By Todd Ransdell, Young Adult Program Director
Polynesian people throughout the Pacific Ocean have long used the many types of Wa’a (pronounced vah-ah) to travel, explore, and fish. It is an integral part of Hawaiian history – Polynesian sailors and navigators crossed immense distances to find and colonize the islands of Hawaii without the use of any navigation instruments. Rather, they used only their deep knowledge of the stars, weather, cloud formations and ocean currents to find their way. They brought with them many varieties of plant life to their new home, carrying them in their canoes from islands below the equator. An old Hawaiian proverb says, “the canoe is an island, and the island is a canoe.” I believe this describes the belief of many Polynesian people–that the relationship with the land and the ocean are interlinked and inseparable.
In the early ‘70’s there was a resurgence in Hawaiian culture and language, some believe brought on by the construction and launching of the first Voyaging canoe in centuries – the Hōkūle’a. This Voyaging Canoe was successfully sailed to Tahiti using only ancient navigation techniques. The Hōkūle’a is still sailing today, in fact she recently embarked on a worldwide voyage (with her sister voyaging canoe Hikianalia) launching from Palekai Beach Park – about a mile down the road from our Reeds Bay facility. The Hawaiian Canoe has become very prevalent here in the islands; on any given day you can see quite a few wa’a plying the waters around Reeds Bay.
Early on during the development of the Young Adult Program in Reeds Bay, Mike McKinney, our Executive Director decided to have a wa’a built for the program. It was completed earlier this year and we gave it the name Huaka’i Ola, which means “Life’s Journey”. Huaka’i Ola was launched on June 20, 2013. We have since integrated our wa’a into our Young Adult program, taking weekly trips out into Reeds Bay led by the experienced waterman Kalani Kahalioumi and Murphy Fonseca. Our students have been learning how to successfully operate the Hawaiian Canoe, and some staff are working towards becoming a Kapena (Captain) under Kalani and Murphy’s tutelage. We are very excited about this part of our program, and look forward to increasingly integrating Huaka’i Ola into our program structure in the future.