A Journey From Mauka To Makai

Every May, OluKai and the local Maui ‘Ohana take time to work the ‘aina (land) after completing our two day ocean festival called Ho’olaule’a. This year our Giveback Partner, Maui Cultural Lands, arranged for our group to spend time in an upper native forest area called Wao Akua (Realm of Gods) where it is purported man is not meant to live.

As we ascended the mountain’s rugged terrain, it became clear this was no pedestrian journey, rather a 2,500 foot vertical climb into one of Hawaii’s most extreme environments. The Kaheawa Windfarm is a location with such powerful wind torque that its 168-foot tall windmills are the shortest in existence in the world.

It is captivating observing a single windmill up close, the 115-foot blades whistling along at 27 MPH. And quite impressive when you consider the 34 total windmills generate over a third of electric power demand on Maui.

After navigating several seemingly impassable stretches up the 4x4 vehicle-only-road, with muddy tires slurping up and down each rutted out section, we reach our destination in Wao Akua. The torrential sideways rain, wind and cold air, unimaginable as we left the 85 degree sunny beach just a short time ago, makes for a laughable intensity, after all we are in Hawaii still, right?

Our group piles from our vehicles, trying to ready ourselves for the mission of the day: planting 30 Koa trees in this majestic mountainous region. Amongst the 75+ people in attendance are several retailer partners from the mainland, local volunteers as well as OluKai employees. Everyone seems a bit out of place with the weather, but eager to accomplish our tree-planting goal. 

People often ask us why we make high-grade, rugged work boots with all-weather outsoles and water resistant characteristics. The day was living proof of how variant the climates of Hawaii can be, requiring a set of footwear tools appropriate for severe weather conditions.

After about two hours of wet, muddy hard work to clear the required ten-foot diameters of soil, the team successfully planted the Koa trees into the majestic grasslands. Koa planting is a very traditional act, albeit with limited immediate gratification - in 70 years the trees would be large enough to harvest to carve into a traditional Hawaiian canoe! 

It was only after the last tree was planted that we began to contemplate our way off of the mountain. Since our arrival we had endured a steady stream of wind and rain, making already slippery road conditions even worse, and with several steep climbs to make back to the main road, we realized our biggest challenge still lay ahead.

After several unsuccessful attempts to clear a rather steep, muddy and rutted out section of the trail, we realized the 4x4 vehicles were useless against Mother Nature. As the situation sank in, our group dynamic changes from cultural volunteerism to a wilderness rescue teamwork. Between members of Maui Cultural Lands, Hawaiian Lifeguards and guests from a few of the country’s best outdoor specialty retailers, the mental transition occured naturally and everyone began to work their way out of the situation as a collective unit.

There is a saying we’ve learned from studying Hawaiian history, Pupukahi I Holomua: unite in order to progress. It was inspiring to see everyone join together in this spirit to help the collective group achieve our impromptu goal: ensuring everyone got off the mountain safely. 

After a successful decent back down at Papalaua beach, the scene was surreal as the most intensely colorful rainbow came out of the mountains and touched down on the ocean. Perhaps a symbolic and thankful gift from the Gods of Wao Akua that our mission was complete.

 

Extraordinary Man Crosses The Finish Line Of The Olukai Ho’Olaule’A Unlike Any Other

Yesterday the Ho’olaule’a ‘ohana gathered as Navy Seal veteran and extraordinary human being, Kimo Akaka crossed the SUP Maliko downwind run finish line after paddling with help from family and friends, for 4+ strenuous hours. A race that takes most an hour and a half on average, Kimo’s method of paddling is much different than most. A Navy Seal veteran for 17 years, Kimo suffered a stroke in 2011 that rendered him paraplegic, unable to feel or use any extremity other than his right arm. By strapping himself to the board and using his right arm to paddle and feet to steer, Kimo is able to navigate the water and ocean for which he loves most.

Kimo began his honorable work with the Navy Seals in 1981 as a member of Unit 2 which sent him to the East Coast and San Diego. A native of Oahu, Kimo joined OluKai’s 6th Annual Ho’olaule’a with a dream of finishing the legendary Maliko downwind run, no matter what it took to do so. Encouraged by the humble mentorship of legendary waterman Archie Kalepa, a friend and Kimo’s source of inspiration, joined him on the water half way through his journey to the finish line. Archie was boated in to support and swim the remaining 4 miles of the race with the exhausted and wavering Kimo. Offering words of reassurance, Archie was called in to keep him centered and on track to the end of the race. 

As he crossed the finish line, hundreds gathered in an emotional outpouring of support.

Unable to speak, Kimo shared his inspirations through written word:

“In 2011, after I awoke from being flat lined for nearly 15 minutes, I promised myself that I would never miss another day in the ocean. OluKai’s race is something I always wanted to do. When I was told I would never talk, walk or use my left side, I decided I will never take no for an answer. There is always a will and a way. You just have to believe you can do it. Today there was nothing better than being on Maui, with Archie as my support.”

As Kimo crossed the finish line, Kimo’s service dog in-training “smart” was waiting for him.  A dog that is being trained to help Kimo with tasks needed for everyday life, will also be able to join Kimo on the water for safety and support.

A true testament to the incredible capabilities of the human spirit, Kimo, a true champion and hero, brings the essence of the OluKai Ho’olaule’a full circle. With the support of hundreds from the local community and festival goers from all over the world, Kimo’s Saturday finish embodies exactly what this unique ocean festival stands for: a celebration of culture, family and competition.

Pupukahi i holomua (an ancient Hawaiian proverb meaning unite in order to progress). 

6th Annual Ho'olule'a Race Results

DAY 1 SUP RACE RESULTS: http://pseresults.com/events/602/results

DAY 2 OC1 & OC2 RESULTS: http://pseresults.com/events/603/results

 

Men's SUP Elite

1. Connor Baxter - 51:08

2. Travis Grant - 53:25

3. Jeremy Riggs - 54:55

4. Kody Kerbox - 55:06

5. Danny Ching - 55:17

6. Livio Menelau - 56:32 

 

Women's SUP Elite

1. Andrea Moller - 1:02:00

2. Sonni Honscheid - 1:02:53

3. Talia Gangini Decoite - 1:06:04

4. Rachel Brunstsch - 1:09:43

5. Kelsa Gabeehart - 1:12:09

6. Penelope Strickland - 1:15:10

 

Men's OC1 Elite

1. Keakua Kaawa Nolan - 46:55

2. Kaihe Chong - 46:56

3. Daniel Chun - 47:01

4. Kamoa Tanoai - 47:28

5. George Cronsteadt - 47:34

6. Will Reicherstein - 47:37

 

Women's OC1 Elite

1. Lauren Spalding - 51:37

2. Andrea Moller - 52:15

3. Rachel Bruntsh - 53:17

4. Dane Ward - 53:32

5. Kelsa Gabehart - 56:16

6. Fiona Van Ammers - 56:44