A Watery Endeavor

An Oʻahu native brings the Hōkūleʻa’s traditional seafaring knowledge to his backyard of Maunalua Bay.

Text by Matt Dekneef | Images by Bryce Johnson

“I love seeing the excitement or the awe in people when they understand what it really means that Polynesians were voyagers,” says waterman Austin Kino. In January, the 27-year-old unveiled his latest venture, Holokino Hawai‘i, a Hawaiian sailing tour based out of Honolulu’s south shore, which offers guests the chance to experience Maunalua Bay via Polynesian wayfinding techniques—the same non-instrument navigation that Hawai‘i’s first settlers used to journey across the Pacific.

Austin Kino takes guests on tours of O‘ahu’s southeast shore, following the wind, waves, and Polynesian observational techniques.

Austin Kino takes guests on tours of O‘ahu’s southeast shore, following the wind, waves, and Polynesian observational techniques.

 

Aboard the Uluwehi, a bold orange-and-red canoe that comfortably seats six people and is affixed with two ama (outrigger floats), Kino keeps his senses attuned to the natural surroundings, positioning the canoe’s triangular sail against the wind. He is able to determine the craft’s cruising speed from just the sound of the waves rolling against the hull. An apprentice of master navigator Nainoa Thompson, Kino fine-tuned his seafaring expertise aboard the Hōkūle‘a—a full-scale and operational replica of an ancient Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe that was built and launched in the 1970s—which he crewed for three legs of its milestone Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage, a three-year expedition circumnavigating the globe that wrapped up in June.

A Holokino tour, then, showcases not just the splendor of Kino’s hometown, but also the means by which its native peoples explored and experienced the Hawaiian Islands. Kino’s attentive eyes pierce the sky and horizon, reading cloud shapes, currents, and the species of birds flying overhead and colorful fish swimming past. The basic methodology behind these visual cues, which voyagers use to guide them on the open ocean, is illuminating for guests, Kino says. “For many, the big takeaway is that the people who first reached Hawai‘i were the astronauts of their time, and they go home with that reaction of the host culture.”

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The Uluwehi, as seen from the sky.

 

Holokino Hawai‘i’s educational angle extends into Maunalua Bay itself, which has a rich, fairly untold history. It is a sprawling region that was once celebrated for its sustenance of sweet potatoes. One of O‘ahu’s largest fishponds once resided here. While this bay is less frequented than neighboring enclaves like Waikīkī or Hanauma Bay, Kino, who is originally from Wailupe, feels a kuleana to authentically share the place with travelers seeking something off the beaten course. For kama‘āina, Kino hopes his tours become a community outlet for learning about voyaging and getting involved. “The real success of Hōkūle‘a’s voyage is the way it’s encouraging people to go back to their own little corners and enact change,” he says. “I’m trying to remain involved in that.”

Holokino Hawai‘i operates out of the Kahala Hotel and Resort. Reservations are required. For more information, call 808-284-3705 or visit holokinohawaii.com.

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