Waiʻanae's Next Generation of Voyagers Step Up

Dec 11, 2017

Credit Polynesian Voyaging Society

The voyaging canoe Hōkūleʻa is making its final stop for the year in Waiʻanae. The Worldwide Voyage continues as the canoe visits community ports around Hawaiʻi to celebrate its homecoming. HPR's Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi reports.

It was a truly hospitable Waiʻanae welcome for the Hōkūleʻa at Pōkaʻi Bay. 

More than 1,000 people gathered at Poka'i Bay in Wai'anae to welcome Hokule'a.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

Here's Waiʻanae native and crew member Sam Kapoi.

“It’s awesome to see community get like this, get together like this because you hardly see this nowadays,” says Kapoi.

Hōkūleʻa’s three-year worldwide trip brought a renewed sense of accomplishment to the voyaging community. It also created an opportunity for master navigators like Nainoa Thompson to pass the reins of leadership onto the next generation.

Hokule'a landed at Poka'i Bay on it's last stop on the Mahalo, Hawai'i Voyage across the island chain.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

“If we failed at getting young people opportunity and access to the voyaging canoes, not just to sail it, but to lead it. If we fail at that then we failed at everything,” says Thompson.

For Waiʻanae, that responsibility fell on the shoulders of 33-year-old Kaina Nakanealoha. He captained the Hōkūleʻa as it pulled into Pōkaʻi – something he jokingly admits he never imagined doing before before joining the voyaging community.

Wai'anae's Kaina Nakanealoha (left) is a part of a new generation of Hawaiian voyagers. Kaina captained the Hokule'a as it pulled into Poka'i Bay, where he was welcomed by his community.
Credit Polynesian Voyaging Society

“I only seen Hōkūleʻa on TV or on magazines. I thought you had to be related to Kamehameha or Nainoa Thompson or something to get on board these vessels,” says Nakanealoha.

The Waiʻanae native joined the voyaging ʻohana in 2001, and recently trained under master navigators like Thompson on Hōkūleʻaʻs trip around the world. And when it was time to bring Hōkūleʻa back to Waiʻanae, Thompson knew Nakanealoha was ready to lead.

33-year-old Kaina Nakanealoha (front) steers the Hokule'a on the worldwide voyage from Bali to Mauritius.
Credit Na'alehu Anthony / 'Oiwi TV

“It’s not like we gave him the opportunity to captain. He earned it, he deserved it,” says Thompson, “I know him he didn’t want me to cut in because he wanted to prove to me that he could do it. So I didn’t say a word. You saw the arrival. It was perfect.”

Dozens of community members from up and down the Leeward Coast prepared food, made lei, memorized chants and practiced hula – all to ensure a proper welcoming of the voyaging canoe and its crew members. Here’s Kapoi.

Wai'anae welcomed Hokule'a with lei, chants, hula, and food.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

“I mean we’re talking about guys who no even do this kind stuff every day,” says Kapoi, “For everybody to get together on this common goal is amazing for see.  It really gives me hope that our people still care about our culture.”

The scene was reminiscent of Hōkūleʻa’s maiden voyage from Hawai’i to Tahiti more than 40 years ago, says Vicky Holt-Takamine.

The arrival of Hokule'a at Pape'ete, Tahiti in 1976. The maiden voyage is often credited with sparking the Hawaiian Renaissance - a reawakening of native Hawaiian identity, traditions, and cultural practices.
Credit Polynesian Voyaging Society

“When Hōkūleʻa was being planned and was being built, nobody thought that they would ever make it to Tahiti,” says Holt-Takamine, “All of us watched them land in Tahiti with the thousands people. I still get choked up, ok? That welcomed them to the shores, and what a wonderful welcoming for them.”

Kumu Hula Vicky Holt-Takamine (in red with hat) poses with hula dancers from her hula troop, Halau Pua Ali'i 'Ilima. Hokule'a in the background.
Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

The Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage has given up and coming voyagers like Nakanelua a strengthened sense of purpose. He’s become a role model for future generations in his community.

“They don’t need to be voyagers or whatnot, but you know, create your own stars, follow your own constellations, live your dreams,” says Nakanealoha, “Dreams are meant to be lived. Today, I did. I lived the dream. This was one of my dreams…to bring her home.”

Hōkūleʻa will remain in Waiʻanae for the next two weeks with a host of activities planned for the community.