Paddler shares tales of journeys in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Using a canoe fulfill his dream of linking the entire Hawaiian archipelago, avid paddler and Kaua‘i native Kimokeo Kapahulehua of the Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Voyaging Society shared stories and photos of his journeys yesterday at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School.

Beginning the multi-year voyage of the Hawaiian archipelago in May 2003, paddlers traveled from the Big Island to Maui. Voyages from Maui to O‘ahu and O‘ahu to Kaua‘i soon followed.

In October 2004, 13 men and one woman paddled a six-person outrigger canoe for 28 hours from Kaua‘i to Nihoa Island.

The canoe followed an escort boat on their journey and changed paddlers by zodiac boat around the clock, Kapahulehua said.

The next leg of the journey came in August 2005, which took paddlers from Nihoa Island to Mokumanamana Island, or Necker Island. Kapahulehua said that trip took 37 hours to complete with paddlers going non-stop.

One year later, the society began its journey at Mokumanamana Island and headed towards Laysan Island. The team of 16 paddled 461 miles in 83 hours to reach the island.

“We were the first people to go into the monument at Laysan Island,” Kapahulehua said.

The team dedicated the journey, the longest paddle canoe voyage in modern history, to creating awareness of the monument and its preservation.

Kapahulehua has focused his attention on island culture and educating others about the Hawaiian spirit.

Kapahulehua’s nephew, Kahakuali‘i Kaimina‘auao, spoke about youth learning from kapuna. He admitted to being a former party boy, but that all changed when his uncle taught him chants and took him on his first canoe journey.

“A lot of the younger generations don’t understand how kapuna get places,” Kaimina‘auao said. “If they actually knew how much work went in to get from place to place, they would respect it more.”

He added that the spirit of the journey is precious because it combines the future and the past.

“Being out there on the open ocean makes you respect and appreciate the world more,” Kaimina‘auao said.

Though the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands had recently become Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument by presidential proclamation in June 2006, Kapahulehua said there really wasn’t a permit process set in place to allow the society access into the monument.

He said the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration granted the society access for their journey.

Because the paddlers could not actually touch the land on Laysan Island, they met the four NOAA scientists working there in waist-deep water offshore. Kapahulehua brought provisions like ice cream and cold drinks to the scientists; in return, they gave the paddlers glass fishing balls.

The last leg of the journey into the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is from Laysan Island to Kure Atoll. But the society was denied permits into the monument this year and last.

Kapahulehua said the journey will continue without the permit; the society will paddle outside the 50-mile borderline of the monument. Paddlers will be leaving Hanalei Bay on July 8 ,and he estimates it will take five days to travel to Laysan Island and another five days to Kure Atoll.

But Kapahulehua isn’t bitter about not being granted entry.

“(We should) be fortunate this became a monument,” Kapahulehua said. “If we don’t protect it, it will never be done. If we don’t protect it, we will have a lot to lose by 2050.”

Kapahulehua also addressed the issue of the newly released Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument Draft Management Plan.

“Everyone should attend the meeting about the management process so the people of Kaua‘i have their say,” Kapahulehua said. “We need to preserve, protect and perpetuate the culture.”

The draft plan was released on April 22. The federal comment period ends July 8.

A public meeting on Kaua‘i will be from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. June 23 at the Kaua‘i Beach Resort.

Copies of the draft plan are available at Hawai‘i public libraries and online at


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