Out of water, I am nothing. – Duke Kahanamoku
We spent all weekend surrounded by watermen. We had no idea there was a title for these men but we knew we were in the presence of profoundly wise teachers.
We stumbled upon a clinic sponsored by Na Kama Kai, a non-profit organization dedicated to nurturing a deep sense of love for the ocean. We spent the day learning …
How to understand and respect the ocean and never underestimate its power.
How to begin to understand a Wayfinders Compass and how the repetition in nature can guide us to places we never thought possible.
How to paddle an outrigger canoe to catch waves and the place these vessels hold in Polynesian seafarer history.
How to balance on a stand-up paddleboard and get back on when the ocean knocks us down.
The meaning of the Hawaiian word Ohana … Ohana means nobody gets left behind. It can also refer to a close group of friends or classes that resemble a family.
What we didn’t know until we returned home, covered in salt and memories, were the qualifications of the people we spent the day with. Duane DeSoto sat in the sand, asked, listened, and answered all our kids’ questions. He is not only the founder of Na Kama Kai, but he is also a professional surfer, World Longboard Champion, and consummate waterman.
Jason Patterson, an established non-instrument navigator, explorer, and videographer gave up his morning to help us find true North, and Kaeo Abbey took our 10-year-old under his wing, giving our son the confidence to try something new without fear. By the end of the lesson, our son was calling him uncle and had no idea of his accomplishments on the professional Waterman League Stand-Up circuit.
Duane’s father and uncle were steering the outriggers through the surf while bailing water out of the canoes after particularly wild rides. They are both legendary and influential watermen from Makaha. They all had lifetimes of stories to tell and titles to tout but instead spent the day engaging my children, and all children who were willing, in a journey of discovery.
They are, in a sense, the Renaissance men and women of the sea. They are conservationists, teachers, facilitators, and heroes. They can fish, dive, surf, windsurf, kayak, and interpret complex weather data. They pay attention to the sunrise and sunset, watch wave patterns, and heed warnings the animal kingdom offers when danger lurks. They are experts in looking at the ocean as a part of the whole, each of its components impacting every other system on Earth.
I can’t really find a definition of “waterman” or “waterwoman” and perhaps that is telling enough. When I ask around, I hear stories versus definitions. Names that are synonymous with the term watermen like Duke Kahanamoku and Eddie Aikau are always followed up with a legendary story. That indescribable yet palpable passion was something we felt immediately and may never be able to fully define.