This past weekend, February 7-9, 2014, Olukai was honored to host the "Tribute to the Legends" at Turtle Bay Resort on O'ahu's North Shore. The three day event honored the achievements of legendary Hawaiian Watermen: Brian Keaulana, Mel Pu’u, Titus Kinkimaka and OluKai Konohiki (caretaker) Archie Kalepa. The tribute started with a "Talk Story" session at Surfer The Bar in the lobby of the Turtle Bay Resort on Friday evening. While heavy rain squalls and stormy surf rattled away outside, Titus Kinimaka and his band jammed rock classics in the lobby. An international crowd of stand up paddle surfers, in town for the The Sunset Beach Pro, gathered, mingled and caught up with each other. The crowd then funneled into Surfer ,The Bar for drinks, food and the "Talk Story" session with the Legends.
"Talk Story" is a term for a casual gathering and sharing of stories, reminiscing of good times and communication of perspectives with some added humor. It was amazing to hear Brian and Mel tell tales of the early days of water safety during the Triple Crown of Surfing, before Brian came up with the idea of using jet skis for safety. Sitting in the channel on large paddleboards, they would swoop in as fast as they physically could to help surfers in danger, just to get pummeled by the large surf with them. Titus then went on to share, in detail, the story of Christmas morning, 1989. While surfing gigantic surf at Waimea Bay, Titus pulled into the tube on an 20 -footer, got hit by the lip and broke his right femur, near the hip. Kinimaka went into shock while floating and had to wait in the channel, supported by a small group of surfers for about 45 minutes before the rescue helicopter arrived. The candor and humor with which Titus spoke about the incident had the audience gasping and applauding simultaneously. Archie then went on to recall the early days of jet-ski assisted big wave surfing at Peahi (Jaws) on Maui . Dangerously using slow, small engined skis and bulky live vests not meant for surfing. It was inspiring to hear Archie talk about being the first person to stand-up paddle the Ka‘iwi Channel (Moloka‘i to O‘ahu) with all the prone paddlers in 2004 as the only one standing. And how in 2013, there were over 200 stand-up paddlers joining him in the channel crossing!
The next morning, the Legends joined an energetic group of 40 kids from Nā Kama Kai, a non-profit organization that teaches keiki about water safety and ocean conservation, at Kuilima Bay at Turtle Bay. The keiki were divided up and rotated through different learning circuits: canoe paddling and surfing with Mel, SUP paddling with Archie, water safety with Brian and SUP surfing with Titus. Other members of the SUP community joined in the teaching process including professional waterman Kai Lenny.
The weekend marked the beginning of the Stand Up World Tour with the Sunset Beach Pro waiting period running from February 8th - 16th, conditions permitting. Watch the men and women battle it out at WatermanLeague.com