On O‘ahu, just about everybody knows Restauranteur and Chef Ed Kenney (or at least know of him). While Ed prefers the solitude of the kitchen over the attention and visibility he receives in the front of the house, his humble and quiet demeanor has not kept him from leading a conscious community of local food and sustainability advocates. He can tell you the best seasonal produce stocked at the farmers’ market or how to process a wild boar caught in the local mountains, but he won’t mention that he was integral in bringing Hawai‘i’s farm-to-table movement into the public eye. With a mission for supporting local farmers and reestablishing food security in Hawai‘i, Ed is one of those people whose actions, as well as his cooking, speak louder than his words.
When Ed opened his first restaurant, Town, in Kaimukī, he coined “Local first, organic whenever possible, with Aloha always.” The catchphrase coalesced a conscious community, people who care about the story behind their food. Sea to table, farm to fork, butcher to bar, however you say it, Ed Kenney serves it up everyday at Town, Mud Hen Water, Kaimuki Superette, and Mahina & Sun’s.
Where did your passion for cooking and sustainability come from? Who first shared their love of cooking with you?
It’s my mom, definitely—single mom, raised two boys. Out of economics she cooked everything from scratch. We had one of those houses where the door was always open and she was always feeding a bunch of us; it was an open-door policy and we were all about sharing food with friends.
How did you come to incorporate a sustainable, local-first element to your cooking?
There was a revelation at some point. As a chef you’re looking for best ingredients, and the best dishes start with best ingredients. Something that’s closer to the source and hasn’t traveled thousands of miles, been refrigerated, picked green, and artificially ripened like the tomatoes they ship in.
When you grow up in Hawai‘i, there’s an unspoken attachment to this place. You want to preserve it. Then you have kids and it changes even more so because you’re not doing things just for self or your customers, but for the next generation. The emotional level of doing the right thing drives me.
I think chefs are in unique position to move a cause forward. Between our four restaurants we feed 350 to 400 people a day. Each one of those people can be exposed to the stories we tell through food.
What is your perspective on local food culture and farm-to-table cooking? And to take it a step further, how has it evolved?
Traditionally, restaurants are profitable based on set menus and consistency. Working with small farms, we knew we had to turn that model upside down. We had to change the menu every day, buy whatever came in the back door, and use it up as best we can. The reviews were mixed at first, but by year three we were busting at the seams and our vision was realized. We got in at right time and were the first ones to democratize local food. At that time the menu was twice as long as it had to be because every item had a place name in front of it—Waimānalo, Mokule‘ia, Waialua. Now, we don’t do that anymore because it’s almost expected.
What type of relationship do you have with MA‘O Farms?
We refer to ourselves as co-producers. It’s not just a farmer and chef relationship; our overall success is a result of each other’s success. There’s no better beet, root vegetables, or arugula on the island, and it’s organic. MA‘O Farms is unique because it’s a nonprofit social enterprise. It provides leadership opportunities to at-risk or underserved youth from the Wai‘anae community, known for its economic indicators of poverty. The farm provides them with the opportunity to get a university degree in community sustainable food systems for free, while at same time reconnecting with the ‘āina, which in native Hawaiian culture is the focus of everything.
How important are farmers’ markets in steering local residents back to locally grown food and making connections with farmers?
Michael Pollan, in his book, In Defense Of Food, said that 11-times more interactions take place at a farmers’ market than at a supermarket. That’s part of the sustainability equation that is overlooked. You’ve got the environmental aspect and the economic, but that social leg of three-leg stool is often not talked about. That’s where restaurants and farmers’ markets really shine. It gives you the opportunity to meet those people, know your farmer, and know where the food comes from.
When you put your heart into every dish you cook, how important is sharing that food around the table and bringing people together?
It’s synonymous. In order to be in this business and stick with it you have to be a sharing, giving person. Otherwise you could work a lot less hours and make a lot more money. It may be a self-defeating prophecy, but it would be wonderful if more people stayed home, cooked and ate together as a family. It would help make the world a better place.
Check out a couple of Ed's recipes:
On the eve of opening our third restaurant, Mud Hen Water, we had just received a delivery of beautiful beets from Ma‘O Organic Farm. At the end of the evening, on a whim, we decided to bury the beets in the dying embers of the hearth overnight. In the morning we returned to uncover the most perfectly cooked, succulent, smoky beets we had ever tasted. We had no speci c use for these beets in mind, but when they were peeled and cut, we couldn’t help but notice how much they resembled cubed ahi. The opening night menu was already set, but we decided to run a last minute offering, Ember Roasted Beet Poke with Pickled Limu, Smoked Macadamia Nuts, and Avocado. Prepared traditionally with sesame oil, chile pepper water, and pa‘akai (sea salt), our “new” rendition still honors the classic Hawaiian dish's roots (no pun intended), however, in a time when our seas are at risk of over shing and subject to habitat destruction due to commercial shing activity, our dish eliminates the use of sh altogether. The sweetness of the beets is offset with pickled limu. The smoked macadamia nuts reinforce the hints of smoke imbued in the overnight roasting. And the avocado provides a richness that ties this very lean dish all together. Overnight, the dish immediately became a signature item...the rest is history.
Keep scrolling for Ed's Beet Poke recipe!
Active Time: 45 Minutes
Total Time: 2 Hours, 45 Minutes
Yield: Serves: 6 to 8
2 1/2 pounds medium beets, scrubbed
1 navel orange, halved
One 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced and smashed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup macadamia nuts
1/2 cup wakame seaweed
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup very thinly sliced sweet onion
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
2 Hass avocados—peeled, pitted and cut into large chunks
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons wasabi powder
1 golden beet, peeled and sliced paper-thin, for garnish (optional)
How to Make it at Home
Preheat the oven to 350°. Set the beets in a baking dish. Squeeze the juice from the orange halves over the beets; add the orange halves and ginger to the dish. Drizzle the beets with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the beets are tender. Let cool, then peel and cut into 1-inch pieces. Leave the oven on.
Meanwhile, toast the nuts in a pie plate until golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop. In a bowl, cover the wakame with cold water and let stand until rehydrated, about 5 minutes; drain. Rinse under cold water, then drain again.
In a large bowl, toss the beets with the wakame, toasted nuts, vinegar, sesame oil, onion and scallions. Season the poke with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until slightly chilled, about 15 minutes.
In another bowl, mash the avocados with the lemon juice, wasabi powder and
1 tablespoon of water. Season the avocado with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until chilled, about 15 minutes.
To serve, mound the poke on plates and garnish with the golden beet, if using.
Pass the avocado-wasabi mash at the table.
The beet poke can be refrigerated overnight. Add the nuts, then serve.
Ed Kenney shares the popular Kaimuki Superette Kombucha recipe
Ed Kenney’s second establishment on Waialae Avenue, Kaimuki Superette, is well known as Kaimukī’s favorite sandwich shop and coffee house. Beyond the cold brew, hot sandwiches, and ever-changing antipasti—made with fresh, seasonal veggies—Ed’s evolution of the neighborhood deli also features a bevy of flavored kombucha. For Ed, kombucha is an amazing beverage in so many ways. It’s rich in probiotic and gut-healthy bacteria. It provides a means to utilize fruit and vegetable trimmings, which cut down on kitchen waste. Above all, it’s fantastically delicious. If you’re not able to drop into the Superette, as the locals call it, then give Ed’s Kaimuki Superette Kombucha recipe a try at home. Cheers!
Kaimuki Superette Kombucha
First Ferment – This step develops the beneficial bacteria and tangy acidity.
2 gallons water
2 cups raw sugar
10 grams organic black tea leaves (wrapped in cheesecloth)
The Scoby (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) – This is a one-time purchase from your natural foods store. It is rolled over from each batch of Kombucha to the next. As it grows, it can be split to make larger batches or shared with friends that also want to make Kombucha at home.
Bring water to boil. Allow to cool to 180° F. Add the tea wrapped in cheesecloth and steep for 10 minutes. Remove the tea and cool the liquid to room temperature. Place the tea and scoby in a clean container (preferably glass) and cover with cheesecloth to allow it to de-gas. Store in cool dark place for 2 weeks. The first fermentation is complete!
Strain out the scoby and 1 cup of kombucha to be used in your next batch of Kombucha. If you are not ready to immediately roll into another batch, the scoby will live for two months in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
Second Ferment – This step infuses flavor into the beverage and bubbles (effervescence) form.
Split the Kombucha into four (4) half-gallon mason jars. To each jar add approximately 1 cup of fruit scraps, herbs, or spices. Get creative with the ingredients or stick with a few of my suggestions. Cover the mason jars tightly with lids. Leave the jars out in cool dark place for two to three days, burping (loosen lid to release gas) each day. This completes the second fermentation.
Strain the kombucha and enjoy over ice or in your favorite cocktail. Keep refrigerated.
Ed’s Kombucha Flavoring ideas – Don’t be afraid to experiment. Some batches will come out better than others, but all are delicious.
Citrus Pulp and Rinds
Scraped Vanilla Pods
Ginger or Turmeric Trim
Whatever you can think of, try it!
Whether you cast a line from shore or hold your breath and slowly descend into the depths to the reef below with speargun in hand, it’s not easy to catch a fish. Kimi Werner can attest to that. After culinary school and a foray into a career in the arts, professional spearfisher Kimi Werner tapped into lessons she learned from her father in her early youth and returned to the sea, putting her heart and soul into the solitary endeavor of spearfishing. In 2008, she became a national champion.
On land, Kimi is anything but solitary. Through her advocacy supporting local food and healthy reefs and oceans, she inadvertently created a community of sharing that has grown beyond trading fish for avocados. Today, as an OluKai Ambassador, Kimi is spreading her penchant for eating local and fresh foods, protecting the ocean, and sharing its bounty to encourage others to do the same.
How did you get started freediving and spearfishing?
I grew up on Maui. At the age of five I first tagged along with my dad when he would go spearfishing and freediving, just to put food on the table for our family. The minute I got introduced to that underwater world I fell in love with it.
When I was 24 years old, living on O‘ahu—I had graduated college with a culinary arts degree and I had a job in the restaurant industry. The more I questioned what was missing, the more that my mind kept throwing at me memories of diving with my dad and getting food. So I started seeking out anybody who could spearfish. No one took me seriously, so I went out and got a three-prong spear. I went out on my own on the North Shore of O‘ahu.
After trying all day on that reef I was able to spear six different fish and bring them home for dinner. When I cleaned those fish, cooked that dinner and shared it with my roommates, I realized that meal tasted and felt more valuable to me than anything I made in my entire culinary career. I knew I needed to hold on to this with both hands. Soon, I starting showing up to barbeques with my own fish. Then people started inviting me diving and I became obsessed with it.
At what point did you transition from fishing to becoming a competitive spearfisher?
Eventually I fell into the hands of these elite divers, these past national champions who heard about this enthusiastic girl, and they trained me. I dove with them for about three years. I learned so much and am so grateful. They taught me how to take the skills and go into the unknown and do so much more with them. In 2008, I realized I wanted to try my hand at competing to see how I hold up next to the best in the nation, and I wanted to win and then turn around and thank these guys that taught me.
When did you realize that the ocean could provide you with more than just fish?
As far as lifetime opportunities to make a livelihood, I had no clue until I was about 28 years old. In 2008, I won the United States National Spearfishing Championships and started to get public recognition. When I quit competition, I thought I would lose those career opportunities. I realized that I wanted to dive, spearfish, travel, and learn about other cultures, how other places manage their natural resources and practice sustainable hunting. That became my passion. To my surprise, the more I was able to pursue that and share what I was learning, the more that my following grew and more opportunity came my way. It became clear that this is going to be something I can do full time.
What have you learned from your time underwater?
The biggest thing I learned from the ocean is when you feel the need to speed up, slow down. It’s about being comfortable in the water and learning how to relax under pressure. Anytime I felt the need to rush, panic or speed up, that became my indicator to move more slowly and relax. That totally improved my freediving, but personally it has helped me in my life, in society.
What does fishing mean to you now?
Fishing is a way to immerse myself in this environment and truly connect with it, to study, learn, and know the environment. Being a provider happened inadvertently. Sometimes I’ll catch enough fish to share. It took a lot of work, and it’s a life that I took. Out of respect for my catch, I want to share with people that will appreciate it as much as I do, even if it means going to great lengths like driving across the island to get this fish into the hands of somebody I can tell will really appreciate it.
In your eyes, how does the simple act of sharing fish create a community?
What ended up happening without realizing it, I was choosing people like Ed Kenney, like Hiilei Kawelo, like Paula Fuga— people with the same interest of getting to know their own environment and how to use their resources responsibly with love. In the weeks after sharing that fish, I’d wake up and have avocados at my door, or venison from local hunter, or I would have kale or beautiful garden greens, or chicken eggs.
Today, I barely go spearfishing once a week and yet I feed myself about 80 percent of my food from someone that grew, caught, or foraged, because this sharing community has been created in Hawai‘i. We found a way to take care of each other. It’s really harmonious. Sharing is a huge part of sustainability.
Kimi Werner’s ultimately easy and savory fish marinade
Whether Kimi Werner is hosting a barbeque at home or stopping by a friend’s house for a low-key grill out, she knows she can always turn to her favorite quick and savory seafood marinade to get everyone’s belly grumbling. It’s quick. It’s easy. And it’s her go-to fish preparation.
While Kimi doesn’t use exact measurements for her marinade, she suggests doing some experimenting with the quantities of each ingredient to find the perfect balance to suit your personal taste buds. Because this marinade works equally well with red or white meat fish,—essentially any fish that’s big enough to filet—it’s the perfect solution to adding bold flavor for on-the-fly cookouts.
Method to the Madness
In a bowl, combine olive oil, soy sauce, and lemon juice. Kimi uses two lemons. Add the garlic, ginger, and Thai basil leaves to the marinade and whisk together. Add fish filets to the marinade and let them soak for about 45 minutes. Cook on a medium to medium-high heat grill until cooked through, usually until the filet easily breaks apart with a fork.
On Friday April 13th, 2018 torrential rains began falling on Kaua’i, by the end of the weekend, the Garden Isle endured more than 50” of rainfall, bringing down hillsides, collapsing roads and washing away homes. The flood damage so significant that Governor David Ige and Mayor Bernard Carvalho declared a state of emergency as several feet of flood waters remained in several parts of the island. The National Guard was sent in to aid local rescue officials and so far there are over 400 people were evacuated by helicopters and many by sea. As the island continues to focus on its long-term rebuilding efforts, residents on the North Shore past Hanalei are still cut off from access with the only road in to town closed for rebuilding.
Immediately, OluKai met with local ambassadors to better understand the situation and formulate a plan to help. One of the highest priorities was to equip local community members with the gear needed to dig out of the flood debris, footwear was in demand and OluKai responded by sending 450 pairs of water proof boots and training shoes to be distributed to the local community. In addition, we heard of three lifeguards who’d lost or had their homes damaged, yet tirelessly continued to serve those in need. OluKai redirected some of their race registration fees of the 2018 Ho’olaule’a in Maui to the Kaua’i Lifeguard Association to directly support the guards’ rebuilding efforts.
At OluKai’s annual Ho’olaule’a event, the Monday following the races is always dedicated to a work day. This year several team members traveled to Kaua’i to directly help the rebuilding efforts. On Monday, April 30th, the OluKai team met with local aid teams, as well as members of O’ahu’s Pili Group (locally sourced catering group led by Chef Gooch), and traveled by truck and off-road vehicles from Hanalei into the heart of the flood’s impact zone on Kauai’s North Shore. During the 12-mile journey, much of which inside the landslide riddled section of Kuhio Highway, currently off by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the team saw Mother Nature’s raw power first hand. Houses torn off their foundations, 1-ton trucks upside down, deep craters in the sides of Kauai’s majestic cliff sides- a result of thousands of tons of earth matter that all came crashing down on the valleys below.
The team met with the caretakers of Limahuli Garden and Preserve, a 1000-acre of raw beauty in one of the last functioning ahupua’a, Hāʻena. Limahuli is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, home to dozens of endangered plants and first found nowhere else. It is also arguably one of the most physically beautiful places in the world with a magnificently lush garden, featuring ancient agricultral terracing and a traditional thatched community hale, only to be outdone by the sharp cliffs jutting upwards from each side of the garden, it is clear these are the protectors of the place.
Kawika Winter, Director of Limahuli Garden, briefed the team of 30 volunteers, that the immediate goal is to repair 1500 feet of irrigation line that was displaced during the flood. The dismantled pipe currently lay in the bottom of the creek bed, it was to be elevated 50-to-100 feet up the steep, muddy and tree lined valley walls and repositioned at the upstream put in. The ravine is so steep and geologically sensitive that no machines are allowed inside, so the work was to be done by hand. Much of the crew had met for the first time earlier that morning, but quickly learned to work together as a team, necessary to leverage the many hands required to safely move the long and heavy pipe in these rugged conditions. The chants of “I kū mau mau!” enabled the team to move in harmony, yet also nurtured the ancestral ties to Limahuli. By the afternoon, the team had successfully repositioned the entire irrigation line and used an 'ō'ō (digging stick) to secure the water input. As the water once again quenched the thirst of the garden, the valley was adorned with the sounds of “chee-hoo” and the celebratory splashes of a cooling dip into the cold pools of the creek.
The team hiked back to Limahuli Gardens home office and were greeted by a traditional feast prepared by Chef Gooch of Pili Group. Each item on the menu featured a modern take on a traditional meal, all of the ingredients locally sourced. The team found themselves reflecting on the work completed today, but couldn’t avoid the nearly consuming thoughts of the rebuilding work that remains for many communities in Kaua’i. If you would like to help in Limahuli’s recovery visit their website at https://ntbg.org/gardens/limahuli/flood, and to support general relief efforts on Kauaʻi visit Hawaiian Community Foundation at https://www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/kauairelief. #KokuaKauai
There is a long road to recovery for Kaua‘i after last weekend’s historic rainfall and flooding. Between Saturday, April 14 and Sunday, April 15, 28 inches of rain drenched the Garden Isle in a 24 hour span causing massive floods, landslides and sinkholes that ravaged the roads. The kalo (taro) fields, town’s iconic pier, beach park and river are so heavily altered that they are barely recognizable. Five landslides decimated Kūhio Highway on Saturday night, cutting off the only road into the north side of Kaua‘i, forcing the firefighters and lifeguards to evacuate residents via jet ski and boat. There are several lifeguards and fire fighters that have lost their homes in the floods, but continue to serve the community diligently, assisting with evacuations and getting supplies to those unable to leave their neighborhoods. Damage is widespread on the island with flooding also displacing many ‘ohana on the south side as well. Governor David Ige and Mayor Bernard Carvalho declared a state of emergency by Sunday afternoon.
The National Guard was sent in to aid local rescue officials and so far there are over 350 people were evacuated by helicopters and many by sea. With so much mud and debris on the roads it’s extremely difficult to drive and many residents are cutoff with no running water or electricity. At this point there are many families displaced in shelters. Houses and possessions are lost or beyond repair. Vehicles are overturned and roads and bridges are in shambles.
Yet, the people of Kaua‘i are rallying with all of the State responding, and so are we.
OluKai is extending support with helping hands on the ground, donating work boots and redirecting race registration fees from our annual Ho’Olaule’a paddle race to the Kaua’i Lifeguard Association. We invite you to give back by donating to the Kaua’i guards or to Kaua’i at large through the Hawaii Community Fund.
There is an ‘ōlelo no‘eau (Hawaiian proverb) that is a source of inspiration for the arduous task of rebuilding the Garden Isle: Pa‘akiki kānaka o Kaua‘I (Tough are the people of Kaua‘i). This saying comes from an ‘ōlelo (story) about a group of Kaua‘i warriors that defeated a supernatural man eater on O‘ahu. Will you join us in helping Kaua‘i rebuild so that this ‘ōlelo no‘eau will also refer to the modern efforts of the Garden Isle’s residents after this historic flood?
When we look at Hawai‘i today, we see a place steeped in tradition. Yet it wasn’t always that way. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1970s that Hawaiians realized they needed to do something about their fading traditions and cultural identity if they weren’t to lose some of it forever. In 1975, the Polynesian Voyaging Society built a replica of an ancient Polynesian voyaging canoe that would adopt the navigational tradition of non-instrument wayfinding. This canoe was named Hōkūle‘a -- the iconic canoe many of us are familiar with today.
Hōkūle‘a marked a significant stage of what became known as the Hawaiian Renaissance -- a time when there was renewed pride in being Hawaiian, in its language, and its traditions. In fact, once Hawaiians saw how smart their ancestors were, navigating their way through the Pacific with nothing but guides from nature to help them chart their course, it made them realize how much they were capable of.
Hōkūle‘a’s influence has only grown. From its inaugural sail to Tahiti in 1976 as part of the Bicentenniel Celebration of American Independence, to the team of young navigators (such as Kaleo Wong, Haunani Kane, and Jason Patterson) carving out their own paths on the canoe today, it changed the way many Hawaiians look at their culture forever. In many ways, Hōkūle‘a is a microcosm of life on shore, and there is a Hawaiian proverb that says “He waʻa he moku, he moku he waʻa,” meaning, “The canoe is an island, the island is a canoe.” Whether it comes down to taking care of the limited resources on board, or putting the needs of the crew over individual needs, there is a lot to be learned from life on board Hōkūle‘a that translates to the wider world. Nainoa Thompson of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, once said that “The reception to the canoe is not so much just Hōkūle‘a but the ideas about exploration, the need to unify, and that common vision and shared values are important for the Earth.”*
Today, Hawai‘i is a place that celebrates its culture and is proud to share its achievements with the outside world. Hōkūle‘a continues to play a role in that development, which is why we love to share its stories.
To find out more about Hōkūle‘a or to follow the canoe’s travels, check out http://www.hokulea.com
* Taken from an interview with Khon2 in 2014
You might think that Bruce Blankenfeld, captain on Hōkūle‘a’s Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage, and one of Hawai‘i’s five “pwo” (master) navigators, would search high and low for only the most talented sailors Hawai‘i has to offer to carry the navigational torch aboard the canoe. Yet when you chat with Bruce about what he looks for in his students, he won’t hesitate to tell you that more than anything, he looks at a person’s values. “At the heart of it, it’s the values that they live by,” he says. “If they can’t get along with others it won’t work.”
Taking his role as mentor seriously, Bruce embraces the opportunity to tap into the connections of his ancestors and the cultural and spiritual awakening that is coming from it. He believes the next generation will go even deeper into this than his generation has, and this is a driving force behind his commitment to keep mentoring. In fact, it was the cultural aspect of the Hōkūle‘a that first attracted him to the canoe in the early days. At a time when Hawai‘i was culturally lacking, Hōkūle‘a represented a revival of ancient traditions and practices. Over time, the canoe and its voyages has led to a renaissance of traditions and Hawaiian culture, to the point that today this cultural component is even featured as part of the school curriculum. “This is fairly recent,” Bruce explains. “People are realizing that being part of the voyage is very doable and not some specialized skill that leaves people out. A lot of our sailors are teachers,” he continues. “They are taking all of this back and implementing it into their curriculum. They see the value of it.”
Another change that Bruce has witnessed over time, is the increase in women aboard Hōkūle‘a. Although women have always played a role since Hōkūle‘a’s earliest days, their participation has grown, or as Bruce puts it, “It’s always been there, but it’s nice to see how it has blossomed...It is no longer outside of the scope of what they can dream about.” Yet male or female, the goal remains the same: to live the culture and share those learnings with their greater community. Bruce emphasises how important it is that Hōkūle‘a’s crew take what they’ve learnt from their travels around the Pacific and life on board the canoe and share that in their everyday lives. And that sharing of information translates not just to Hawaiians on home soil but also to the people they visit during their voyages. “Sharing is a 2 way flow,” Bruce says. “We are sharing about the canoe but they are sharing about their culture and home and their outlook on what’s important. That’s how we expand our thinking and how we get a paradigm shift as well.” That paradigm shift is already well under way, with more and more Hawaiians showing interest in Hōkūle‘a. In fact, there were over 300 people who sailed on the last voyage, and they make room for everyone.
With a renewed sense of value in Hawaiian culture and traditions, and a team of young navigators continuing the trend thanks to Bruce and his peers, what does the future look like for Bruce himself? “I’ve got another good 15 years (of sailing) in me!” he says. Chances are, Bruce Blankenfeld and Hōkūle‘a will be inextricably linked for a lot longer than that.
For Haunani Kane, Hōkūleʻa has always represented pride in the Hawaiian people, their intelligence, and their strength both in and out of the water. It was no surprise, therefore, that when Haunani met Nainoa Thompson in high school -- ( President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and the first true Hawaiian navigator in hundreds of years) -- she was intrigued by learning even more about the iconic canoe and honored to be placed under his mentorship.
By 27 years old, Haunani was ready to take on her first sail outside of Hawai‘i at the beginning of Hōkūleʻa’s Worldwide Voyage. Nainoa encouraged her to train and become as physically strong as possible for the voyage. “Nainoa kept reminding me I had to train before my big trip. Before Hōkūle‘a, I loved to surf, but I didn’t have much interest in being buff. It’s not really my body type. I did train a lot to become physically stronger and I really benefited from it. It’s part of my lifestyle right now even though I am not sailing all the time.” But the challenges of being a woman on board Hōkūle‘a go beyond physical strength. Just the basic things that women do on a day to day basis can be a challenge. “At that level it’s easier to be a guy,” Haunani says. “For example, having long hair and having to shower in salt water showers is tough. Just finding the right shampoo and conditioner that can work with salt water showers while also being good for the environment…you have to think about these things.”
Not that any of that is holding the women on Hōkūle‘a back, and Haunani has plenty of strong and talented women to look up to such as Kaʻiulani Murphy and Pomai Bertelmann. “I was fortunate to sail with them both this past summer,” Haunani says. “Pomai was the first female captain on Hōkūle‘a. It was so amazing to be on the canoe the first time they had a female captain!” And Haunani herself is now an important member of the navigational crew, as well as on board scientist, helping to monitor the health of the oceans they pass through. She’s also working on a PhD that focuses on climate change and the Pacific islands, and she takes a lot of what she learns on the canoe to drive her research. And, as with all the other crew members we talk to, it’s clear that for Haunani, time spent on Hōkūle‘a learning about the ocean, stars, and winds also helps her learn more about herself. “I think by sailing on Hōkūle‘a, I have learnt more about my own strengths and weaknesses,” she explains. “Being part of it for so long I’ve seen how having something that is important to your culture can help you find your purpose in life. I just want to be a part of helping to create more opportunities for kids and young people to have the experiences I have had -- whether on the canoe or by helping them to find themselves through their culture.”