knees and you can’t see, you need to get up, and you need to find Tahiti. But with me, he said—interesting, you know. He pulled us all together, our leadership. After the loss of Eddie, we couldn’t even talk to each other. We were just so … overwhelmed with grief and anger, and rage, and denial. All that kind stuff. And blaming; yeah? And that’s the worst. And so, it was all of that, and so we couldn’t even talk to each other. Leadership was was pau, it was finished. But my father and guys like Abraham Piianaia, they said, Absolutely not. I mean, these guys have been through the war; right? They know what it takes to stand up and fight for your beliefs. And they knew it was a pivotal time. But dad was interesting. He gets us all together, he pulls us all together, he creates the idea of finding Tahiti. We all come together around the idea in one room at the Biomedical Building and so, we were together. Then we’re walking in the parking lot after the meeting, and we’re all solid and the vision’s clear, we’re gonna go. We’re gonna work hard, we’re gonna take years to do this, do it right, not wrong, but almost in an angry voice. In the parking lot, the light was so bright, ‘cause we were in a dark room the whole time. And he goes, Okay, Nainoa, you want to navigate? Who’s your teacher? ‘Cause Mau went home; yeah?

 

And he said, You won’t look for me, and you won’t even find me.

 

Yeah; and he was not gonna come back. Yeah. So, he was just so … frankly, disgusted with Hawaii. Because Hawaii was just not together. It wasn’t pono, and it was in conflict all the time. In the world he comes from, that is completely unacceptable. You know, anyway, make a long story short, Mau came back.

 

After Mau Piailug returned to Hawaii, Nainoa Thompson trained with him for the next two years, learning the paths of the stars and the movements of the winds and seas, and sailed to Tahiti. Over the next two decades, Nainoa would take the canoe over enormous expanses of ocean. Throughout the Pacific, he became regarded as a wayfinder on land, as well as at sea. In the year 2000, he was appointed by the Hawaii Probate Court to serve as a Bishop Estate trustee. This, after a scandal over gross mismanagement that had placed the future of Kamehameha Schools in jeopardy. Do you know how he found his way in these uncharted waters? This is his story.

 

You know, I never applied for the leadership job. I mean, actually, I don’t even know how it happened. But the agreement to become a trustee was really about service. It was really about if you’re gonna be asked, certainly, it’s honor and privilege to be a part of that amazing institution. And it is. It’s just so extraordinary. But it was a rough time. I remember it was the first month of being a trustee, and you walk in the door with four of your colleagues that you don’t even know. I mean, we come from very different worlds. Why they picked me, I have no idea. But I’m not in the business field, I’m not an attorney, I’m not in real estate development. I’m a fisherman. So, in the back of my mind, two things. The primary thing, you need to rebuild trust in trustees, ‘cause it was gone. It was evaporated. Nobody trusted the trustees. And the only way that you’re gonna do that is to have that community of five trustees come together. And if we fail to come together, we should quit and have the courage to do it. So, make a long story short. In the first month, I don’t know, I remember … it’s like where our office is, you walk around and go through this small little kitchen into the boardroom. And that boardroom has so much mana. And it’s like a brass golden doorknob, and I reach for the doorknob. I grabbed it, and then I pulled my hand away, ‘cause I was like afraid to go in the room, like I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know how to lead this. I didn’t know how to command. And then, I took a really deep breath, and I opened the door and walked into the room filled with people. They don’t trust you. And then, working with a group that you don’t know. It was a rough time. And then to really be able to collect and glue back the pieces of a broken trust, it was a rough time. And I didn’t feel I was adequate, I didn’t feel like I had the tools, I didn’t have the background. But you were asked; right? You were asked to do this. And so, I remember my response to that was, I got my assistant, Stella Kutaka, a beautiful lady, to help me. And I got pictures of all my great leaders, all of my great teachers, those who I would define as leaders that navigated. So, you had Yoshi on the wall, you had my father on the wall, you had Lacy on the wall, you had Eddie on the wall, you had Kala Kukea on the wall, you had Herb Kane. There was like sixty-something pictures, and I put ‘em around the whole room. And so, when I would be in a decision that was profound to a whole institution that’s on the governance side, it’s my job to set course for the institution, and I didn’t know how to answer it, and I’m getting pressured for the wrong reasons, and you feel it, I would stop the meeting. And I would go inside the room, turn on the light, and I would sit with my teachers. My leaders that have set the course for me for my whole life, and I needed them, ‘cause the vast majority of them are gone. And so, in the pictures were their story, their work, their values, and their relationship. So again, that is that community around the whole room.

 

And are you saying that after spending time with the photos that you were able to find a course?

 

Well, sometimes, the course, but the ability to be able to say, You gotta get up, you gotta go in that room, and you gotta make a decision. If you’re not completely clear too bad; you’re a trustee, and you need to decide. You can’t go absent. And so, I needed their counsel and their guidance, and so, I would remember their stories. You know, what would Mau do? What would Eddie do? What would my dad do? My dad was a trustee for twenty-one years. What would he do? And so, that was the smartest thing I ever did, was to get all my teachers and my leaders in the room with me, and I could sit with them in counsel by myself. Then, go back inside and deal with the rough decisions that you’re never, ever feeling that it’s one hundred percent the correct thing to do, ‘cause it’s complex decisions, and then working on. I always say this with a lot of humility, but huge respect for my colleagues. That was an amazing group of trustees. Diane Plotts was a land developer that built all these big hotels with Chris Hemmeter, which is not my thing that I would ever do. I thought, We are gonna have a rough time coming to find a place of common ground. But Diane in the end, she was really almost the spiritual grounding of the board, because she had such solid values that she went back to. And so, I’d go pester her and ask her, you know, Where do you come up with these decisions? It always went back to her growing up on a farm.

 

And having a center.

 

Where are values taught? Where do you learn them? How? When? Who? So, Diane in the end was really my guidance at the level on which, you know, she would look at me in the boardroom and say, Nainoa, vote. Vote. But no matter what position I ever took, even though it was contrary to her, she respected it. I love that lady.

 

And no Hawaiian blood in her at all.

 

No Hawaiian blood. But she is of the culture of values, she is one of the navigators. If there was some way to accurately measure Kamehameha’s influence on what’s happened in the last four years, it would be profound. Look around in the professional fields at how many are graduates. And the interesting thing about Kamehameha is that the graduates come home. You know, there’s a sense of place, there’s a sense of kuleana, and they’re making a huge difference. And if you think the last forty years was amazing; wait ‘til the next forty. I mean, they’re just everywhere. On our voyaging canoes, out of the twelve navigators that we have, eight are Kamehameha Schools graduates. The new ones, the young ones, the best ones. And so, I mean, their influence on voyaging is huge.

 

Nainoa Thompson says that as new generations of voyagers have been raised up over the years, so has their desire to undertake new challenges and achieve new goals.

 

Lacy Veach back in 1992, he and my dad, right down the road, he was telling my dad, and my dad was agreeing; We should take Hokulea around the world, the world needs to see Hokulea, Hokulea needs to learn about the Earth, we need to protect it. This was Lacy. And my dad was raising the question; Are we at the point where the Hawaiian community is ready to engage the rest of the Earth as a vibrant, strong, powerful culture and build relationships around the right kinds of values? That’s in 1992. We lose both of our great navigators; my father and Lacy. But it wasn’t until 2007 when we were … not me, it was Chad Paishon and Chad Baybayan were sitting exhausted on the Fukuoka dock in Japan when we sailed to Micronesia, to Mau’s island to honor him, then we went up to Japan to honor Yoshi and the many Yoshi’s that had voyaged to Hawaii. It’s two o’clock in the morning. These two poor navigators are exhausted, and they’re saying, Man, there’s gonna be two thousand people down here tomorrow morning at dawn, and they’re gonna want to touch Hokulea. So, you’re in a country that doesn’t know Hokulea, you’re in a country that speaks a different language, with a different history. They’re oceanic people, they’re amazing ocean people, but they don’t know this canoe. And yet, why would two thousand people be there? And they’re gonna be there. And then, they said, Why don’t we go around the world. And so, we voted on April 1, 2008 to do this. But there were a whole bunch of issues. Could you keep it safe, could you get enough crewmembers to do this, could you raise the funding? Could you build the community? And so, that was when we reached out to stuff like organizations that were just designed for this. And that was the East West Center. I mean, they’re designed for this, to help us create the ability to sail the voyage. ‘Cause we needed to earn the voyage; right? We needed to make sure that all these issues, safety and leadership, and crew strength that as borne from the idea, but we had to be responsible for the idea.

 

There are so many moving parts, like even fundraising and strategic planning.

 

Hokulea took eighteen months of dry dock. We made the promise that the canoe needed to be better than ever, that it can go around the world. We’re gonna take all rot and all damage off the canoe. Right now, the only thing left on Hokulea that’s from 1976 is one inch of the hulls, that go around the hulls. And everything else, by that decision, had to be changed. But the thing about community, we had twelve hundred volunteers that put in thirty-two thousand volunteer man hours. If we didn’t have that pool, we could never get Hokulea ready to go. But fundamentally, these are twelve hundred people who don’t know each other, that come together around an idea, and to get Hokulea ready. I mean, enormous; enormous human effort. You don’t lead that. You know what leads it? It’s the idea.

 

But the idea has to be shaped and nourished, and grown. At what point do you come in and feed it?

 

I come in, in the beginning. You know, I’m there to be responsible for the nurturing of the idea, and to measure it. And I guess my biggest leadership decision is whether we did earn the right to go. And during the voyage, I have the very difficult situation about saying whether it’s still worth it. Are you gonna call it off? Are you gonna ship Hokulea home? Are you gonna fail the mission? That would be my responsibility. And so, I do have to make that final call. But what I’ve learned over the years, and it’s through those great teachers, is that fear is best friend. You know, it’s the one that reminds you that you’re not ready. It’s the one that keeps you honest and tells you that the things you didn’t take care of. And fear, I find it in a number of ways, but I find it in my dreams. And I will wake up and just have these horrendous dreams of irresponsibility, not following through, danger, risk, the things that are really bothering me, they come to me. ‘Cause what you do is, your day is so busy and it’s so complicated that you can push this all behind you. But when you’re sleeping, you can’t do that. But then, I also find it in exhaustion. I get sick sometimes, I get more colds, I start to create that old kinda childhood excuses for not having to take responsibility. It never goes away. It’s still there. But what the voyaging has helped me do, which has been huge, it’s like there’s this door of fear that it’s like the Kamehameha Schools door, it’s like that golden handle that you don’t want to open. ‘Cause if you open it, you gotta be honest about all your inadequacies, all the things that make you less than perfect. But what I’ve learned through the voyaging—that’s why I love cloudy days. I love getting lost now. And I love taking my students. I hope they get like the worst doldrums, ever.

 

 

 

Because it’s in the blackness, it’s in the cloudiness, it’s in the times that aren’t easy, that you grow, that you become the best. And what I’ve learned, and primarily from—my primary teacher is Eddie. Eddie said, Open the door.

 

When Hokulea was rebuilt, the original deck was salvaged and remade into this table that sits on the lanai of Nainoa Thompson’s parents’ house in Niu Valley in East Honolulu. In May 2014, Hokulea left for Tahiti, the first stop outside Hawaii on the Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage, a journey dedicated to increasing awareness for the importance of taking care of our island Earth. Everywhere Hokulea travels, the canoe is joining with global communities to bridge traditional and new technologies to share the message of living sustainably.

 

The oceans matter. So, the Worldwide Voyage says that the greatest environmental challenge of our time is protecting the world’s oceans, because the oceans protect the world’s life. I mean, the next four breaths you take, three come from the ocean. Don’t mess with plankton. And so, when we look at the oceans and we look at the state they’re in, we need to be very concerned, because that’s gonna be the measurable defined environmental issue about what’s gonna happen to our next two generations. So, if that’s our story, if that’s our idea, then you make the connection with places that don’t know the canoe, but they connect to your values. So, when we look at sustainability, we talk about stuff that’s not really the solution. But when you think about what the Hawaiians did in this land, with their system of tenure, their sets of values, how they developed things like the ahupuaa system and how they learned how to manage resources on the islands, it’s so critical today, ‘cause embedded in that two thousand years was an enormous amount of very hard learning that took place to be able to find some sense of balance. And in the balance is where we find hope. And so, you have all these things emerging. You have leadership emerging, you have highly educated Native Hawaiians that are coming into the workforce, coming into professionalism, namely go into medicine, go into the doctorates programs, go into economics, go into education. It’s growing. What’s gonna happen in the next twenty years, there’s gonna be this merger between that history, that culture of living well on these islands, and with the professionalism which is required to make the adaptation for the way that we lived before, we’ll figure out a way for the second half of this 21st century. I think it’s vital. And you know, of course, it’s hard.

 

Since he attained the rare distinction of master navigator, Nainoa Thompson’s courage to open the door and walk through has been inspiring communities not just in Hawaii, but around the world, to achieve their dreams. Mahalo to Nainoa Thompson of Ahupuaa O Niu, for your community building on a vast scale, and for sharing your stories with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

I don’t know about that. But the ones I listen to the most today are my two little children. When I add up the signs and what we know about traditional knowledge and indigenous knowledge about what’s going on, when I know that my two little children understand the Worldwide Voyage and the values and the beliefs in the context of their six-year-old world, when I know that they allow their father to go ‘cause they know that he believes it’s the right thing to do, but at the same time that this voyage is for them. At the same time, I don’t have to have their picture on the wall, because I can see them on a daily basis. I can touch them and feel them. So, it’s that beautiful world that I live in that has this legacy and this journey, and this history of extraordinary leaders that are defining your ultimate permission. And then at the same time, you can be at home and see your children, and making sure that they are believing with you too. And so, I’m not a leader, but I’m in an amazing place, and been on a lifelong journey of extraordinary leaders, and that’s that.

 

[END]


Nainoa Thompson:
Navigating Currents on Land As Well as at Sea

Hokuleʻa

 

Leslie Wilcox, President and CEO of PBS HawaiiThere are at least a couple of surprises about Nainoa Thompson’s appearance on Long Story Short, coming up on Tuesday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 pm.

Nainoa chose the place for the interview, and it’s not within sight of the ocean. It’s his family property, upland in Niu Valley, with green fields, spreading kiawe trees and his mom Laura’s friendly chickens.

 

And the master navigator and President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society isn’t speaking about the ocean, except as a connector to cultures and communities. No, this conversation is about a different kind of wayfinding: on land, in political and diplomatic currents, at far-flung ports of call.

 

Nainoa ThompsonFor his work in bringing together nations on the Hokulea’s ongoing Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage, the East-West Center has named Thompson its 2015 Asia-Pacific Community Builder.

Just as he has spent decades observing the skies and seas, Nainoa has been involved for many
years with the East-West Center, sharing with and getting to know students from 30 countries. When it came time to prepare for the five-year global voyage, he tapped the Center’s deep knowledge.

 

“It was through them that we had the ability to build the kind of relationships we needed, whether governmental or community, or cultural, educational and environmental, or even port logistics,” he said.

 

Whatever the protocol, he says, the key is knowing how to show respect for others and their home.

 

He said the exchanges on land “allow us the opportunity to believe that we’re more alike than we’re different, that diversity is a strength, and that diversity is a treasure if it is built on … respect.”

 

And, with a nod to the greenery of the surrounding valley, Nainoa comments that Hawaii is not just a nice place. He believes other nations can see that Hokuleʻa crewmembers are from a seat of power. Because, he says, our “amazingly beautiful” cultural mix has created a fabric that is based not on race, but on values.

 

I hope you’re able to see this episode! Long Story Short also is available online at www.PBSHawaii.org

 

A hui hou (until next time),

Leslie signature

 

 

HIKI NŌ
hosted by Waialua High and Intermediate School

 

This episode of HIKI NŌ is hosted by Waialua High and Intermediate School on the north shore of Oahu.

 

Top Story:
Why Are There So Many Mexican Restaurants in Kapaa?
Kapaa High School on Kauai explores why there are so many Mexican restaurants – 9, to be exact – in their small town of Kapaa, where there is only one Starbucks. In spite of the availability of so much Mexican food, restaurant owners don’t feel that they are in competition with each other as they offer regional specialties from Mexico that distinguish their offerings. Besides the popularity of Mexican food, the increasing Mexican population in Hawaii may be a reason for the proliferation of restaurants.

 

Also Featured:
Punahou School’s Kaniela Lyman-Mersereau Sails on Hokulea
Middle school students at Punahou School on Oahu feature their teacher, Kaniela Lyman-Mersereau, who recently sailed to New Zealand on Hokulea’s Malama Honua worldwide voyage. Kaniela’s mother was among Hokulea’s original crew, which instilled in him at a young age deep values for the ocean and how important it is to take care of each other.

 

Two Ladies Kitchen in Hilo
Waiakea High School on Hawaii Island visits Two Ladies Kitchen, which serves up over twenty flavors of mochi. The shop started with a family recipe and seven flavors and has grown, making it a popular stop for locals and visitors alike, and where kitchen staff have become family.

 

Pohole Salad A Hana Specialty
Hana K-12 School in East Maui shares how to make pohole salad, a popular dish in Hana that’s served at community gatherings and special events. It’s made from the pohole fern that grows in patches around Hana.

 

Master Storyteller Thomas Cummings
Kalani High School students in East Honolulu feature Uncle Tom Cummings, who has been telling stories for over forty years, weaving Hawaiian culture, mythology, history and values into tales that he started learning as a child. He captivates audiences using objects and “stuff” to illustrate his storytelling.

 

Na Hoku Hano Hano Award Winner Mark Yamanaka
Mid Pacific Institute students in the Manoa district of Oahu had an opportunity to interview award winning Hawaiian musician Mark Yamanaka and listen to his musical stylings. Yamanaka shares one of the biggest challenges of his life – not being of Hawaiian ancestry and wanting to play Hawaiian music.

 

This program encores Saturday, May 16 at 12:30 pm and Sunday, May 17 at 3:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website, www.pbshawaii.org/hikino.

 

HIKI NŌ
Hosted by Waipahu High School on Oahu

 

This episode of HIKI NŌ is being hosted by Waipahu High School on Oahu.

 

Top Story:
Students from Seabury Hall Middle School on Maui profile Kathryn Peterson, who has volunteered to help in the training of assistance dogs since she was 10 years old. The Seabury Hall senior is passionate about the service that assistance dogs provide for people with disabilities, enabling them to lead more independent and fulfilling lives.

 

Also Featured:
Students from Ka Waihona o ka Naauao Public Charter School on Oahu share the story of their school principal, Alvin Parker, who served as a crewmember on the Aotearoa (New Zealand) leg of Hokulea’s World Wide Voyage, helping to promote the message of malama honua, or caring for the Earth; students from Kapaa High School on Kauai capture the lively activities that abound at their town’s monthly street fair; students from Kamehameha Schools Kapalama High School on Oahu feature Imiah Tafaovale, a Kamehameha sophomore who finds a convenient way to forgo the long school commutes that were robbing her of sleep; students from Konawaena High School on Hawaii Island document the creation of a community mural that showcases the cultural values of West Hawaii; students from Hawaii Preparatory Academy on Hawaii Island tell the story of Thomas “Tom Tom” Pahio, a Waipio taro farmer whose loi, or taro patches, serve both as an outdoor classroom for students and as test beds for taro varieties that can resist new environmental threats.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Sam Low: Raising Islands

 

As a crewmember on the Hokulea, waterman Sam Low experienced the chicken skin moments when, as the canoe would approach a Pacific island, the island itself would appear to be raised out of the distant horizon as the canoe sailed closer.  As a documentarian, author Sam Low heard the vision, fears and dreams of master navigator Nainoa Thompson and those involved with sailing the canoe.  On this episode, Sam Low shares his stories of sailing on Hokulea.

 

Sam Low Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Nainoa has said that early on he’s been hindered by a fear of failure. Do you know how he resolved that? Because he certainly succeeded.

 

Courage. He resolved it by being courageous, I think. It was Nainoa’s job to be the first Hawaiian in perhaps a thousand years, after that devastating accident, devastating loss of Eddie Aikau, to take the canoe as navigator on the first voyage in a thousand years that a Hawaiian has navigated. So, naturally, he was fearful. He was fearful for his own ability, but he was fearful for his people. Because if he failed, that would have been, Oh, Hawaiians, yeah. I have the feeling that his father helped him understand that there’s a deeper mission. That everything is based on helping your community, helping your people, and that your fear or your immediate reluctance is nowhere near as important as pushing through it to get that mission accomplished.

 

In researching his book, Hawaiki Rising, Sam Low spent hours interviewing his cousin, Nainoa Thompson, talking to him about the double-hulled canoe Hokulea, and what drove his dream to voyage in the wake of his ancestors. Sam Low, next on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Sam Low was born and raised in Connecticut. His Hawaiian father left the Big Island to attend prep school on the Continent, where he got married, never to return home again. Their son Sam inherited his father’s love of the ocean and of boats, and grew up spending summers at the beach on Martha’s Vineyard, where he still lives at the time of our conversation in 2014. Sam Low made his first trip to Hawaii as a young naval officer, and has been coming here ever since, connecting with his family that includes Nainoa Thompson. Sam’s background as a documentary filmmaker, his ocean skills, and his family connections eventually led him to become a crewmember on Hokulea, where his role on the voyaging canoe was that of the documentarian. His job was to observe, and through that, he got to experience what life is like sailing on a canoe in the middle of the ocean, thousands of miles away from land.

 

My role on Hokulea has always been as a writer, as a documenter. Usually, on Hokulea, you’re a crewmember, and so that’s basic. You know, you stand your watch, and you do all that. But you have another role as well, which is, you could be a cook, you could be a watch captain, you could be a carpenter, or you could whatever. And my role was as documenter. And so, that fit, you know, what I had been doing for so many years prior to that, going out and documenting, either filming or writing about, or doing a thesis at Harvard about a way of life that I wanted to bring back and I wanted to give you, wanted you to have this gift. I have seen this, I have been there. And now, I want you to have it. And that was a perfect blend of what the job was. As a documenter, the kuleana, or actually as any crewmember, the kuleana on Hokulea.

 

Isn’t it interesting that all your interests sometimes come together and inform each other into one wonderful culmination?

 

Yeah. I probably never would have gotten on the canoe if it hadn’t have been that I did have this skill of being able to write. And of course, it didn’t hurt that Nainoa was my cousin, and I had a relationship with him. I was invited on the voyage to Rapa Nui. And that was actually my first trip on the canoe. The voyage to Rapa Nui was supposed to be the hardest voyage, because the prevailing winds are against you. And so, Nainoa had predicted that it would have to be tacking into the wind. So, this would be a zig-zag all the way. So, what was maybe, I think about seventeen hundred miles could easily become three thousand miles, if you had to tack. So, he chose a veteran crew. He had on board those folks like Tava Taupu, and Michael Tongg, and Snake Ah Hee, and Bruce Blankenfeld, and you know, Kalepa Baybayan. The best of the best. They set off. Now, I should say that this was the first voyage that I was actually invited to go on. But Nainoa wasn’t quite sure about me. I had made one voyage on the escort boat, and that went fine. So, he just wasn’t sure, and he put me on the escort boat and he said, You’re gonna be on the escort boat for four or five days, we’re gonna see how it goes, and if everything’s going okay on the canoe, then we’ll bring you over.

 

Why was Nainoa unsure about whether to have you on the Hokulea? ‘Cause you’re a waterman, you’ve been around water all your life in different kinds of craft.

 

Right; but you have to remember that on that voyage, there were the tested men, they were the best of the best. These men had probably voyaged thirty thousand, forty thousand miles. Not only that, they’re surfers, and they’re athletes.

 

And did Nainoa figure you could document it just as well from the escort boat?

 

I think he knew I couldn’t do that. But I think he wanted to just be sure. I think he wanted to go out and to see, and if it was a slog, and it was what he expected it to be, the most severe test of endurance, then maybe I would have stayed on the escort boat. But it didn’t turn out that way; it turned out to be easier. And so, I think that’s why he invited me.

 

So, it had to do with physical conditions?

 

Physical training.

 

Not fit?

 

Not fit. Not like those guys. No; uh-uh. Those guys, well, look at them. I mean, look at Tava. You know, look at Snake. All of those guys are watermen, all the time. You have to remember, New England, it’s the winter, so I get to swim four or five months out of the year. I was not in the kind of shape that those guys were, so I think that’s what his reservation might have been. So, I think on the fifth day, we got word that they wanted me to go over. And I’m like, Yes! And it was one of those rainy, kind of drizzly days, not a lot of wind, and I was rowed over by one of the crew on the escort boat. And Hokulea is up here, and I kind of crawled in. You crawl over the hulls, and then you crawl up over this canvas kind of space shield. And I remember crawling out and looking up, and there was Mike Tongg. His appearance is like this gentle, loving Buddha, you know. He has that kind of loving appearance. And the rain was just dripping down off his face, like this. And he was looking down at me with this beneficent smile. He didn’t say a word; just … Welcome, good to see you. And so, I just immediately felt at home with Mike’s blessing. He’s such a veteran on that canoe. But Nainoa had felt that we had to be prepared for the slog of wind. But as it turned out, fortuitously, at that time of year, down in the roaring forties … I hope I’m right, but I think that we were probably up around twenty degrees south. And down around forty degrees south, there were a number of low pressure areas that were spinning storms up toward us, spinning wind up toward us. And so, they broke the trade winds, and they created following winds. So that Nainoa seeing that, set off basically in a storm, and sailed along with the wind coming from behind, spun up by these storms down in the roaring forties, until that storm went through, and then we were kind of the calm. And then the trades would fill in again, and we’d do a little tacking, and then another storm would come along. And we made the trip so much faster than what was predicted, that we got there a week before our welcoming party.

 

Nice when storms are your friends.

 

Yeah; yeah. So, it turned out to be a lot easier in terms of the crew, and in terms of the endurance than we thought it was gonna be. More difficult from the navigation point of view, because often you would have cloudy skies. In fact, on that voyage to Rapa Nui, two or three days before Nainoa found the island, we started to have cloudy skies, and he had no real sight of his guiding star. He was steering pretty much by swells, and he was navigating by dead reckoning. So for three days, he was navigating by instinct, trained instinct. And on the day that we sighted Rapa Nui, the winds shifted. He was going to do a zig, and instead of doing a zig, the wind shifted and kind of pushed us in the direction that he thought we wanted to go. And he said, We’ll follow the wind; we’ll just stay, we’ll follow the wind. Hokulea knows where she wants to go.

 

Now, when you can’t navigate by stars, does he sleep at all? I mean, because he’s always watching current conditions.

 

Yeah; he is. Well, when you’re not navigating by the stars, you’re navigating pretty much by the swells and the wind. Of course, the wind was gyrating around and changing, so he was using the swells to navigate. Normally, if he’s alone on a voyage, then he will sleep in catnaps. He’ll sleep for maybe twenty minutes, thirty minutes, and then jump up and be awake for, say, eight hours, and then lie down for twenty or thirty minutes, and jump up. And he’ll do this for thirty days at a time. One of his great fears on that first voyage in 1980 was he wouldn’t be able to stay awake. That’s Mau’s secret, not mine; I can’t do that. But it was one of those first, as he calls them, the doors of perception had opened. One of those first doors that opened was that when they set sail out of Hilo and started on the voyage, after about fourteen hours, he decided he was really tired, he was gonna take a little nap. And he lay down, and he lay down for about fifteen or twenty minutes, and he jumped up and he was refreshed. And he said that was the first kind of sense that there is something in navigation, there is something in accepting the challenge and the risk that comes from another level, and that he was able to that, on that first voyage. And that’s what he normally does. On this voyage, the Rapa Nui voyage, he had Kalepa Baybayan on board, he had Bruce Blankenfeld on board; he had trained navigators with him. So, he could sleep.

 

If you don’t have enough sleep for enough time, I mean, I would think your judgment becomes impaired. So, I guess you have to have a limited goal in terms of time? How do you do that?

 

He does it for a month at a time.

 

Amazing.

 

I have no idea; I couldn’t do it.

 

So, maybe because you have a goal and you’re trained, and you’re generally in good shape, you can manage your mind and your brain cells for that amount of time.

 

Yeah; it’s a mystery to me, how he can do it. You know, it’s always chicken skin if you’re crew, and/or a documenter particularly, my job being to watch everybody, and to record. But you know, I’ve watched Nainoa pretty intently, and it’s always that moment when he says, Post lookouts, land is near. And then, I would get to go ask him, Well, what’s going on? He’d say, Well, I think Rapa Nui is there. And he put Max Yarawamai, who is Carolinian, who has great eyesight, he put him on watch. And about five hours later, there it was, Rapa Nui. And it was pretty much where he said it was. And Rapa Nui is tiny. And so, he found this island after seventeen hundred miles.

 

After sailing to Rapa Nui, Hokulea navigator Nainoa Thompson invited Sam Low aboard the canoe for the trip home. This second experience gave Sam even more insights into how Nainoa used nature and his intuition based on experience to guide him to exactly where he wanted to go.

 

The second voyage I got to make was from Tahiti to Hawaii. And we’d been at sea for, I think, about twenty-four, twenty-five days. Had lots of storm on that particular voyage, lots of squalls. I’m going to say it was the twenty-fifth day, I forget exactly, Nainoa turned the canoe downwind. We’d been headed into the wind all the time to get to the east of the Hawaiian Islands, and he turned downwind. So, we knew something was up. And steering downwind on Hokulea, the sails are on either side, wing-on-wing, ‘cause the wind is directly from behind. And we were steering that way for a while. We couldn’t see anything; there was this gentle mist wafting over the canoe. You could feel the sun, but you couldn’t see it. Visibility ahead was maybe oh, I don’t know, half a mile.

 

And during this time, do you say, Hey, Nainoa, what’s going on? Or do people not talk about what’s up?

 

Well, I got to be bratty, because I was the documenter. So, I didn’t say anything for a while, but we went wing-on-wing, and then the wind changed slightly, and so one of the sails came over. So, now, we’re sailing like this. We felt that. And around six o’clock, I saw Nainoa was just back there on the navigator’s platform, just peering intently ahead. Again, this mist was coming over. We couldn’t see anything; I couldn’t see anything. So, being a documenter, I get to go back and say, you know, What’s going on? He said, Well, Hilo is right there. After twenty-five hundred miles, twenty-five days, Hilo is right there? So, I said, How do you know? And he said, Well, do you remember when the sail, when we couldn’t sail wing-on-wing? Well, that’s because we got into that place where the winds are coming and being broken by Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, and churning around the island. And so, that wind shift, that gentle wind shift told me that we’ve gotten into that zone where the winds are breaking. You know, these mountains are fourteen thousand feet high. And he said, Look ahead, you see that mist seems to stall, it seems to slow down. So, I looked. Yeah; okay. Keep going. I know I couldn’t see it. And he said, If you look—the sun was starting to go down. If you look on either side, you can see it’s kind of dark ahead of us, and it’s a little bit lighter there.

 

You couldn’t see it?

 

I couldn’t see it. And so, I wrote it all dutifully down. And then we sailed on for a while, and then he tacked. And I said, Well, why’d you tack? He said, We’re on the Hamakua Coast, and I don’t want to get too close. Of course, none of us can see this. This is after twenty-five days. I don’t want to get too close, and Hilo is right over there. And so, I said, Okay; write it down. And then, we all felt it. And we all went over to the rail, and the whole crew is standing there looking, and Nainoa said Hilo is there, and they know Hamakua must be there. And we waited for about fifteen minutes, and then fortuitously, that low cloud layer lifted; just lifted. And there it was, the twinkle of the coast, Hilo over here, the lighthouse. And at that moment, Nainoa just said, We’re home.

 

Wow.

 

After twenty-five days. So, that’s the chicken skin, that when you’re navigating with someone like Nainoa or Kalepa Baybayan, or Bruce Blankenfeld, or Chad Paishon, or Shorty Bertelmann, any of these great navigators who have dedicated their life to merging with the signs of the sea, and you have the privilege to be on a canoe after that much time, and to see land is there, exactly where they say it is.

 

What happens over the twenty-five days, say, of a voyage? Is there a lot of talk? Is there a lot of laughter? What do people do, day-by-day?

 

I think it depends a lot on the crew and on the chemistry of the crew. And I think it’s all of that. But if I think back on it, I think more of a kind of … quietness, actually. I don’t think so much of laughter; there’s that. I don’t think so much of talk; there’s that. I don’t think so much of music, although there’s that. I think of the quietness of being at sea, and the feeling of being out in an immense ocean, completely alone, and you don’t see another ship, you don’t see another person, you don’t see land, and you get into kind of a rhythm of watch-standing, of being alert, and being relaxed, and being alert, and being relaxed, of the stars turning, and the moon and the sun. And there’s a blending with that diurnal rhythm so that it’s a meditation you get into. I think it’s a mediational state. I think it’s a very relaxed state. I think that even in storm aboard a vessel like Hokulea, which is so staunch and so seaworthy, and so sea kindly, that you’re not afraid. You know that if you do everything right, if you follow the instructions of your captain, if you bring the sails down, if you stand your watch properly, you’ll be fine. So that’s not it. It’s not anxiety, it’s not fear; it’s contemplation, it’s meditation. And actually, I think for most of us, say after five or six days, you’re just in the rhythm, and then when the canoe turns down and the navigator says, We’re there, we’re almost sort of like saying, Well, that’s good, we can have a hamburger, we can have a beer, but you know, why don’t we just keep going. ‘Cause you’re in this world. You’re with your crew, you’re with the weather, you’re with the canoe, you’re in this meditational almost Buddhist, Hawaiian meditational state, and you don’t want it to stop.

 

Sam Low started working on a book about Hokulea after he returned home from the Rapa Nui voyage in the year 2000. At first, he didn’t know what would be in the book, but it finally came together, and Hawaiki Rising was published in 2013. It tells the story of Hokulea, Nainoa Thompson, and the Hawaiian Renaissance.

 

There was a period of time, and I think it was uh, 2010. See, I’d been working on this book for ten years. I mean, I didn’t really know that I’d been working on it for ten years. I was just recording, and I was writing articles. The first idea for a book would be a picture book, and then I went off and did my grandpa’s book. And I got partway there, and then I came back onto this. But there was a time, I think it was 2010, when I did have a chance to interview Nainoa very extensively. I was living in the family compound, and the guest house is, you know, a hundred yards from his house. And I would sit and wait, and every time he came out, I’d say, Hey, Nainoa, how you doing? You know, and he’d say, Not today, Sam, not today. Okay, okay. And then, How you doing? Yeah; okay, come. And so, we’d sit and spend two or three hours with a tape recorder, and I think the exchange did help him bring together all his experiences. Well, it was certainly great for me, because I was able to get this raw material for Hawaiki Rising. But I think it also helped him bring together his own experiences and correlate that, and put it together into kind of a set of values and a philosophy. It’s his philosophy, but I think in being able to exchange with another person who he was fairly intimate with, that it did help him in that. And at that time, about three years ago, the concept of moolelo became very important. And he expressed that; he said, You know, we stand on the shoulders of heroes, and it’s very important that as we move forward around the world, that we look back, and that we celebrate and bring with us the spirit of those people who made all of this possible, and the lessons that we learned from them, from his father Myron Pinky Thompson, from Mau Piailug, from Wally Froiseth, from Ben Finney, from Herb Kane, from all of those who had built the canoe, who had the vision of the canoe, who had sailed the canoe, and that evolving vision, that gift that they gave to all of us who’ve sailed on the canoe. He wanted that to be celebrated, and part of that was the book, Hawaiki Rising. It is a celebration of those heroes whose shoulders we stand on today. He expresses in Hawaiki Rising very clearly how fearful he was of that time of his first voyage. You have to understand that everything depended on it, that the canoe had capsized, that they had lost Eddie Aikau, and that Hawaiians were on the cusp of being able to, through voyaging, and all the other arts as well, not just voyaging, but Hokulea was the symbol of the Renaissance. Through voyaging, to recapture this great pride of ancestry. And the canoe had capsized. There was a great deal of anxiety, which he expresses in the book. And he pushed through, and he discovered deeper reserves, I think, of courage and of a sense of connection to his ancestors that allowed him to enter a world of understanding and of comprehension that was deep and that was powerful.

 

You went back and talked to a number of the people we associate with Hokulea over the years. What did some of those conversations yield in terms of insight about the voyages?

 

Well, they were key. The book is made up of what I like to think of as a chorus of voices. See, I’m not in it. It’s not my story. I’m the person that’s behind the camera, if you like, or that’s writing the story, singing the song, I hope. And I had this opportunity to interview dozens and dozens of crewmembers, and I wanted the book to be a chorus of voices. I wanted it to be told in the voices of the people that experienced it, not an impersonal narrator, a personal narrator. And I didn’t know that that would work. It’s like an oral history. And I’ve been very interested in oral histories, something told directly, authentically from the person who experienced it. So, the opportunity—and of course, I was very kind of shy and bashful. I mean, Tava Taupu, and Snake Ah Hee, and Herb Kane, and Nainoa and Pinky, and Marion Lyman-Merserau, and Dave Lyman. I mean, these are heroic figures to me. So, to have the honor that they would sit down and talk with me was terrific. And I didn’t want that to end. You know, so writing the book, you have to eventually do that; right? But the great pleasure was to have those moments, those intimate moments with people on whose shoulders we all stand on, and to have them tell me their story. That in itself, was the process, is sometimes more important than the product.

 

Through the eyes and ears of Sam Low, we all get to experience what it’s like to sail aboard Hokulea as she makes her way across vast oceans, guided by the stars and other natural elements, to faraway destinations. Mahalo to Sam Low for sharing his stories with us, and mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store, or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

Pinky evolved a philosophy that came out of voyaging. He said, You first have to have a vision, and you have to have a vision of an island over the horizon. And once you have that vision, then you have to formulate a plan to raise that island from the sea, Hawaiki rising. And then, you need to have discipline to train, to achieve that plan. And then, you need to have the courage to cast off the lines, and then you need to have the aloha to bind your crew together to find the island. So, those are values that were inherent in Pinky’s view in voyaging, and also in the world, and also all cultures of the world. So, he brought this philosophy from the past, brought it to the present, and made it a possible future. And Hokulea is voyaging around the world with that philosophy in mind.

 

[END]

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Sam Low: A Hawaiian Yankee

 

In 1921, a young Sandy Low was sent away from his home in Kohala to attend school in Connecticut. He never returned to Hawaii. But he gave his aloha spirit, his appreciation of Hawaiian music, and most importantly, his love of the sea, to his son, Sam Low, who was raised on Martha’s Vineyard off Cape Cod. Sam Low took all that his father had given him to heart, and returned to Hawaii to become an ocean voyager.

 

Sam Low Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Clorinda Lucas, who I guess you knew, ‘cause you lived in Niu, right?

 

Right; she’s your aunt.

 

She’s my aunt; she’s my father’s sister. After my dad graduated from art school, he had a studio in New York, I think it was on 23rd Street, little loft. And Clorinda showed up. And here’s a Stutz Bearcat parked in front of my father’s studio. A Stutz; it’s like a Ferrari. So, she goes up the winding staircase, gets into this studio, and they exchanged pleasantries. And she says, Oh, well, Sandy, whose beautiful car is that? And my father looked at her and said, Oh, it’s mine. Yours? You know, of course, that can’t be. He had no money at all. And he said, Oh, well, all right, my girlfriend loaned to me. Me, or somebody. And so, he was just popular. He just had that kind of magnetism, and I think he made his way that way.

 

Sam Low was born in New Britain, Connecticut to a half-Hawaiian father and Caucasian mother. He grew up in New England, and has spent most of his life there, yet identifies as a Native Hawaiian as strongly as he does with being a Connecticut Yankee. Sam Low, next on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Sanford Low, Jr., or Sam as he’s called, may be best known in Hawaii as a sailor and documentarian aboard the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokulea, and more recently, the author of a book, Hawaiki Rising, about Hokulea, his cousin Nainoa Thompson, and the Hawaiian renaissance. Although Sam’s father left Hawaii way back in 1920 as a sixteen- year-old boy and never returned, he stayed closely connected to Hawaiian ways throughout his life. This gave Sam his grounding in Hawaiian culture long before his first trip to Hawaii.

 

You are a quarter Hawaiian, three-quarters Caucasian.

 

Yup.

 

And how much do you pull Hawaiian?

 

How much do I pull it, or how much do I feel Hawaiian?

 

Yes.

 

How much do I feel Hawaiian. More and more, and more, and more. I grew up in a Yankee community, Connecticut Yankees. My grandfather was an Industrialist; he worked at Stanley Works. He was president of Stanley Tools. He lived in New Britain, Connecticut, and they had a summer place in Martha’s Vineyard. My father was kind of an oddball in that Yankee family. He was an artist, he was a Bohemian. He had run away from prep school. He was sent by his father, Eben Parker Rawhide Ben Low, to luna school.

 

From?

 

From Kohala. And he had a wonderful time on the Lurline, where he played guitar and formed a band. He had a great time going across on the Transcontinental Railroad. Really enjoyed his travel. And then, he got to this prep school, and everybody was in coats and ties, and formal, and he felt completely at sea, completely lost. So, he played football; he was a great athlete. Played football, halfback in bare feet.

 

In the cold?

 

Well, yeah. M-hm; yeah. Football is generally in the fall, and you might have a snowstorm. So, when football was over, he was so homesick, he was so bereft of that kind of aloha spirit that he’d gotten used to, that he jumped a train and went to Long Island, where his sister lived.

 

I thought you were gonna say he jumped a train to go back to Hawaii. But he actually never went back to Hawaii as long as he lived.

 

I know. And that’s always strange. He jumped a train; he went to his sister, who was married to a Haole guy. They had a farm; I don’t know too much about that. But his sister died very shortly thereafter, and it’s very hard to piece together all of that story. I didn’t sit at his knee and ask him, as I should. But what I know is, he was a stevedore for a while. He shipped out; he was quartermaster, went up and down from New York, Boston, to South America and back. He always had this dream of being a cartoonist, and he was always sketching. He was an artist from the beginning, and he had this dream of being an artist. So, somehow, without a high school education, with just three months of high school, he got accepted at the Museum School in Boston, which is one of the premier art schools. And he spent, I think, three years there, graduated, and then went to New York, became a commercial artist, and then met my mother. He was handsome, he was Hawaiian, he was athletic, he was beautiful to look at.

 

Was it a plus to be Hawaiian in that society then?

 

In those days, definitely. I mean, it was such a romantic thing. Denizens of the sea, surfers. And in New York in particular, there were many bars that Hawaiians would hang out at. It was a very active scene. So, he was kind of an anomaly in that all-Haole society, all those blonds named Bart. And the story of their meeting; he was invited to one of these parties out in South Hampton on Long Island. And they had in those days these speed boats, Garwood speed boats, long, mahogany, big powerful engines. And they would tow an aquaplane behind it, which is just basically like a surfboard with a rope attached to the boat. And the swains, the Haole swains, barts with their blond hair, would get up on it. There was a rope, and you’d hang onto the rope, and you’d go back and forth across the lake. You know. And [CLAPS HANDS] everybody would clap, you know. Bart; all right! So, my father was asked, Well, would you like to try this, Sandy? And so he said, Well, sure. So, he got on it, and he went back and forth too, only he was standing on his head.

 

And holding onto the rope?

 

No rope; just standing on his head.

 

Wow.

 

I mean, he was a surfer, so that was no big deal. This thing is totally stable; he’s just standing on his head and go back and forth. Which excited the interest of a lot of the young women there, including my mother, who was an artist as well. So, they had that in common. And they got together, and eventually married, not after certain tests were administered, let’s say.

 

Was there opposition in the family to his marrying her?

 

I think that she was being squired around by a young man named Salton Stahl, which was a kind very prosperous Hartford, Connecticut family. And I think probably my gram and grandpa were a little astonished when she brought this Hawaiian guy back, who had no money at all. His father had lost all his money. That’s one reason why he perhaps didn’t go home. And they were really good people, but on the other hand, they were a little suspicious of this artist Hawaiian guy. Was he marrying her for money, or what. And so, they made a deal. My mother and her mother would go on the grand tour; they would take off for three months, they would travel throughout Europe, and if Ginny Low, Ginny Hart in those days, if she came back and still wanted to marry him, it was a done deal. But there was gonna be a cooling off period. And I still have all their letters in a little box, and I hope to do something with that someday. But all these wonderful letters going back and forth. And when they got back, Mom said, I want to marry him. They said, Okay. And he was accepted definitely into the family, and they realized what a good thing they’d done.

 

Her parents were true to their word.

 

Yes, they were.

 

You know, he must have felt kind of lost. I mean, he’s on the East Coast, and unhappy at school. Goes to visit his sister, she passes away.

 

Right.

 

No family, no money.

 

Right.

 

I wonder, did you ever know what he was thinking?

 

I don’t know. But there’s another story. I mean, people seemed to gravitate to him. I mean, I think the Hawaiian part of him was that outgoingness. You know, the looking at somebody and seeing the positive, seeing the aloha, welcoming that person into his embrace, both real and spiritual. And I think that stood him in good stead; it opened paths for him.

 

He probably would have been okay everywhere he went, then.

 

I think so. Yeah.

 

Wow. And he and your mom enjoyed a long, happy marriage?

 

Yes; right to the end. Yeah.

 

Sam Low’s father had been a waterman growing up in Hawaii. Living close to the Atlantic Ocean, he was able to share his love of the ocean with his son. Sam Low grew up with perhaps as much Hawaiian culture as was possible for a boy growing up in New England in the 1940s and 50s.

 

My Haole family, the Harts, were very family-oriented. The concept of ohana, which wouldn’t have been expressed that way, was very strong among them. And they lived in New Britain, Connecticut, which is the hardware capitol of the world, but they lived in a family neighborhood. When I grew up, all around me lived aunts, uncles, and cousins. So, it was quite a bit like you would grow up in Hawaii. And then, on Martha’s Vineyard, which is this tiny island off Cape Cod, my great-grandfather bought a farm, and then he subdivided it and gave lots to all of his children, and then, their kids moved in. So, I grew up as well in kind of an ohana neighborhood. And I still do; that’s where I live, and that’s what I love about it, we’re all family. And I think that for my father, when he discovered that family that had those tight connections, he started to feel really at home, started to put his roots down.

 

Did he keep in touch with family in Kohala?

 

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, in Kohala or on Oahu. In fact, in those days, Hawaiians were peregrinating everywhere. And people in his family, they would go to Stowe to ski; Stowe, Vermont.

 

So, it wasn’t as if he didn’t see people from his family.

 

No; they would come and visit. You know, probably once a year, as a young kid growing up, there would be this hoard of people coming in, all jabbering away and having a wonderful time. And then there would be hula, and there would be singing. So I was exposed to that as a kid. And I think that really helped my father as well, to have family come and visit once a year.

 

So, may I ask; just why didn’t he go back? He could have.

 

What he told me was that he left, he started a career, he started a marriage, he started a family. And time passed. So, when he started to think about going back maybe in the 40s and 50s, his father died in 1954, and he did want to go back and see him. By that time, what he told me was that Hawaii had changed so much, that he really wanted to keep his memories of the way it was when he left.

 

I see.

 

And then, Martha’s Vineyard was his saving; it saved him. Because he went there for the whole summer, and he would fish, and he would get opihi. And uh, you know, he became famous for getting these little periwinkles off the rocks and taking them and [SLURPS] eating them.

 

Did anybody else do that?

 

They did, eventually. And these Yankees started eating sashimi and raw fish, and periwinkles, and he had a major impact on their lives.

 

Did he do anything luau-related?

 

Yes.

 

Anything from home that way?

 

Yes; yes. Well, uh, he started a luau in this community on Martha’s Vineyard called Harthaven, actually, and my middle name is Hart. He married into the Hart family. He came up with the idea for a luau, but it became a clambake. Because that was what they were used to. And so, the clambake became an annual event that he presided over. And so, he brought this kind of sense of— and the way they had it, you know, Yankees would normally hire somebody to put on a clambake. No, no, no. Everybody’s gotta come, everybody’s gotta help with the fish, and everybody’s gotta help with the oysters and the clams. Everybody’s gotta build the pit, everybody has to clean up. And so, he created this kind of cement that brought everybody together. And I think that was his spirit as well.

 

And you shared his attraction for the ocean.

 

Yeah.

 

So, you were a part-Hawaiian who grew up on an island, who loved the water, but it was not the Pacific Ocean.

 

No.

 

And you never lived in Hawaii as a kid.

 

No. No, but from very early on, actually, my father said, Well, Son, there’s only one way for you to learn how to swim. I gotta take you out on the boat and throw you overboard. My mother said, No, you’re not gonna do that, Sandy. And so, she took me to the beach and did the normal thing of, you know, letting me go out ‘til I touch, teaching me how to float, and all that sort of stuff. And I was given a rowboat when I was a kid, and I rowed up and down. We had a harbor there, and I rowed up and down the harbor, you know, hours. And then, one of my uncles had a little one and a half horsepower Evinrude outboard motor, and so that went on the back of the rowboat, and I would go [IMITATES ENGINE].

 

[CHUCKLE] How old were you then?

 

I was probably eight.

 

Wow.

 

And eventually, a rule was passed that I could only do that between ten and noon.

 

Because you were so irritating?

 

Oh, god, these people were out there trying to, you know, have their cocktails at five. [IMITATES OUTBOARD MOTOR]

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

But eventually, I acquired larger boats, I got into scuba diving, did a lot of wreck diving. And I was in the water all the time. And that came from my father, really, just emulating him.

 

Sam Low made his first trip to Hawaii in 1964. It turned out to be a bittersweet trip, but opened the door to a part of himself that he had previously only known through his father.

 

The first time I came to Hawaii was as a Navy officer.

 

How old were you then?

 

Well, how old was I? I must have been twenty.

 

So, first time here when you’re twenty.

 

Yeah. And I was in ROTC. I wanted to serve my country, I wanted to be on a ship. If I’m gonna serve my country, I better be on a ship. And it was a wonderful experience. It was the beginning of the Vietnam War. I requested and got Pearl Harbor, ‘cause that was my chance to come see my country, really, my islands, my people. I was going to drive across country in a Volkswagen. And then, I was gonna have the Volkswagen shipped to Pearl Harbor. And so, before I left, I had my bags in the Volkswagen, and my father and I embraced. And he said, Son, I’m gonna go back to Hawaii. I’ve not gone back, I didn’t really want to, but you’re gonna be there and I do want to see my family, and so, I will see you there. And we embraced. He died that night. I was a day down the road, and I got the word on the phone.

 

Oh; wow, that’s so hard. How old was he?

 

He was young; he was fifty-nine. After he passed, the Navy gave me two months compassionate leave to come back, and we buried him. I told my mother that I could be reassigned to a base on the East Coast, and the Navy would do that. And she said, No, your path is set.

 

And it was, wasn’t it?

 

It was; yeah. She said, You’re on your way to your father’s land, and you should continue. She was wonderful about that. I shipped out immediately to Subic Bay, and then we were in the Gulf of Tonkin, and then the Vietnam War started, and I felt it was my duty to be there. So, when we first came back from a deployment about a year over there, I immediately volunteered to go back. And I did that. So, my experience, my first experience here in Hawaii as a naval officer, I was mostly in service at sea. But I did get to meet my family, Clorinda Lucas, who is my father’s sister. And I sensed in her this deep Hawaiian spirit. I don’t know if you knew her.

 

I didn’t know her; I grew up hearing about her.

 

Yeah.

 

And she’s passed away now, of course.

 

Yeah. Well, first off, she lived in Niu, and she lived on Halemaumau Street, at the head of a little entrance into the valley. So, there were all these little houses around, down below, and then you drove up this road. It went from uh, asphalt to dirt. And then, you got into this valley, and there was a pasture there with horses, and there were two or three houses. And that was her place. And so, it became almost rural. You went from Honolulu, you went to Niu, you went to this subdivision, and then, all of a sudden you were back in—you could be anywhere. You could be on the Big Island. And all around her lived her children. So, this was a real ohana compound, and I recognized the similarity there between how I grew up. But we didn’t have horses. And if you looked up the valley, here were these beautiful mountains. And Clorinda was the ohi nui; she was the matriarch, she was in charge. And everybody paid attention to her. She had a very benevolent, loving attitude, but when she said something was gonna happen, that’s the way it was. So, I’d not seen a matriarch before like, quite, and that was wonderful. And then, one of the things I experienced almost immediately is that particularly on Sundays, Saturdays and Sundays, there would be people coming and knocking the door. They weren’t announced, they didn’t know that they were gonna show up, but it was kind of like open house. And Hawaiians from all walks of life would come, some bearing gifts, some with problems, some with questions, some with something needed to be solved. And so, Clorinda had that kind of alii outreach. And that was new. So, I felt, I think, with her for the first time that sense of aloha, that sense of benevolence, that sense of taking care of other people. She was a famous social worker. Her daughter married Myron Pinky Thompson, who was equally caring of his people.

 

The husband was a social worker.

 

Yes.

 

Of Laura, the daughter of Clorinda.

 

Right; right. Clorinda’s daughter Laura married Pinky Thompson, Myron Pinky Thompson, and he was a wounded veteran. Went ashore in Normandy, was a scout, was hit by a sniper, sent back, went to school on the East Coast, Colby College due to fortuitous circumstance, and then returned to Hawaii and dedicated his life entirely to the Hawaiian people. He was a social worker from day one. He was the head of the Queen Liliuokalani Trust. He was an advisor to Governor Burns, very close with the Hawaiian delegation, and pretty much dedicated his life to helping Hawaiians understand their proud heritage. And that’s how he really got involved with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, as well.

 

He was a very humble man, too. I remember getting a tire blow out on Kalanianaole Highway, and guess who stopped to change my tire?

 

Pinky.

 

Yes.

 

Yeah.

 

Changed it, and left.

 

He would do that. Yeah. So, you know, having the chance to come to Hawaii and to be involved in that community, the Lucas family and the Thompson family, and Low, you know, it was an immersion course in kind of the spirit that you take care of each other.

 

Your aunt must have curious about you, too. Even though she’d visited your father, she must have been interested in getting to know you as an adult.

 

I had a terrible reputation. I was a spoiled brat when I grew up.

 

Were you, really?

 

Yeah; I’m afraid.

 

Were you obnoxious?

 

I’m afraid I probably was.

 

So, felt very entitled?

 

Yes. I was an only child, and so, the report came back. She saw me, but the report came back that, you know, Boy, Sandy and Ginny have this brat for a kid. And I think I had to overcome that when I got out there, and I can’t say whether I did or I didn’t, but I can say that Clorinda, you know, gave me this immense hug every day, either physically or just spiritually, and I felt her aloha envelope me immediately. And so, that that drew me into wanting to know more about, what’s this about, what’s this quarter of me that is different than my Yankee part.

 

How much had you wondered about that?

 

Probably when I was growing up in New England, not so much.

 

And could people tell you were part-Hawaiian?

 

Well, they knew I was different. I would freely, you know, offer that, because I thought it was cool. Growing up as a young man, you know, I’m six or seven, of course, I wanted to be a cowboy. And my grandfather was a cowboy, and so, I was very curious about that. My father would tell stories about going up into the valleys and bringing back a pig, and hunting.

 

And a grandfather named Rawhide Ben. I mean, how exciting is that?

 

Right; that was pretty amazing. I did want to come back, and I did want to see that. You know, I was very curious about it. But it was really only when I finally did come back, you know, kind of carrying my father’s spirit with me, that I recognized that I was really coming back for him and me. And that gave it a different dimension.

 

What a tumultuous entrance. I mean, to have your father pass away, and then you’re caught up in the events leading to the Vietnam War.

 

Yeah.

 

It must have been a tough time for you.

 

Yeah. It was. But as I say, having that kind of family, Clorinda and Pinky, and Laura, made it feel very secure, very warm.

 

Did Laura make her trademark beef stew for you?

 

Yes. Yes, she did. Now that you mention it, absolutely; yeah. Which was kind of uh, familiar.

 

You’ve described this lovely community where you lived, where you were surrounded by family. As we all know, family is a blessing, and occasionally it’s a curse. What’s it like living always with family that, you know, you can’t go home and be away at times.

 

I think it’s wonderful. It’s that bond that you can’t break, really. So, you will always have a disagreement or a flash of anger, or something. But if you live in an ohana, whether it be a Haole one or a Hawaiian one, you always know that you can come back and that the door will open, and that you can go through hooponopono and be back together again. And I love where I live on Martha’s Vineyard. I love that probably sixty, seventy percent of the people who live there are family, they’re cousins. And there’s kind of a circle, dirt circle, and if I set out to go for my walk, unless I tell people I’m walking and I gotta keep going, it can take me forty minutes to cover half a mile, because there are people to talk to.

 

It is a community.

 

It is a community; it really is a community. And I loved growing up in that. So, I’m very happy to have cousins all around, both here and in Harthaven.

 

Sam Low did not grow up in Hawaii, but his love of the sea and family have always connected him to his Hawaiian culture, and eventually, to Hokulea, the double-hulled Hawaiian voyaging canoe that is guided only by the elements of nature. Mahalo to Sam Low from Martha’s Vineyard on the East Coast for sharing his family stories with us. And mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

In the 1995 voyage, we went from Tahiti to Hawaii, and I was on a Swan, which is a luxurious kind of racing yacht. And that was the hardest voyage I’ve ever been on, because it’s a mono hull, and as soon as you get out there, it goes, pfft, like that, you know. And so, you’re always working at thirty degrees. You’re always struggling. And then, pow!

 

That’s not luxury.

 

No. Nice when it’s anchored. And then, when I got to voyage on Hokulea, having that experience, I thought, Oh, god, this is gonna be tough, we’re going to be out in the open, and whatever. But Hokulea … it’s so graceful, and she doesn’t tilt. You know, she’s got two hulls. She goes out, the wind comes, she takes a set. And she goes. And those beautiful manu’s just cleave the ocean. And so, in the most difficult of weather, with all the sails down, you know, you just hunker down, and she’s just floating over it like a duck.

 

 

[END]

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Clyde Aikau

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Clyde Aikau

 

Original air date: Tues., May 5, 2009

 

Big Wave Surfing Champion

 

Leslie Wilcox talks with Clyde Aikau, big wave surfing champion, former North Shore life guard and younger brother of the late Eddie Aikau (of “Eddie Would Go” fame).

 

In part one of the conversation, Clyde talks about growing up in Chinese graveyard in Pauoa valley, surfing giant North Shore waves while approaching age 60, and his 15 year old son Ha’a’s approach to the sport.

 

In the concluding episode, Clyde speaks in-depth about the now-famous incident in which his older brother Eddie Aikau was lost at sea while trying to find help for the crew of the capsized Hokule’a in 1978. He also delivers a conciliatory message to the family of the late David Lyman, who was the captain of that ill-fated Hokule’a voyage, and speaks with pride about “living in the shadow” of his older brother Eddie.

 

Clyde Aikau Audio

 

Download the

 

Transcript

 

Next, meet a surfing legend. He’s a man who grew up in a Chinese cemetery, won big time surfing contests, sailed on the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokulea, and saved lives as a Waimea Bay lifeguard. He’s a surfing legend. He’s Clyde Aikau, Eddie Aikau’s younger brother.

 

Aloha mai kakou, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Welcome to the first edition of a special two part series of “Long Story Short.” Many know of Eddie Aikau, a waterman who was the first lifeguard at Waimea Bay, a big wave surfer who was lost at sea while attempting to save the crew of the Hokulea in 1978. But in the world of surfing, his brother Clyde Aikau is also renowned. He has won at Makaha, at the old Duke event on the North Shore, and the Eddie Aikau at Waimea. The Duke Kahanamoku Foundation named him a “Waikiki surfing legend.” In the Spring of 2009, Clyde is 59, and he’s not slowing down. He stopped long enough to talk with me about big waves, family and living at the graveyard in Pauoa.

 

When we um, first had the opportunity to um, have a house in the—in the graveyard, um, the deal was that we have to clean … clean the graveyard and cut the grass, and maintain the entire um, graveyard. And um, in 1959, we had to cut the grass with sickles it’s kinda like a wooden handle so far, with a— with a—with a half-moon blade. And we had to cut five acres, all of us six kids, with the sickle, by hand. But, you know, us kids growing up, um, during—doing all of our chores, which included washing the car and doing the housework, and cleaning the graveyard, was always first. You know, if we wanted to go surfing, we had to do all of the chores first.

 

—when your family took the job, and the home, did they have second thoughts about um …

 

Well—

 

—what it was, any spooky thoughts, or any thoughts about, you know, how do we properly revere this land?

 

… my dad um … has always been a very spiritual person. You know. he’s always had that spiritual uh … connection with uh, things that you can’t explain. And um, us kids, knowing that, you know, we felt very comfortable from the very beginning that, you know, if there was so-called spirits or so-called ghosts, um, we would be okay, because Pops was so strong he was sitting down um, in our house, i—in—in the graveyard at night, when all of a sudden, a big wind came from up on the street, blew right through the graveyard, blew the door open, and there was a loud crying of a baby, just crying out loud. And at that moment, my father went to the um, phone and called the hospital. And they told him, How did you know your son’s child just gave birth?

 

And there are plenty of other stories like that?

 

Oh; yeah—

 

—you’re family was actually fr—from Maui originally, right?

 

Yes; yes. Um, I have uncles and aunties who live in Hana. If you drive by, you’ll—you’ll see their last name there, Aikau. So our roots actually go back to um, to Hana, where my grandfather was the sheriff of Hana.

 

So does that mean the family was very, very good?

 

—well, my uncle uh, was chief of police, and my cousins were all policemen too.

 

There you go.

 

We always uh, tried to do the right thing. But you know, we come from a family uh, that was really bred old school. You know. And from—with our family, it was um, if one of us did something wrong, all of us would get spanking. And the spanking was, bend over, drop your pants, and big belt or a big paddle would come and hit you.

 

Everybody got the same thing?

 

Everybody got the same thing. And it’s amazing when I tell this story, that five brothers and one sister, we never laid one hand on each other. And of course, I was the youngest of the family. Um … we never touched one another physically. We would say words that wasn’t so nice, but we never physically touched each other. Because they way we were brought up was, you know, take care of each other, watch for each other, and that when—when someone uh, was gonna do something wrong, we’d all kinda like, you know, go to his aid and, No, no, no, don’t—don’t do that, ‘cause it’s trouble. But you know, with—with our family, you know, with—with Pops, you know, uh, just his look would really uh, really back you up about ten feet. You know, he—he didn’t really have to say anything, but just his look and his—you know, his stare would just send chills uh, on—on your back.

 

Well, let’s—you know, when people say they visited your family home in the cemetery, they say they were just uh, enveloped in aloha, and they felt accepted, and they felt a sense of belonging.

 

Well, you know, my—my dad, my mom, uh, we always was brought up to—you know, you—you meet people and try to be—uh, try to um … bring them in, in the family, make them comfortable. Um, you know, if you have food, always share your food with them, you know, talk story. Uh, if you have knowledge that they can use, always—always share that. You know. And I think when people come down to the … you know, the graveyard, which is our—our home, um, uh, it’s—it’s—it’s the same way, although my mom and dad is not here anymore. Uh, my sister Myra, my brother Solomon, and me, always try to keep that going for the family.

 

What if they came over, and you didn’t have enough food? How’d you handle that?

 

Uh … we’d just give them our love and aloha. You know, and—and that uh, um … that was … more than enough for ninety-nine percent of the people who came down. You know, we used to go to the North Shore, and my mom and dad used to always bring a lot of food, you know. And at that time, there was a lot of surfers who … who was also from poor families, but they were great surfers, and you know, they were hungry. You know. So we had food, and we had extra food, so you know, help out.

 

And your family often jumped into that gray utility truck you folks used to have, and went to the North Shore all together.

 

Well, you know, we had this truck that was uh, encased. And uh, believe it or not, all six of us would—would fit ourselves in the back of that truck, and Mom, Pop, and my sister would be in the front, and all five brothers would be in the back. But—but it didn’t matter for us, because we had all our surfboards on top of the truck, and we know that—we knew that we were going surfing. So that’s all that mattered.

 

I’ve heard that when your family got together and they were singing, it was in these wonderful harmonies—

 

Well, you know, harmony for us was always um … it was always important. You know, because it—it just … it just sounds good. [chuckle] It just sounds good.

 

And you could do it.

 

I had a high pitch, and Eddie had kinda like a medium to low pitch. But uh, his expertise was playing slack key music, Hawaiian slack key. I mean, if he was alive today, he would be probably one of the great masters of slack key. Because back in um … the mid-60s and the late 60s, he was already really, really uh, really accomplished at playing slack key music. —and my mom had a real high, high, high pitch, and Gerald, my brother, had um … uh, his voice was higher than mine. So you had a super high pitch, and then uh, next to that, and next to that, and it all blends together. And you know, we—we used to enjoy um, you know, the luaus at the graveyard, and Pops used to make uh, Hawaiian swipe, which was called uh … hekapu, uh, in Hawaiian. And he used to make it out of … pineapple juice, brown sugar, yeast, put it into a wooden barrel, and have it ferment for like seventeen days.

 

And it was lethal.

 

It was—

 

Practically. [chuckle]

 

It was lethal; it was very lethal. And um, in fact, um, when—when we had luaus, Leslie, uh, everybody had their jobs, you know. Um, uh, Solomon was to go and dig the hole, and Gerald was to go find the rocks, and Eddie was to go find the uh, you know, the leaves to put in there. And … and uh—

 

What did you do?

 

My job was to take our truck, go down to Waikiki, and go find all the girls, and come back up to the luau. So—

 

Which you were very good at, I heard.

 

That was—that was—that—that was my job. And um, you know, we—we—we— I—I used to … bring them up to the graveyard, you know, truckloads. And uh, so we—we—you know, we used to make ‘em comfortable, and give em our swipe have a nice night.

 

[chuckle] And I understand that if folks had to stay over because that swipe was—

 

Oh, boy.

 

–rough—

 

Well, you know, the stuff uh, when you drink it, it’s like um … it just feels like strawberry juice. You know. But after—after two cups, that’s it, you know.

 

[chuckle]

 

You know, it—it really hits you really hard. But yeah, yeah; we—we used to take all the keys away from everybody. Um, this was, you know, thirty, forty years ago. You know, ‘cause we didn’t want any—anybody to get hurt. But you know, uh, we used to do crazy things, where if you fall asleep early, you get drunk and you fall asleep early, we used to pick that person up and— we used to put him in the mausoleum …

 

[INDISTINCT]

 

—when he wakes up, we’d hear a big scream, you know. But it—it was all in fun, and he survived, and uh, you know, it—it was just fun.

 

So everybody was comfortable with a lot of other people around did that mean you grew up very social, and didn’t maybe like to be alone that much

 

Well, actually, for me personally, um, I was uh, I was a very shy guy, uh, growing up. Because uh, growing up, I had a s—stuttering problem, which I do sometimes. And uh, I used to be real inhibited. You know, I used to just kinda hide, you know, because I—I—I … I just had a real difficulty talking. You know.

 

How did you overcome the stutter?

 

I guess just try to relax more, I guess.. but then I realized that even the President of the United States stutters too sometimes. I mean, may—maybe not this one, but others have. And I kinda realized that, you know … very important people in—in—in higher places also stutter. So then I kinda think it’s not all that bad, you know, and just got better. So throughout the whole high school, um, I was a real shy guy. My brother Solomon was like the clown of Roosevelt High School, … the whole school laughing continuously. My brother Gerald was —like the handsome one, and the—and the singer. And I was kinda like the real shy guy. But in high school, um, I was into my surfing with Eddie, and that was all, you know.

 

So … your whole life was dominated by water, surf.

 

Yes.

 

And music, and family.

 

Yes.

 

And you went onto higher education, as well.

 

Yes. I uh, g—graduated in 1973 uh, with a bachelor of arts soc—in sociology, psychology, went to uh, a couple years of law school.

 

Where’d you go to law school?

 

Uh, right here; UH. And even my grades there was pretty darn good too.

 

What made you decide you wouldn’t finish?

 

… I had an opportunity to go into business, and uh … you know, I—I took off for a while and just went to go make money. You know. ‘Cause you know, we— we … I come from a real poor family, and you know, it was difficult to find money for my family. So I just felt that, you know, I had an opportunity in business to go ba—make money, so I did that for the last twenty-five years or so

 

AND CLYDE AIKAU DID VERY WELL FOR THOSE 25 YEARS, OPERATING A WAIKIKI BEACH RENT A SURFBOARD, UMBRELLA, SAILBOAT CONCESSION. NOW HIS PASSION FOR THE OCEAN CONTINUES WITH HIS CURRENT BUSINESS.

 

[chuckle] Yeah. Yeah; I have a surf school at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Uh, you want to learn how to ride waves, come down with Uncle Clyde. And we also have a s—s—standup paddling lessons. Uh, we do it in the um, pond at the Hilton, the newly uh, refurbished lagoon, uh, which is real safe to learn. Come down, learn that from Uncle Clyde too.

 

You personally, do the teaching?

 

Um, I—uh, uh, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. But I train all of my guys personally. You know, the first thing to do is to, you know, just be nice to people, you know, give them the aloha, you know, the true aloha. Um … and I just uh, recently got a—got a part-time job with the Department of Education, where I will be a uh, a person in the middle of uh, making sure that the homeless child um, gets to go into the classroom, uh, and I’m in the middle that brings the uh, homeless child and the State together, uh, making sure that he has the transportation and the—and the lunch uh, that—that he needs. And uh …

 

That sounds rewarding.

 

Yeah. Uh, it’s—it’s—you know, it’s real funny, because in ’73, when I graduated, that’s exactly what I wanted to do. You know, I—

 

Sociology.

 

I wanted to do social work, and you know, help the kids out. And you know, forty years later, uh, I’m doing that. So I’m—I’m very humbled to have the opportunity to work uh, with the homeless, um, especially at this time, where you know, people are losing jobs and everything. So I’m very humbled, and uh, I’m—I’m set to go.

 

You were uh, Eddie’s best friend; n—not just his brother.

 

Yeah; me and Eddie, we did everything together. Uh, like you know, Eddie was the first lifeguard on the North Shore in 1967. We—we were the first in the water at Sunset Beach for twenty years. And we were the last to leave. And then we’d work at the lifeguarding at the bay. And um … we used to ride the bay on gigantic days where it was overcast, no cameras on the beach, and he— me and Eddie used to ride uh, you know, the big waves. Uh, he rode the biggest waves uh, in the world in 1967, November 19th, Wednesday. That’s what I like to say it. Other people say it was a Tuesday, I say it’s November 19th, a Wednesday, 1967. Because there’s certain days in your life that you just don’t forget, ‘cause it’s just so monumental. You know, things that probably won’t happen again. And in 1967, I was in high school; Eddie uh … rode the bay for the first time. And uh, it was massive, his wave is forty feet. His surfboard is twelve feet; it goes four times up the face of the wave. It’s a paddle-in wave, it’s not a tow-in wave. Uh, that wave was forty feet. And I’ve ridden … um, almost every big wave that pulled into the North Shore since 1967, and um … that day is still the biggest day ever ridden at Waimea Bay.

 

M-hm. How do you do that? —do you just get more and more comfortable with bigger, bigger, bigger waves, and at some point you’re taking off on a thirty-footer?

 

Um … well, you know … a wave of that magnitude and that size only comes in maybe once in, like, five years. Like we haven’t had the Eddie Aikau Quicksilver big event since 2004. And 2004, it got up to about thirty feet. And um, I want to let you know that after the first round … I was in second place. And these guys who were surfing are really the best in the world.

 

Absolutely.

 

You know, Kelly Slater, Bruce Irons, Andy Irons, uh—

 

But you’re—you’re the—you’re the oldest in the field, aren’t you?

 

I am the absolute oldest in the field. Um, next uh, I will be riding again, and I’ll be sixty years old.

 

And you can still handle those big waves?

 

Um, I caught every giant swell that pulled in um, on the North Shore this year, and felt very comfortable. Uh, but I think it’s because of my son; he’s fifteen years old, and he’s given me um … new excitement, new enthusiasm about riding waves. Um, I had a conversation with my son about surfing big waves. And he—he—he goes, oh, yeah, I want to surf a big wave so I can get on the front—uh, front cover of the Surfer Magazine. And I—and I kinda scolded him, because you know, riding uh, these big waves, you know, if you’re—if you’re gonna do that for that reason, I feel that’s—that’s a really wrong reason to put your life on the—on the line. You know. Um … putting your life on the line, um… at that extreme level should be one that you have a personal uh, personal spirit, uh, a personal thing that you want to do for yourself. And uh, trying to do it to be famous, I think, is gonna get you in trouble. Because when you get into trouble … and it’s all said and done, and you’re under there, twenty, thirty feet, and there’s no way to come up, no way to come up, the only way that you’re going to make it through is to—is to dig deep inside, you know … where your spirit is, and that’s what is gonna pull you through. You know. When you—when you think about, oh, man, I guess I’m—I am gonna make the front cover, but I won’t be around; you know, that’s uh … not a good thing, I—I feel.

 

Does he have a style like yours on the waves?

 

—I don’t think he has my style. Uh, uh … I think when you see him surf, uh, you will see a surfer th—that is all power. Uh, he’s a hundred sixty-five pounds, and fifteen years old. Uh, he’s bigger than most of his buddies, and uh, he has a lot of power in his surfing. He’s real fun to watch.

 

You’re probably more fluid.

 

Oh, ye—yeah; I would say that. I would say that. I am a lot more fluid than he is.

 

M-hm.

 

Because uh, in their kind of surfing, uh, quickness and uh, straight-ups, and just demolishing the lip, and flying in the sky is what surfing is for them.

 

But you became part of the wave, I think. It was—that was—

 

Yeah.

 

—a different—

 

Exactly.

 

—way of doing it.

 

Exactly; exactly. Eddie and I was more part of the wave, and more flowing with the wave. Because um, you know, taking off at the bay on a big wave, uh, you need to kinda find your way down, ‘cause there’s a lot of chops in the face of the wave. And um … I would like to—uh, you know, even at sixty years old, I—I still have goals that I—that I want to do. And—and you know, uh, one of my goals uh, at sixty years old, is to go over to Maui and uh, master uh, this place called … called Peahi, or Jaws.

 

Right. Wow; that’s—

 

I know; crazy, but—

 

It is monster.

 

Yeah.

 

And that’s all tow-in.

 

Yeah.

 

Uh, can you even paddle into that wave? It—it breaks too big and too fast, doesn’t it?

 

Uh, when the waves are fifteen to twenty feet at uh, Jaws, you ca—you—you can probably paddle in. When it hits the twenty-five to thirty feet, to forty feet, uh, I don’t think you can—you can paddle in.

 

How do you train for these big just um, to be su—super shape, and just to waves at age sixty?

 

Um, I used to run in the back roads a lot. And—but my knees and my ankles really take a beating on the hard pavement. So now, I have a jogging machine, a running machine that elevates and everything. So I—I wo—work out on—work out on that about a hour a day. But I do a lot of stretches too; lot of stretches. Um … I do a lot of biking; lot of biking. You know, I do things that aren’t so hard on my body—

I notice there was a time on the North Shore, looking back decades, where surfers used to be just partiers and drinkers, and tokers. And then there came at time when people said, whoa, these waves are serious, they can really kill you; and they started getting to be—getting to be on organic diets, and really taking care of themselves. Did you go through—

 

Well—

 

—something like that?

 

Well, you know … you know … back in the 60s and the 70s, you know, um…riding big waves, lifeguarding, saving lives, and uh … chasing the Haole girls was in order. And um … but then, you’re—you’re nineteen years old, eighteen years old, twenty years old. I mean, everybody on the North Shore used to party hard and surf hard in—in the—in the—in the daytime. But you know, now I’m sixty, and you’re trying to look back on how it was then. Uh, it’s incredible on how we actually pulled it off. You know. I mean, I wouldn’t recommend it today. But you know, we actually pulled it off. I mean, did some crazy things at night, and rode the biggest waves in the world during the daytime. So—and looking back now, you know, I’d—uh, I don’t see how we did it, but you know, it—we did it. But um, you know, as you get older, you—you—you realize uh, that you know, you need to take care of your body a lot—a lot more, if you want to continue to ride. I mean, I’m sixty years old almost, and um … um …

 

When you look around—

 

—I’m still riding.

 

—on the big waves, how many sixty-year-olds do you see? Or even fifty-year- olds.

 

Well, you know, for me, ‘cause I’m the old dog out there, um … you know, it’s kinda sad, ‘cause there’s only one or two guys from the—from the old school. You know. Um … but then, it’s fun to surf with the young guys. You know, they’re all gung-ho and you know, very excited about surfing. And—and uh … you know, uh, and it’s—and it’s always nice that, you know, the—the young guys can come up to you and recognize who you are, and you know, Howzit, Clyde, you know, Uncle Clyde, you know. And uh, you know, it makes you feel—feel good to—to be recognized.

 

Clyde Aikau won the Makaha International Surfing Championship in the 60s and the Duke Surfing Championship in 1973, won the first Quicksilver Eddie Aikau Big Wave Contest in 1986 and has been named a “Waikiki surfing legend” by the Duke Kahanamoku foundation. Clyde Aikau, waterman and gentleman…still riding the big ones. On our next “Long Story Short.” Clyde returns to talk about the Hokulea, spiritual experiences and the legacy of his brother Eddie Aikau. Please join us then. For PBS Hawaii, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Ahui hou ka kou.

 

So do you believe in old school childrearing?

 

Ooh, boy. I uh, I tell you. You know, like I just told you, um, my son uh, fifteen years old, and um, you know, I’m not gonna uh, lie to anyone. I mean, um, it’s tough. And I’m talking to a lot of the other parents—‘cause he had a whole bunch of kids that they all ride Velzy Land, Rocky Point, Ehukai, Pipeline, Velzy Land, Rock—you know.

 

M-hm.

 

Every single day. And all of the other parents o—on the North Shore are having the same problems, you know. Um, you know, they—they don’t listen, and you know, you gotta do your schoolwork, and you know, they get lazy, you know. And um, and um, you know, sometimes it’s tough, you know. I mean, it’s tough, you know. But you—not matter, you—you love ‘em larger than life, you know.

 

GUEST: CLYDE AIKAU 2

 

LSS 222 (LENGTH: 26:16) FIRST AIR DATE: 5/19/09

 

… I’ll just kinda cruise, you know. I’ll—I’ll go out and probably still surf, but not catch the biggest wave that pulls through. Uh, no matter what happens, I’ll—I’ll be surfing all the way ‘til I’m a hundred years old.

 

I’m Leslie Wilcox and tonight the conclusion of a special two part “Long Story Short”. Our conversation with Clyde Aikau is about saving lives, sailing on the Hokulea, and the legacy of Eddie Aikau.

 

Aloha mai kakou, I’m Leslie Wilcox. On this edition of “Long Story Short”, we continue our conversation with waterman Clyde Aikau, brother of Eddie Aikau. Clyde sends a personal message to the family of the late David Lyman, captain of the 1978 Hokulea voyage at the time Eddie was lost at sea. We’ll learn more about the challenges, heartbreak and regrets of the ill-fated voyage. Clyde also talks about saving lives at Waimea bay and shares a very personal life lesson with us. We start with this thought:

 

Look at what you’ve accomplished in your life. You—you—you went on to win pretty much the same surf classics that your brother won, and here you’ve—then you got your degree, and you’ve continued to surf big waves, and operate a business. Sometimes I wonder if—if you’ve gotten your due.

 

Well, you know, I’ve always looked up to Eddie as um, larger than life. You know. Um, because as we were growing up, Eddie was always in the forefront.

 

And your older brother, right?

 

Yeah.

 

The leader.

 

He was—he was always the fast runner as kids, he was always fast to pick up music. Uh, he was the hardest kid to catch. Uh, in sports, he—he always had the knack to—to take it forward really quick. You know, so Eddie was the first lifeguard on the North Shore, um … I mean, to go out to the bay, Waimea Bay, and master Waimea Bay on the first time ever; I mean, thirty, forty feet is—is—is not a easy thing to do. So I’ve—I looked up to Eddie. And then—and then of course, the Hokulea, you know, his um, bravery and everything. Yeah; I—you know, I have—I have no … problem taking … number two slot to Eddie, you know, ‘cause to me … he’s just um … you know, a hero, Hawaiian hero. You know, and I’m just fine to be … right behind him.

 

One of the things that he set out to do, that you then went and did, was um, voyage on the Hokulea. Wasn’t that hard for your family to let you go on, after Eddie had disappeared when he set out on the Hokulea?

 

Well, the 1995 voyage coming back up from Nukuhiwa uh … for the family, it was more like a trying to close the circle kinda thing. Eddie left in um … ’78, uh, did not make it. Um, I was supposed to uh, join the Hokulea. Uh, it’s not like my family uh, forced me to do it or anything; I just want make that straight. You know, I personally wanted to do it myself, because I—I believed in closing the circle, um, of a—a voyage.

 

And this was almost twenty years later, ’95.

 

’95; Eddie got lost at sea in ’78. So you know, um … going down to Nukuhiwa and um … um, sailing back up was uh, was—was okay for me. I felt very comfortable uh, being on the voyage, and training. Now, you have to train to be i—invited on this voyage, because you know, you—you need to uh, be able to um, handle the rigorous uh, um, sailing voyage, and you gotta know what to do on the Hokulea and so forth. But I felt comfortable, because I windsurf, I sail, I drive boats, I surf, you know, dive, everything, so I felt real comfortable. Uh, we were at sea for twenty-nine days, uh, coming back up from Nukuhiwa to Hawaii. It was exciting for me when it got … heavy storms. You know, heavy storms, take the sail down, Hokulea is going up and down.

 

You didn’t have disturbing thoughts about Eddie on that voyage?

 

Oh, uh … um, no. I had—everything was great. But um, a real quick … uh, this island that we were on was called Nukihiwa. And it’s like a—uh, it’s about the size of Waikiki Beach from the Natatorium to the Hilton Hawaiian Village. And this was a place where there’s only about a hundred people there. And uh, when it comes about five o’clock, it’s lights out. Well, on the last night that we were there, uh, we had to go to bed and sleep, uh, uh, because we had a long voyage to go the next day. So anyway, I was sleeping, in this ten-by-ten room. I was on one side—uh, I was one side of the room, and my partner was on the— on the other side of the room. She woke up three times that night; three times that night, and she looked over to where I was sleeping. And she saw someone sitting down in a chair, leaning over me with a headband on.

 

Was that Eddie, looking out for you?

 

No doubt; no doubt.

 

Have you felt that before?

 

Um … yes, in 1986, when I won the Eddie Aikau first Quiksilver surfing event. Waves were twenty to twenty-five feet, thirty feet, and it was breaking on a—on a—on a wind day where we had a west wind. And a west wind would—would give you kinda like a onshore uh, break of the wave. It would break here, it would break here. And it’s a real scary wave to ride the bay. But I—I feel comfortable in riding on days like that. Anyway, I was paddling out for my—for my heat, and as I was paddling out, there were two turtles there. And as I was coming closer and closer, these turtles popped up and looked at me, and they—it was like … Bradda Clyde, follow me. So I looked at these two turtles, and I followed them. And this is where everybody sits down, all five guys, and I would follow the turtles past them, and go deeper than all of them, about a hundred feet out. And as soon as I got to that point, the biggest wave of the day would just pull right in, and I’d jump right on it. And just rip it up, come all the way in, and I’d paddle out, and the turtles would be there again. And I’d follow these turtles, uh, again.

 

Who were the two turtles?

 

Um, I’m looking at it as Eddie was one of ‘em, and Jose Angel, one of—one of the other big wave pioneer surfers—

 

Who also died—too young.

 

Yeah. So … you know, like I said, our family is very spiritual, and uh, you know, it’s things that you can’t um, explain. But I really believe that my wind that day was um … with the help of uh, the turtles.

 

Have you ever wanted to explain something about your family or your life, or the publicity about Eddie that um, you haven’t had a chance to explain before?

 

Eddie was a very shy guy. You know. And he was mostly a guy where he would mind his own business. But um … if it got to a point where somebody needed help for anything, he would um, always be—be the first guy there. And I just wanted to make mention that there was a—there was a lot of—a lot of blame that went around when uh, Eddie got lost at sea in ’78. And a lot of the blame went onto, you—you know, the captain of the Hokulea, uh, Lyman, David Lyman. You know, David Lyman had passed away, and I went to his funeral. You know, the whole family was there, the entire Honolulu was there, and … and uh … and I wanted to go up and … and express to the family that … it wasn’t David Lyman’s fault that Eddie got lost at sea, and that … because I never had a chance to sit down with David L—Lyman, and just talk story, you know, and let him know how I felt and how the family felt. And that uh … that at his funeral, I wanted to get up there …and tell his family, especially, um … and … the whole Honolulu, that it wasn’t David Lyman’s fault, and that I personally and—an—and the family feels the same way. And that um … no matter what David Lyman did to Eddie, even if he tied Eddie down, uh, that wouldn’t have prevented him from grabbing the surfboard and go and get help. And uh … anyway, um, I just wanted to … let the—uh, you know, the family know that.

 

Because I’m sure Captain Lyman carried that with him, even if it wasn’t … I mean, no captain wants to lose anybody on his watch.

 

I know; I know. And I feel bad that I didn’t have a chance to express that to him when he was living. But anyway, I just wanted to let the family know that.

 

That’s wonderful. You know, um …it’s just so hard to believe that um, a waterman with those wonderful skills can die in the water. But what could ha ve happened to Eddie, do you think?

 

People forget that … in the Molokai Channel that night, the waves were twenty to thirty feet. And you’re talking twenty to thirty feet, Hawaiian, coming every direction … every five seconds. I mean, Eddie was one of the greatest guys in the water and stuff, saved thousands of guys; but you know, um … putting yourself in a situation like that is, I think, pretty difficult.

 

Do you think he knew he was going into that?

 

Well, you know, some people say that Eddie knew that it was gonna happen, and this and that. But … you know, who knows? You know, I just think—you know, because Eddie was the kinda guy where he was always prepared for the worst. You know, he would take—he would go to the country, and he’d take three different sets of clothes, all the time, on a Friday night. ‘Cause he never knew where he was gonna go, but wherever he was gonna go, he wanted to be prepared. And prior to him going on the voyage, he did the same thing. He did—you know, he had a letter for the family that said, Clyde gets all the boards, and this and that. You know. An—an—and a lot of people look at that as, you know, him—him knowing that he wasn’t gonna come back. But it was just his nature. I like to say, Eddie’s lost at sea, and he’s off on some island, and got hooked up with some Polynesian girl, and has twenty kids and can’t remember where he’s from. That’s what I like to do.

 

Yeah. I wonder if he might have thought, even if the odds were against him, that somebody had to try.

 

Well, you know, uh, it was very uh, extreme that night. I mean, they were floating in the water o—over twenty hours, there was no food, there was no communication. Um, people were going into a frozen state, ‘cause it was so cold. There was women onboard—I think two ladies were onboard; uh, I’m not sure, but at least one. Uh, everybody was scared, because they were drifting outside of the airplane route or something, where uh, the planes won’t be able to see ‘em anymore. So everybody was frightened, and Eddie could see that. And uh … just being the guy uh, who he was, um, went to go get help, you know. But I—I go around to different schools, and I make presentations on the Hokulea, and Eddie, and what he was all about, and I always like to say that um, you know, no matter um … what you do, you know, uh, you might not have to give your life to save someone, but to help someone uh, in any way you can is what his life was all about, and what his spirit is all about. And also, um, no matter what you do in the ocean, let it be riding a boogie board in Waikiki, or riding the biggest wave on the North Shore, orriding Jaws, or just swimming, just—just making sure that you’re comfortable in where you are, and you’re enjoying the water at that moment is what is important.

 

The Aikau brothers certainly cut loose in the ocean but only after their lifeguarding duties were done. And what terrific lifeguards they were. During the time they worked together at Waimea bay, they had a most remarkable record.

 

We never lost one person in ten years, almost ten years. And in those years, we had no jet skis; we had no helicopters; we had no boats. All we had was a twelve-foot surfboard, big fins, and a—and a lifebuoy. I mean, we saved … obviously, hundreds of people, but—but on a regular day, uh, we’d save three people that are not breathing at the same time. One day, we were in the tower, and three people—one on the right, one in the middle, and one at the rocks were all face-down.

 

How did you do that? How did you drag people out and do—

 

We—I—

 

You were only two of you.

 

I know. I—we—we—we ran, and got the first one in. I revived him. Eddie went to go for the middle one, got that one back. He pulled the other one back, I got that one back, giving him the CPR. And then we—we both went for the— for the third person. But uh, you know, the facts are that in ten years, we never lost one person. And you know, um, that’s uh … that’s—that’s it.

 

And um, there were people who went in repeatedly, after you told them not to go, right?

 

Well … in 1967, 69, 70, it was the height of the war in Vietnam; Vietnam War. And Schofield was the rest and recuperation site for the Vietnam soldiers. You know. They would—they would go in Vietnam, fight, and come and have a break in Schofield. And they’d have a break for maybe a month; but guess what? They’d have to go back to Vietnam. So all of the GIs from Schofield would come to, guess where? Waimea Bay. And they’d come down like there was no tomorrow. They’d come down with five, six coolers and—and food, and all of their buddies. And—and they just wouldn’t listen to us. You know, we’d tell ‘em, Stay out of the water, it’s dangerous; and they wouldn’t listen to us. So the—so the same person, we’d actually save about three or four times.

 

And did you almost lose your life in the process of saving another?

 

As long as we had our fins, I felt like we could—we could—we could go through almost anything.

 

M-m.

 

You know, and that was our attitude. You know, as long as we had our fins. Because no matter how big the wave is, and the impact, it’s only for maybe fifteen seconds or twenty seconds. And I know, and Eddie knew that he can— he can hold on for that long. And then it subsides. And by that time, you’re al—already pulled in closer to the shoreline, uh, where it’s not so, you know, turbulent. Uh, so basically for he and I, we—we knew the currents, we knew where to go, we knew where not to go. Uh, and as long as we had our fins, we felt very comfortable.

 

You know, um, when—when Eddie vanished, it—it seems to me—I mean, he was your best friend and your brother, and you had so much time together; uh, real quality time together in the water, at home, uh, you know. How—it must have been really hard for you not to have that person—

 

You know—

 

–who knew you so well.

 

In ’78, when we lost Eddie … no doubt, I was all bust up. I mean, totally bust up. I mean … I mean, I couldn’t go the North Shore for a couple years. I didn’t ride any big waves for a couple years. You know, it was just—uh, everybody moved back to the graveyard. My brother Solomon was in Haleiwa, I was um … on the outside of Haleiwa when I met your husband Jeff many years ago. We—we all left our houses on the North Shore, and moved back to the graveyard to try to stay close to the family, and try to recoup. You know, try to—try to … try to get through it. Um … for me, personally, what saved me … was this sport called windsurfing. In ’79, I got captivated by windsurfing. And … at that time, windsurfing was the sport of the—of the—of the world. Uh, and I got captivated, and I totally threw my whole body, soul, spirit into windsurfing, into learning the sport, into mastering the sport, and uh, I—I literally sailed every day, for one year, and I used to follow the world’s best windsurfer, Mr. Naish. Robby Naish; uh, I would chase him every day. ‘Cause he was the best in the world, and—an— and I wanted to—to learn the sport. So for one whole year, I just uh, threw my whole self into windsurfing. I actually … um … forgot my wife, and … you know, forgot almost everything, and just threw myself into that. And—and as I mastered the—the sport … and then I got back into the big wave riding again, and then I went back to the North Shore. And then everything slowly was okay. But very difficult, yeah? Very difficult.

 

And—and you’ve lost other family members too, so it’s—it’s—you have—

 

Yeah.

 

–all these joys, and—and these losses too.

 

Well, you know, our family, as a lot of people know, has been through a lot of tragedies. My brother, in 1973, Gerald, uh, went to my—went to my graduation… party, um, University of Hawaii graduate. On the way home, he got into a car crash, and um, he died. You know, obviously, I felt really terrible about that. But you know, every family goes through a lot of tragedies, and you know, you just gotta look around you at—at you know, the loved ones who are here today, especially the young ones, and just put your head down, and just forge—forge forward. You know. You just gotta shake it off some—somehow. But very difficult.

 

For the men in your family, there’s a danger gene; and I think your son has it too. The—the thrill of big waves.

 

Well, you know, he keeps telling me, Ho, Dad, I like ride big waves. But you know, the fact of the matter is … the real money in surfing is surfing small waves. You know, small—doing all the fancy moves and the aerial um, flying in the sky trip. You know, that’s the—that’s where the big money is. And you know, surfing big waves, yeah, there’s some money, but when you go big wave versus small waves, you know, the guys who ride the small waves um, make a lot more money. And it’s—uh, you know, the risk is not as uh, high as surfing big waves. So you know, I keep telling him, Son … y—you don’t need to ride big waves, it’s okay; you know, just keep on doing what you’re doing. But yes, he’s—he’s got that urge to—to ride some big waves. But I don’t force him to go out; I just let him go at his own pace. You know, just go easy, easy.

 

How do you think your life’s gonna play out? How long will you continue big wave—wave surfing?

 

I think serious big wave riding …uh, serious big wave riding, I think another year or two. I think another year or two, and then uh … I’ll just kinda cruise, you know. I’ll—I’ll go out and probably still surf, but not catch the biggest wave that pulls through. Uh, no matter what happens, I’ll—I’ll be surfing all the way ‘til I’m a hundred years old. You know, ‘cause there’s always Waikiki to go cruise with, and it’s always fun to ride Waikiki, you know, even on a one-feet wave. You know, it’s always fun just to get in the water.

 

Now that you have almost six decades of life behind you, any life lessons to share with people?

 

I think life lessons is um … I think life lessons is … just try to be nice to people, the best you can. You know. Uh, traffic, people screaming at you all the time; it’s tough, you know. Every street you turn, there’s a … there’s a road being breaked up, and people yelling at you. You know, you just need to try and take a couple deep breaths, and … just try to keep as calm as you can. Because you know, life is so short. That’s … the life lesson right there. Um … you know, a lot of guys have a lot of macho, you know, uh, character and so forth. You know, and it’s—and it’s hard for a lot of people. I mean, it was hard for me. I mean, it wasn’t until thirty years, that—that I reached thirty years old, that I could say to my dad, look him in the eye, Pops, I really love you. And uh, I think—I think the lesson that I want to um … say to everybody is that … you know, you never know when it’s going to be … your time to check out. Nobody knows that. You know. And it’s really, really, really important to express the love that you have for your family, especially, and for anyone, you know, at that moment. You know. Um, because you never know what’s gonna—gonna happen. I love you, Pops.

 

What did he say?

 

Uh … what did he say. Um … I love you too, Clyde. You know.

 

We had this one fella…big big Samoan guy or Hawaiian guy or Polynesian guy came down. He was about six feet five and he comes walking down and the waves are huge. And we tell him it it will bust you up bra. It will bust you up. He jus came out of prison, you know, been in prison for twenty years, just got out. And there’s nobody gonna tell this guy what to do. So he goes to the shore break. Sure enough in about two minuets, he gets nailed. He gets nailed. I mean just totally nailed. So we dove in there, brought him back up, dragged him up up the beach, and he was ok so we left him. He sat there for about two, three hours and just looked down on the sand and when he finished, he walked up, got up, walked up to the tower and um came up and thanked us and said he was sorry.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Carlos Andrade

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Carlos Andrade

 

Original air date: Tues., Nov. 25, 2008

 

Professor of Hawaiian Studies & Lifelong Learner

 

Kaua’i native Carlos Andrade is a lifelong learner. First, he learned lessons from his kupuna, his elders, living on the land. Then, he learned from professors at the University of Hawai’i. Today, he’s a teacher himself, sharing lessons with students and stories with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Long Story Short – Carlos AndradeGrowing up on Kaua’i, Carlos Andrade surfed, worked odd jobs and, with his wife Maile and their three children, lived “off the grid” in a house built using recycled materials. A master of the Hawaiian slack key guitar, Carlos also wrote beautiful songs, including, “Moonlight Lady,” and sailed aboard the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokule’a.

 

Then, at the age of 43, Carlos and his wife went through a major transition, leaving what he calls a “hippie” lifestyle and entering the halls of academia – both earning master’s degrees and Carlos a PhD. Today, Dr. Carlos Andrade is a professor of Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

 

What would lead a music-playing surfer to go back to school – in his 40s? To continue learning. And to teach what he’s learned – from his kupuna and his professors. Along the way, Kaua’i native Carlos Andrade believes he’s earned the credentials and the right to speak out. And that’s what he does on this week’s Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Carlos Andrade Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Aloha no kakou; and mahalo for joining me for another Long Story Short. I’m Leslie Wilcox of PBS Hawaii. On Kaua‘i, he surfed; he played music; he did odd jobs; he started a family and lived “off the grid” in a house hand-built with recycled materials. Then, in his 40s, he and his wife left their rural lifestyle and began anew. Dr. Carlos Andrade, next.

 

Dr. Carlos Andrade is an associate professor in Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He’s that, and more. For many years, Carlos the bachelor and then Carlos the family man lived in north Kauai, in a rustic house with no running water or electricity. He sailed aboard the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokule‘a. He played in a band, “Na Pali,” and he wrote beautiful songs, including “Moonlight Lady,” recorded by Bla Pahinui. At the age of 43, Carlos and Maile Andrade traded in their hand-to-mouth life in the country for the halls of academia. Both earned master’s degrees, and Carlos obtained his PhD. Every step of the way, Carlos Andrade has learned lessons that he now teaches his students in Honolulu.

 

You know, I graduated from high school, I had gone to junior college, and I thought I was, you know, fairly well educated. And then I went out to live with the people on the land, and I didn’t know how to do anything, except turn pages in a book and push pencil on a paper. And I met men could build houses, they could plant food, they could fish, they could farm, they could hunt, they could fix cars. Even though they didn’t have the car parts, they’d fix them with cannibalizing other cars. They could build boats; they could do all these things that we never got taught in school. And I realized how much I didn’t know. And so I began to—you know, even—that’s still a little bit late, but I began to try to learn to do those kinda things, to live and work on the land and with the land. Rather than in an office, or in some kind of a job that said you gotta be there eight hours a day, five days a week, that bought all your time. And so I would work for taro farmers, and work for ranchers, and work for fishermen. Because they always need help. But I told all of them that if I’m there, I’ll work, and if I don’t show up, there’s no strings tied. So whenever I needed a little bit of money, I’d go to work, and the rest of the time I went surfing, and played music, and did a lot of other things. Learned a lot about Hanalei and Ha’ena, and some of the—I spent a lot of time with—talking to the old folks. Because they were the ones that weren’t at the daily grind every day, when I was around. And I did that until I was thirty.

 

So you’re thirty years old, you’re living off the land by working for others.

 

M-hm. Then I get married and have children. [chuckle] And that’s a reality check, right? You have to start supporting your family. And so I began to work at different things, still kind of living that style. My wife and I actually raised our children, all three of our children and lived in homes that we built out of recycled materials, that didn’t have—were off the grid; no electricity, no running water. And we did that for about fifteen years, actually. But we also saw a lot of people coming to the island from other places, and they had much more resources behind them, money and family. And they were buying up the land, and prices were going up, and taking the good jobs. And I realized that, you know, having certification of some sort improves your ability to earn a living. When I first wanted to go back to school, all my friends said, You’re too old. Forty-three; you’re too old to go back to school. Why waste your time, you know. But that hasn’t been the case. The world that we live in, you know, it’s round, there’s no east and there’s no west. It’s just the world that we live in. But we cannot ignore the fact that we live in a system that we don’t necessarily have to agree with. But it exists. And within that system, you know, the market system and the system of government that we live in, when you have a PhD behind your name, it makes a difference in certain sectors. I mean, some sectors, like the guys that I surf with, you know, it’s like, piled higher and deeper, you know. Post hole digger is what they call it, a PhD. [chuckle] So you know, they keep you humble, as you should be. But when I go and testify in the Senate, in the Legislature, that the community of Ha‘ena wants to initiate a plan that is community managed fishery, it makes a difference that my name has a PhD behind it. And so I can advocate for things Hawaiian. It makes a difference in advocacy for, not only Hawaiian causes, because many of the things that are embedded in the life we live in, that come from our Hawaiian ancestors, like the right of all of us to go to the beach, beach access, are embedded in Hawaiian thinking. Not just in Hawaiian thinking, but in Hawaiian law. Because our ancestors and our leaders, King Kamehameha III, put on all of these big landowners who own land on the beach, their deeds say they own that land, subject to the rights of the people. Now, how far ahead was that guy thinking when he did that? And we all benefit, whether we’re Hawaiian, Haole, non-Hawaiian, that that’s in their deeds, and they can’t stop us from going to the beach. And if they’re gonna develop the land, they need to put a place for us to go to the beach in. Being a professor at the Center for Hawaiian Studies puts me into contact with the whole younger generation of young Hawaiian students and people that are interested in things Hawaiian, that are coming to the University. And that’s a privilege, to be able to work with them. It also puts me into contact with people who are, if not experts, the people that are doing the most research in the different areas of what we call Hawaiian Studies. But that’s only one facet of my life. Because I go home, and I work on the land, and I come into contact with the PhDs of the world of work and experience on the land and all that. So I have sort of the best of both worlds, in a way.

 

Carlos Andrade credits the kupuna on Kaua‘i for teaching him life lessons. He still learning, but he’s also teaching. He recently wrote this book, “Ha’ena: Through the Eyes of the Ancestors,” that reflects on the land and people in the ahupua‘a of Ha’ena on the northwestern side of Kaua‘i. A love of the land, the ocean and “things Hawaiian” also connected Carlos to the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokule‘a, as a crew member.

 

Any aha moments come out of that?

 

Oh, all kinds of ‘em. You know, whenev er we go to New Zealand or Aotearoa, as they call it, and Rarotonga, and the Cook Islands, and Aitutaki, and Mangaia, and Tahiti, and Moorea, and those places, we see ourselves. Because they look like us. But the thing that really astonished me especially on the first voyage, was the Maori people and how assertive they were about who they were. The thing that struck me I think the hardest was, they never refer to their ancestors as the Maoris. You know, they never said, Oh, yeah, the Maoris did this, and the Maoris did that. They always said, My ancestors did this. And I’ve reflected back on here in Hawaii; many Hawaiian people speak about our ancestors as if they were some distant people who they weren’t connected to in any way, like something in a museum. And you know, that it’s almost like, I think it reflects a kind of psychic disconnect in the different situations of it. But the newer generations, I think, of Hawaiian people that are our young—the students, and even older people, are becoming more and more assertive about their connection to the ancestors. And I kind of am optimistic about this strength that I perceive in the Maori people, and in other places in the Pacific with the other Polynesian people about their connection to the land and who they were as the first people of that land.

 

Do you feel a connection to your ancestors?

 

More so now than I did before I went on the voyages of the Hokule‘a.

 

Do you know who they are? You have an oral history?

 

Yeah. It’s more than an oral history. I actually have about three or four pages of a genealogy that was put together by Edith McKinzie, who is a famous genealogist, that connects our family all the way, you know, back to where I never even thought we were connected to. [chuckle] You know, it’s like, I don’t know, hundreds of generations back.

 

Wow. And the place you feel connected is?

 

Most personally connected, I feel connected to Kauai. Because that’s where I was born. And when I look at my ancestral, you know, the genealogy and the stories in my family, most of it happens on Kauai. But my great- grandfather moved to Molokai. And so we have connections on all the islands, but Kauai is the place that I feel most connected to.

 

And what connects you? I know in your book, Ha’ena, you talk about—there is a connection you have with landmarks and places that were used by people.

 

Well, you know, my father grew up in generation where his father was Portuguese, his mother was Hawaiian. But his mother died when he was eight years old. He was sent to live with his grandfather on Molokai, who brought him up in his early years. So he was kind of a man of conflict in a way. My father’s father used to talk about Hawaiians as, Oh, those kanakas; like it was something bad to be. But my father had this real sort of love for Hawaiian songs, and he worked as a cowboy, and the cowboys were Hawaiians, and he was a fisherman, and he learned a lot of the skills that were the skills of men in traditional times in Hawaii. He was a hunter, he was cowboy. And so I kinda picked that up from him. And when I went to live in Hanalei and Ha’ena, and in Waimea on the other side, I told you I kinda gravitated to the old people. They would tell me things that you couldn’t find in books. And those are things that I kinda treasure in a way. Like the old songs, and names of places. And after I went to school and learned to speak Hawaiian, whenever I had an opportunity to be with a person who spoke Hawaiian, I’d try to speak Hawaiian with them. And that opened up even more doors. Because they would talk about things like place names, and the thoughts behind the names, and the stories that connect to places. And those were the things that I liked, because I was a composer, and in composing, you’re always trying to tell stories. And so stories are important. And my father was a storyteller; he used to tell us stories about his friend Lum Lum Wissey, who he grew up with, you know. [chuckle] And all these—so I think that storytelling is—in the Hawaiian culture, it’s mo‘olelo and it’s haku mele. You tell stories through the tales that you tell and the songs that you compose and sing. And so all of those mean a lot to me. And you know, it’s still something that I do today, is I still think that place is very important, and the names, and the stories behind places. Because places is what human beings make out of spaces.

 

What are some of the compelling things that the kupuna told you in Ha’ena and Hanalei?

 

Well, you know, it’s life wisdom, yeah? Kupuna are the doctors of everyday life. You know, the PhDs of everyday life. And so you know, just simple things that you would think that are, you know, everybody would know—the so- called common sense of the world today that’s not very common. Like, you know, work when it’s cool in the morning. [chuckle] Go in the shade when it’s hot, and then go work again in the evening. Or, you know, you have to enjoy life. It’s not all work; you gotta enjoy every minute. You don’t know when, you know, it’s gonna end. Just little things like that. And then practical things, like just take enough to eat. Leave the rest there. If you take from some place, put something back. If you go in the mountains and you take taro, plant taro back there. You have this whole culture of accumulation, and extracting from the world as much as possible. And then, you know, sort of in between all of this is wisdom that sits with elders about, Oh, just take enough. Enough is plenty. Just take enough to eat. Those kinda things.

 

You also spoke with people who not only knew every inch of the land where they lived, but they knew every little eel hole in the reef and underwater.

 

Yeah; well, you know, the Hawaiian term for people who lived on the land was hoa‘aina. And hoa‘aina is a companion to the land. And I think that the relationship of the Hawaiian people to the land is one of companion to the land. And today, we have this discourse of stewardship of the land; everybody wants to be stewards of the land. And the Maoris have this unusual way of saying, No, no, no, we’re not stewards of the land; stewards take care of other people’s stuff. We’re ‘ohana, or we’re family to the land. So we’re taking care of our family when we take care of the land. And it’s a little bit different; you know, it’s a little bit different. And like here in Hawaii, people are beginning to use the term called ahupua‘a, which I talk about a little bit in my book. And they—you know, they have this sort of mainstream understanding of ahupua‘a is mountains to sea, and has all the ingredients for sustainability, which is another big word that’s going around these days. And everything within the ahupua‘a from the mountains to the sea, enough to sustain the population there. But when you really study the ahupua‘a, you find that many ahupua‘a did not go all the way to the sea. Some were landlocked. And many ahupua‘a didn’t have the resources necessary to sustain the people. It’s a myth, actually, of this independent little piece of land that could have everything and not survive with anybody else, not need anybody else to have sustainability. The reality of it is that there was that sort of—I call it the vertical dimension in the concept of the ahupua‘a from mountains to sea, and out into the sea in front of it. But there was also an equally important horizontal dimension. And it’s echoed in the sort of philosophy, unspoken philosophy that Hawaiian people have about aloha. It’s a reciprocal thing. Haunani-Kay Trask says it very, very explicitly when she says, Aloha is a two-way street. And when I began to study the language, the traditional greeting between Hawaiian people when they met each other was, aloha kaua, which means, the two of us. Not aloha oe; it’s aloha kaua. W hen we come together, because we have a reciprocal good relationship, an aloha is created because of our coming together.

So I think to apply that to the ahupua‘a and the concept that people like to study and would hope could exist in Hawaii today is this idea of reciprocity, where we need each other to survive. All ahupua‘a need their connections to other ahupua‘a.

 

You heard Dr. Carlos Andrade call kupuna the doctors of everyday life. He respects their wisdom, without any paperwork, any palapala, attesting to their knowledge. For himself, he went out and got a PhD, palapala, that’s a stamp of knowledge in a very different Hawaii. It gives him credentials as he advocates for Hawaiian thinking.

 

Theres an anger in your book about globalization, homogenization, mainland people coming in and deciding they’re gonna duplicate what they had where they’re from.

 

It’s not—I don’t see it as an anger, as much as a critique. You know, all of these things—I think that’s one of the sort of benefits or blessings, or whatever you want to call it, about being in a university. It’s because the university, of all this institutions in our country, is the place where ideas are meant to be voiced. As long as you can back it up with you know, research, you can voice your ideas and critique anything. And I think for Hawaii itself, the critique against people who come here and want to change this place into something that mirrors where they come from is a valid critique. Because you know, like say, for instance, language. This is the only place in the world where we have native speakers of the Hawaiian language. Like if you were Chinese and you wanted to learn, and you grew up in Hawaii, and you’re of Chinese ancestry, you could go to China and learn Chinese. But if you grew up as a Hawaiian here, where do you learn Hawaiian? There’s only one place in the world; here. And yet, every year, there’s less and less, and less native speakers. We’re not—they’re not protected. I mean, we protect the turtles [chuckle], but we don’t protect the Hawaiian people. We protect the trees, but we don’t protect the Hawaiian people. And you know, I think there’s a certain amount of calculatedness about that, is that there are—I know there are people in this world who would like to see the Hawaiian people disappear because it would mean that property would be different, it would mean that you know, now we’re all Hawaiian. Everybody wants to be Hawaiian. Not everybody. That’s you know, black and white, everybody. But so many people say, Oh, I’m Hawaiian at heart. Or, I’m Hawaiian. And it is a conflict, because the native people of the land have been treated unfairly. And you know, the President of the United States signed a bill that said, We did this, this and this, and it was wrong. And it’s kind of like somebody stealing your car, and says, I stole your car, and they drive by every day in your car and wave at you. [chuckle] You know. And I think that, you know, that point is gonna bother people for a long time; some people, more than others. But of course, the critique that I give in my book is kind of pointing to the fact that this is going on, it’s like the eight hundred pound gorilla that sits in the corner, but nobody wants to really deal with it in a fair way. They just want to see it keep going the way it’s going. I think it should be, you know, treated differently.

 

How do you want to see it treated? With, reparations, with what?

 

Well, impossible dreams, right? I mean, forty-three—

 

Separate nation?

 

–years old. Forty-three years old, you’re going back to school to get a PhD? Never happen; you’re too old. Impossible dream. Hawaii as an independent, neutral nation deciding its own fate, politically, economically and every other which way; impossible dream. But the great iron curtain, the wall in Germany was an impossible dream. The Nation of Israel was an impossible dream. There are many impossible dreams that can happen. But in our case, I think the only way it can happen is that people need to realize that aloha is a two-way street. They have to recognize what is going on, and try to work and agree to fix it. If people don’t agree to fix it, then it won’t get fixed. It’ll just get masked.

 

What does that separate nation look like to you?

 

Well, I can’t say what it would look like, but we could start where it was ended. And then from there, it goes. Because every nation evolves over time. The United States today looks very different than it did in 1776, when it was born. And it continues to change. So who’s to say what it’ll look like in another hundred years. Non- Hawaiians have been here for how many years; since 1778, Captain Cook came. 1898 is when the United States basically took away our independence as a nation.

 

Annexation.

 

So that’s little over a hundred years. If we gave people a hundred years to take care of their affairs, either to decide to be citizens of the Hawaiian Nation, an independent Hawaiian Nation, or to liquidate their assets and go to the nation wherever they wanted to be, or to live here as foreigners do, because foreign people live in the United States—it could happen. I mean, theoretically, it could happen.

 

And do you think that non-native Hawaiians could have a role in the Hawaiian Nation?

 

Well, the Nation of Hawaii was never a hundred percent ethnic Hawaiians. They were citizens—just like the citizens of the United States of every ethnic background say, I pledge allegiance to the United States of America. Basically they would have to say, I pledge allegiance to the Nation of Hawaii—whatever their ethnic background was.

 

So you’re saying, I’ll give you guys a hundred years head start, and then we’re having a Hawaiian nation again.

 

No, no, no. I’m saying that it’s possible to do something like that, given the time, so people don’t get rushed, and people don’t get things taken from them that shouldn’t be taken from them. That, if people would agree to it, they can choose to go where they wanted to be, and be citizens of the nation that they wanted to be. But you know, it’s up to people to do it. I don’t think anybody should force it. Given enough time, people can do it peacefully, but it needs a commitment. That you know, we’ve seen commitments before historically, as long as the grass will grow and the rivers shall flow, and many of the treaties between the independent nations of America and the government that we know as the United States of America. And if that commitment is made, we’ll find a way.

 

What will that take, though?

 

Aloha; genuine aloha. You know, two-way street. That’s what it’ll take.

 

Thats Dr. Carlos Andrade’s view. He’s making his voice heard in a long-running, important conversation that continues in Hawaii. Mahalo piha to Dr. Carlos Andrade, and you, for joining me for another Long Story Short. I’m Leslie Wilcox of PBS Hawaii. A hui hou kakou.