The source of our inspiration; these environmental stewards, chefs, farmers, lifeguards, and artists take great pride in their kuleana (responsibility) to their respective communities. They are our gracious mentors who perpetuate the connection between community, land, sea, and the aloha spirt that has guided Hawaiian people for centuries.
Hilo, Hawaiʻi Island
A native Hawaiian hula dancer, surfer, artist, designer, and advocate for ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i (spoken Hawaiian language), Brandy is admittedly and proudly a product of her home, the ‘āina, the generations of her family, and her extended ‘ohana that have come before. For Brandy, living aloha is the foundation of her perspective and life’s work. “I want everyone to have this lifestyle, being conscious and thinking about every action we do and how that affects the next generation and honors our kūpuna. Hawai‘i is so unique, but you can still have that intent and lifestyle at home, wherever that is, and that connection should be important because it’s feeding you, spiritually, mentally, and physically.”
Mark “Gooch” Noguchi
“I think food is the great equalizer,” says Chef Mark Noguchi, aka "Chef Gooch". Though first connecting with his Hawaiian culture during his time spent practicing hula, Chef Gooch—born and raised in Mānoa Valley, O‘ahu—switched gears from the art of dance to the art of cuisine, and has since become a nationally-recognized chef. Graduating from the Culinary Institute of the Pacific and the Culinary Institute of America, Mark made a name for himself at Chef Mavro restaurant and his very own He‘eia Kea Pier Deli & General Store before forming his culturally-aware catering company, Pili Group. His latest passion project, Chef Hui, was born out of the need to feed families during the COVID-19 pandemic. He and his amazing wife Amanda mobilized their chef and local farm network to deliver thousands of meals to those in need. With a smile and heart as big as anyone we know, we count ourselves lucky to hang with the Gooch and the entire Noguchi ‘ohana whenever possible.
Environmental activist Kimi Werner has spent her life surrounded by people who share her diverse passions. She trained with the world’s best spearfishers before becoming a national champion herself. She’s advocated for environmental protections alongside the world’s leading scientists, and she has engendered localized food-sharing networks across the Islands. At the heart of her journey, family has always been Kimi’s most prized community. Kimi has transitioned to putting down roots and celebrating her newest community, her immediate family.
North Shore, Oʻahu
Hawai‘i lifeguard Bryan Phillips, a 15-year veteran with 14 of those years on O‘ahu’s famous North Shore, is part of the elite rescue watercraft unit and is assigned to Pipeline and Waimea Bay, the two most dangerous and deadly waves in the entire state. Constantly keeping watch and protecting Hawai‘i’s local and visiting beachgoers, the 300 brave men and women of the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association (HLA) are a unique and tight-knit ‘ohana. Bryanʻs passion for the guards started young, “I started out as junior guard and all the people I looked up to were lifeguards. Everyone was fit and was active in the ocean. The experience left such a lasting impression on me that I wanted to do the same thing. It’s come full circle for me because I became a full-time lifeguard and I’m also running the junior lifeguard program in the summer.” We are fortunate to work with Bryan as a product tester for our Hawaiian Lifeguard Association line of products and proud to be a supporter of the Jr. Lifeguard program that he helped revive as his way of paying it forward.
Haunani Kāne, Ph.D.
Haunani Kāne is a scientist, surfer, and voyager. We first met Haunani aboard Hōkūleʻa as the proud sailing canoe completed a 3-year worldwide voyage. She was introduced to us as one of the next generation of great celestial navigators. Currently a NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, Haunani’s life is guided by the values and storied history of her kūpuna (ancestors). Using the ocean as her classroom, the sky as her blackboard, and islands as models for sustainable living, Haunani has found a unique way to blend observation and traditional knowledge to form a world view that focuses upon the similarities rather than the differences among western and indigenous science.
To say Keliʻi lives and breathes the fishpond at Heʻeia is an understatement. His role as the ‘Āina Momona and Assistant Executive Director of Paepae o Heʻeia gives him the great honor of bringing awareness of the fishpond to the community while also leading the production and sale of He‘eia fish and limu (seaweed). We met Keliʻi while doing a giveback day at the fishpond and have been blessed with the opportunity to support their hard work and dedication through our Ama OluKai Foundation and other volunteer efforts.
Ha‘a Keaulana is the Granddaughter of Surf Legend Buffalo Keaulana and daughter to Big Wave Surfer/Stuntman and Waterman Brian Keaulana. Immersed in her Hawaiian Culture and surrounded by the beautiful sea and landscapes of the Leeward Coast, Ha‘a has made Mākaha Beach her playground for work and surf. Carrying on her family’s ocean knowledge and values, Ha‘a continues to share the Aloha spirit through her photos.
Nainoa Thompson is the president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and a Pwo navigator. Inspired by his kupuna (his teachers), he has dedicated his life to exploring the deep meaning of voyaging. Among many other important mentors, Yoshio Kawano took him at an early age to tide pools to explore the mysteries of the inshore ocean; Herb Kāne introduced him to the stars his ancestors used to navigate great ocean distances; and Pwo navigator Mau Piailug taught him to see the natural signs he would use to guide Hōkūleʻa, a replica of an ancient Polynesian voyaging canoe, throughout Polynesia. Nainoa’s father taught him the universal values of voyaging – of having a vision of islands rising from the sea, of self-discipline, preparation, courage, risk-taking, and the spirit of aloha that would bind a crew on arduous journeys. We are honored to partner with the Polynesian Voyaging Society through the Ama OluKai foundation and to call Nainoa a friend.
Feature link format: hokulea.com
Born and raised in Honolulu, Lindsey blends her laid back Hawaiian attitude with street savvy gained by living in San Francisco. Always up on the trends, news and the latest book club reads, Lindsey is our go-to resource for the latest happenings in Honolulu. You will often find her chatting it up with the all-local crew at our OluKai photoshoots, where we rely on her expert eye to make sure the sneakers are always properly dressed.
Cliff Kapono, Ph.D.
Hilo, Hawaiʻi Island
Cliff Kapono is a Native Hawaiian, a published chemist, a filmmaker, and a cultural practitioner. He’s also an incredible surfer known for his smooth and fluid style. He grew up on Hawai‘i Island, living on the coast and in the forest for a time. Cliff is driven by a deep respect for nature informed by his cultural heritage. “I am very honored to be a part of the Hawaiian community. There are so many people doing amazing things for our community—farming, reforestation, medicine, geology, sailing, hula, surfing, arts, language perpetuation—I want to jump in and be a part of that.” Cliff serves as a barometer for the brand, helping us to stay connected to the subtleties of Hawaiian culture.
North Shore, Oʻahu
Rosie is the epitome of a surf-stoked wahine, ever-appreciative and respectful of the ocean, and always sharing aloha with her entire ‘ohana. As a North Shore surf instructor, she shares her special connection to the ocean on a daily basis with her family, friends, and the visitors she teaches. To hear Rosie describe how she feels about surfing is to know her joy – “There’s a saying, ‘sharing the stoke’. Not only does it make me feel good, but you’re making someone else feel good. It’s seeing the smile on their face, and for some reason I just know how good it feels. For me, it feels like you’re flying and it’s the most magical feeling you could get on this earth.” We met Rosie with her gal crew clowning around on the North Shore and sheʻs been one of our must visits every time we make it up there.
North Shore, Oʻahu
Pick up a local Hawai‘i magazine at a newsstand or a coffee table book in a Waikīkī hotel and chances are you’ll see a gorgeous photo by O‘ahu’s renowned and always-smiling “funtographer” John Hook. Whether treading water behind a camera in the surf lineup at the treacherous Banzai Pipeline or hopping a flight to shoot with another creative on a neighboring island, John Hook’s presence in Hawai‘i’s photo community is ubiquitous—and with Hook’s personality, always a laugh.
Radiating a love for her community and her island of Maui, Tiare is a true advocate for the ʻāina. Steeped in Hawaiian culture she was raised in Lahaina, a professional Hula dancer and terrific waterwoman known for charging some of the biggest waves. Tiare now stewards a project at Kahoma, a loʻi that she and her ʻohana are reclaiming on ancesteral land. After getting the stream restored, they have been re-planing the land by re-building centuries-old taro patches and seeing renewed activity of native aquatic species. “But the real beauty of it is that it’s feeding our people. We’re now able to restore lo‘i to the community and see the benefits of the mauka to makai connectivity,” says Tiare.
Voyager. Entrepreneur. Philanthropist. While in high school Austin got involved with PVS as a member of Kapu Na Keiki, a young group of sailors that trained with Hōkūleʻa crew members. He first sailed on Hōkūle‘a in 2005 as a junior in high school on a sail to Kauaʻi and Ni‘ihau.
“I have always felt that Hōkūle‘a is the piko (center),” Kino said. “Hōkūle‘a, to me, is a reminder of what brought us to this land.” He added, “At a time when our people were no longer being heard, she became the voice. Over time she has built great leaders and legendary water-people.” Austin is an integral part of the OluKai ‘ohana.
Kaʻiulani Bowers has been guarding for 10 years on O’ahu’s rugged Ka Iwi Coast. “When most people are running away from danger, I’m running straight into it,” Kaʻiulani says. As one of just nine female guards on the force, she sees it as her responsibility to shepherd other young women into the ʻohana and works closely with the Jr. Guards program to groom the next generation.
“Lifeguarding is a lifestyle. It’s not just a job for us,” says Ka’iulani. “I base my workouts on the ocean conditions. If the water’s nice, I’m swimming. If there are waves, I’m surfing. If it’s flat, I’m training—running in the sand and running rocks underwater in Hanauma Bay. Sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m working. It’s more like an adventure and it’s something that I’m so lucky to do.” OuKai is honored to support Kaʻiulani and all Hawaiian Lifeguards and the Jr. Guards program with training shoes, sandals and funds.
Moku o Kākuhihewa, Hawai‘i
Native Hawaiian designer Keola Rapozo, co-founder of local brand FITTED, believes that one’s kuleana to their community includes all the concentric circles radiating beyond the immediate family, too. For Keola, one very essential role in connecting communities is perpetuating the importance of Hawaiian language, and specifically, storytelling. “I believe that the storytelling medium is Hawaiians’ greatest gift,” Keola says. “We’ve always been a society of oration and we have become natural storytellers in all aspects of communication and art. It’s our greatest art form, so to speak.”
When we think about what modern Hawaiʻi looks like, we think of Michelle Jamie. Michelle has made a business of blending her award-winning design with her amazing aloha spirit to bring some of Hawaiʻiʻs finest restaurants, retail locations, and hotels to life. We were lucky enough to work with Michelle to bring that Hawaiian vibe to our OluKai offices, so we get to feel her presence every day. You can also catch re-runs of Michelle on DIY Network as part of their show, Aloha Builds.
Daniel Ikaika Ito is a longtime friend and advisor to our team. His community roots run deep – you can hear us often saying around HQ, “Call Ito, let’s see what he thinks!”. He’s also been known to make a mean Old Fashioned. In addition to being a dad of two, Daniel gives back to his community as a surf coach at his alma mater, Kamehameha Schools, where the Warriors are recognized for always being contenders in the National Surf Championships. Daniel is also on the board of Na Kama Kai, an ocean safety education program, that we are proud to support through the Ama OluKai Foundation.
North Shore, Oʻahu
Roxy is one part of the artist duo known as Wooden Wave with her husband, Matt. Their work has a hand-drawn aesthetic that reflects a playful sensibility and appreciation for draftsmanship. Frequently using treehouses as their subject matter, the art of Wooden Wave presents a whimsical take on the notion of the sustainably integrated community. When theyʻre not creating mural art for walls around Kaka’ako near their Lana Lane studio, Roxy is often collaborating with OluKai on projects from retail murals to footwear design.
North Shore, Oʻahu
A good mural is vibrant and colorful, but a great mural moves you. It draws you into its world, makes you think, and makes you dream. Born and raised in Hawaiʻi, Matt Ortiz and his wife, Roxy, are an art duo who collaborate under the name Wooden Wave. Romantic and adventurous with a hand-drawn aesthetic, their famous treehouse murals present a whimsical take on the notion of a sustainably integrated community, islands unto themselves. These nostalgic murals, found on walls all around O‘ahu, also incorporate the ocean—a sanctuary and space of wonder near and dear to Matt. With murals in California, Nevada, and Washington, DC., Wooden Wave also specializes in illustration and design, having created logos and apparel images for a variety of clients, including a capsule collection of shoe designs for OluKai.
Hāna through and through. You will not find a more true expression of aloha for one's home, community, and kupuna than Kauʻi. She shares the stories of her people, the ʻāina and culture through her work as a kumu hula and at her cultural retreat, Ala Kakui. For Kauʻi, “My drive and motivation was to make this more of a place where our community can thrive; a place not only for the people of Hāna to experience healing but sharing as well. If you are able to feed your whole community, that light cannot help but shine outwards.”
One of Hawaiʻi’s greatest ocean sports pioneers. Hawaiian Lifeguard and Director of Maui County Ocean Safety Division. Big wave surfer, cultural caretaker, and brand konohiki. With more than 30 years as a Hawaiian Lifeguard, this elite yet humble waterman has saved countless lives, revolutionized lifeguarding today as one of the pioneers of personal-water-craft (PWC) and PWC sleds for use in tow-in surfing and ocean rescue, and became the trailblazer in establishing long-distance SUP racing. In August of 2012, he was inducted into Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation’s Hawaii Waterman Hall of Fame, the highest honor a waterman can achieve in Hawai‘i. Following his induction, he spoke at “OluKai Presents TEDxMaui”, sharing his experiences and knowledge of the ocean and passion that surrounds him. Archie is one of our greatest brand treasures and a true member of our ‘ohana.
We have had the pleasure to get to know Hiʻilei through the amazing work sheʻs doing restoring and managing the Heʻeia Fishpond, the largest remaining fishpond on Oʻahu. Their goal is to restore the pond and revitalize the efforts toward growing fish as a sustainable food source for the community. Through education, fundraising through groups like Ama OluKai, and a lot of back-breaking labor – the fish pond serves as a living reminder of a time when Hawaiʻi was self-sufficient. Raised in Kahalu‘u by her skilled fishing family, she has been a student to the art and science of lawai‘a (fishing) and of Kāne‘ohe Bay her entire life.
A community can’t survive without food and water, just as a culture can’t survive without its language. Farmer, cultural practitioner, and co-leader of the Hawaiian Language Immersion Office for Hawai‘i, Kamuela Yim believes in the well-being of both. Kamuela says, traditionally in Hawai‘i, sharing and pooling resources sustainably—from fish to kalo—was how island communities continued to thrive. “Essentially, Hawai‘i is a canoe in the middle of the water that has very limited resources,” Kamuela says. “You can either run it until the wheels fall off, or you can be in sync with the place and know how to grow or fish sustainably, so that you can do the same next week.”
North Shore, Oʻahu
Life seen through Brooklyn’s lense is a reflection of the surf and beach culture she was born into on the North Shore. It gives her work a documentarian, yet playful feel. Ever involved in ensuring that her community is nourished, Brooklyn co-founded an amazing vegan eatery called Raised By The Waves on the North Shore with the goal of serving locally grown and sourced healthy meals. Her vision is for a healthy ocean lifestyle that binds us together, over generations.
Mark Kushimi is a photographer and designer based in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. Heʻs the man behind the lens for many of the great brand moments you see splashed across our magazines, stores, and website. Born and raised on Oʻahu, Mark honed his creative eye as a designer, co-founder and creative director of Contrast Magazine. He thrives on working hard, expressing his creativity through his photographs and storytelling. You will often find Mark at our shoots, signature white shirt, and black jeans, sweating for the shot and we couldn’t love him more for it.
North Shore, Oʻahu
Kamu Davis hails from Oʻahu’s North Shore, where he has built his life around the ocean. He makes a living as a lifeguard and shares his passion and healthy respect of the ocean with others through Island View Hawaiʻi, a pelagic shark dive tour company based in Hale‘iwa. He knows well the power of raging water and has saved countless lives. He shares his aloha far and wide—especially through the non-profit Surfers Healing where he volunteers as a surf instructor carrying children with autism into waves. “That’s food for the soul,” said Kamu. “My grandfather taught me to be warm and helpful, to share what we have.”
Honokohau Ahupuaʻa, Maui
Perhaps culture, like blood in the body, must flow in order to thrive. Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) Keith Keahi, who lives off the grid in remote Northwest Maui, recognizes this dynamic, striving to both literally and figuratively keep his culture flowing. A commercial fisherman by trade and farmer by passion, he moved from bustling Lahaina Town to the other side of the island to maintain that “flow.” On the land where he resides, he quickly discovered an ancient patchwork of traditional agricultural infrastructure, a patchwork he’s labored hard to rebuild, reconnecting with traditions and sustainable thinking of a past society. We met Keith in Lahaina, where we featured his story and treehouse home in our magazine and have been fast friends ever since.