The Hawaiian Waterman is our Superman. He lives in the ocean, often making a living in the water riding waves, fishing, free diving, and saving lives. He can anticipate weather conditions by looking at the skies or the seas. He has an intuitive sixth sense about it.
Historical watermen include Ambassador of Aloha and Olympian Duke Kahanamoku, fellow beach boys Buffalo Keaulana and Rabbit Kekai, and Hokulea voyaging canoe’s Eddie Aikau. Today watermen are also innovators, inventing new sports like hydrofoil surfing (Laird Hamilton) and bringing back ancient Hawaiian stand up paddleboard (Dave Kalama). These new ocean sports are taking the world by “tropical” storm.
Maui waterman Archie Kalepa is at the top of the pioneering wave in many ways. He was among the first tow-in surfers sliding down the 70-foot waves at Jaws at Peahi, first to stand up paddle across the Molokai Channel and in the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River, and is co-developer of new rescue equipment using jet skis and water sleds. As chief of water safety in Maui County, he supervises and trains the beach lifeguards. With the development of the rescue ski, he has been connected to over 2 million rescues worldwide.
Kalepa shares his ocean knowledge and rescue techniques with lifeguards around the world and the US military’s special forces, including the Navy SEALS. Many more come to Hawaii to learn in our north shore surf.
I was in Kaneohe Bay on Oahu’s marine base two years ago this month with Kalepa when he was training the elite US Air Force Pararescue special forces. These are the guys that parachute into oceans all over the world, in the dark, alone. Our heroes. They were in Hawaii to learn from our finest watermen, and Kalepa led the team. We were shooting for Sports People Hawaii with Howard Dashefsky, and I got my kicks riding on the back of Kalepa’s jet ski and making pass after pass (with the jet ski, people) at the soldiers in the water as they practiced what the good man taught them.
A living legend, Kalepa, 49, was recently inducted into The Hawaii Waterman Hall of Fame. He will be a featured speaker at TEDxMaui 2013 on January 13 at The Castle Theater. Come ride the wave with him.
Tickets to TEDxMaui 2013 are available now. The event is expected to sell out again this year, so grab a ticket and a friend and go!