Photo by Twain Newhart
It will take Donna Kahakui about 36 hours to
complete her journey from Upolu Point on the
Big Island to Waikiki Beach this weekend.
Donna Kahakui will paddle the 130 milesBy Pat Gee
from the Big Island to Oahu this Friday and
Saturday in an effort to raise awareness
about the dangers of ocean pollution
Special to the Star-Bulletin
THREE playful dolphins cavorting around her canoe turned Donna Kahakui into an activist.
"Once I looked into their eyes, I was hooked," said Kahakui, who decided then and there not to be a passive observer of marine life abuse. Instead of thinking "one person can't do anything, I knew if I changed one person's habits, one person's mind, and teach people how to take care of the ocean environment, it would be worth it."
The encounter with the dolphins occurred three years ago and it inspired Kahakui to paddle more then 80 miles from Maui to Oahu last June to demonstrate her dedication to preserving marine life. She also did it to kick off the formation of her environmentalist group, Kai Makana.
Kahakui will attempt an even longer voyage in her one-man canoe starting April 2 to further the group's objective, which is to educate the public about how crucial it is to protect the marine environment.
The Honolulu law enforcement officer will paddle some 130 miles in about 36 hours across the treacherous Alenuihaha Channel from Upolu Point on the Big Island to Waikiki Beach. It will be the first such endeavor by a solo paddler, she said. "It's never been documented, as far as I know."
Kahukui will be accompanied by three escort boats, including one headed by renowned navigator Nainoa Thompson of the historic Hokule'a Polynesian voyages.
"The reason I'm paddling these insane miles is to show people that one person CAN make a difference, and to become more aware of the ocean and not take it for granted."
The ocean looks beautiful from the perspective of one sitting on the beach but "outside the breakline, you'll see rubbish, beer cans, plastic bags, lots of nets, fishing gear that people just dump when they're done ... green sea turtles with tumors," she said.
Kahakui has spent a good part of the last 20 of her 35 years in a canoe --"I was born to paddle...it was something that was inherent in my being."
She said she feels blessed to have been able to travel, compete on winning teams, and paddle with and against the best in the world. She's had a number of good coaches, but gives foremost credit to Connie Young, who "got me into it and taught me ... I owe her a lot."
Kahakui said the only thing she's apprehensive about on her next voyage is the "extreme cold. Once you're wet and the wind hits you, you freeze." On her last voyage, "the only thing I could think of was how cold I was. For 12 hours, I was miserable."
The trip, which starts at 6 a.m., will be postponed if there are high winds and surf on the north shores of all islands. Navigator Thompson chose April 2, Good Friday, for its full moon, so the escort boats can see her at night. Kahakui should arrive the next day in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village between 6 and 8 p.m.
For more information, call Kai Makana at 383-1021.
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