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).