The first time we saw Archie Kalepa was at the 2012 Olukai Ho’olaule’a event at Kanaha beach on Maui. We were on the beach waiting for our turn to ride on the new Olukai sailing canoe, Kamakani Eleu (the spirited wind). Lots of the Olukai team were sitting around talking story and we were fascinated. Little did we know the legendary watermen surrounding us, including Archie. By the time we flew across the swells we had a solid appreciation of the culture and spirit behind the teams who race these sailing canoes – and the Olukai team that brings the Ho’olaule’a experience to us all.
What a surprise to find Archie’s presentation at Olukai’s TEDx Maui online. (see video below). Archie Kalepa, one of Hawaii’s greatest ocean sports pioneers, Hawaiian Lifeguard, and Director of Maui County Ocean Safety Division recently retired and joined the OluKai marketing team full-time as the Konohiki (caretaker). As the Konohiki, Kalepa will support and direct the brand in remaining authentic to the ocean lifestyle and respectful of the Hawaiian culture through hands-on participation in marketing activation.Who could be better at maintaining strong ties to the Hawaiian culture?
Settling in front of my computer with a cup of coffee this cold Oregon winter morning I got both butterflies and inspiration from Archie’s compelling style of story-telling. He explained, “In surfing as in life you need to know where you need to be.” On a surfing canoe there is a huge difference between “riding” and surfing. To truly surf you need to know the lineup, study the wind and be where you need to be. We need to be adaptable and “crack the code” or find the formula for both challenging surf spots and – life. Archie’s true passion is using his skills to share the experience with friends while keeping them safe.
With more than 30 years as a Hawaiian Lifeguard, this elite and 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 Hawaii.
In call to us all to reach for our dreams and risk taking the steps to achieving those dreams, Archie noted that we are becoming out of tune with nature. By using technology instead of our instincts we miss many authetic and life changing opportunities. One such opportunity came Archie’s way and he grabbed it – going 187 miles in 17 days he was the first to SUP the entire length of the Grand Canyon. (video and story here)
“Connect with your culture,” advises Archie. As a waterman or in everyday choices, life is like a big ride. Talk about a big ride, Archie shared the story of his favorite ride on the iconic wave off Maui’s north shore, Pe’ahi. Because so many people visit Maui and go to the trouble to make their way through muddy and gullied dirt roads to take their place on the cliff to see (or more often not see) the break, Archie poses the idea that as a wonder of the world Pe’ahi should be recognized as such.
As a member of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Archie has traveled to Tahiti on both the Hokulea and the Hawaiiloa traditional voyaging canoes, and is dedicated to resurrecting interest in the traditional Hawaiian sport of canoe surfing.
As a public-safety expert, a big-wave surfer and a Hawaiian Waterman, Archie Kalepa is driven to help others and spread what he calls the spirit of “aloha,” the Hawaiian greeting. “Sharing the spirit of aloha is always giving somebody a helping hand, always giving somebody a kiss. Always when somebody needs help, you help them, show them how to be good people,” he says. “That’s what the aloha spirit is, showing people love. It’s what people from Hawaii do. It’s how we live our life.”
Archie Kalepa: Foil Boarding from OluKai on Vimeo.