For the Haleiwa Challenger, at Home in the Hawaiian Islands, WSL teamed up with Nā Kama Kai and Kuleana Coral Restoration to share the responsibility of caring for Hawai‘i's reefs.
Nā Kama Kai is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to empower children by connecting keiki to the kai and ʻāina to nurture a deeper sense of aloha and kuleana (responsibility) for the natural environment and themselves. Nā Kama Kai is committed to growing self-confident and proactive youth that eventually become environmentally-conscious leaders in the community.
Kuleana Coral Restoration is a grassroots coral restoration team founded by local scientists, surfers, and fishers that is determined to restore the degraded coral reefs surrounding their home island of O'ahu.
Coral reefs are an important organism in Hawaiian culture and are a prominent being in the Kumulipo - the Hawaiian creation story. After the creation of man, the Kumulipo speaks of the ʻUku Koʻakoʻa (coral polyp) as the first organism in the sea and the basis for all life that followed. The Kumulipo is a sacred Hawaiian creation chant passed down by kūpuna (ancestors) orally for generations among the Hawaiian people and tells the beginnings of the world and all of the life that resides in it. This chant is important because it connects us to the land and ocean confirming that it along with all of the life on and within it are our ʻohana (family). Kānaka Maoli (native Hawaiians) believe that we should care for the land and sea just as we do for our family.
The WSL, Nā Kama Kai and Kuleana Coral were joined by ambassadors and Championship Tour surfers Carissa Moore, Zeke Lau, Seth Moniz, Josh Moniz, Puamakamae DeSoto, Keanu Asing, Morgan Cibilic, Phil Rahzman, Dylan Moffat, and Liam O'Brien to restore coral reefs at Pōkaʻī Bay on the west side of Oʻahu.
Nā Kama Kai recently opened its headquarters, Hālau Nā Kama Kai at Pōkaʻī Bay which serves as a center for youth in the community to access ocean activities like paddling, surfing, sailing and swimming. This access is coupled with ocean safety and stewardship education rooted in Hawaiian values.
Nā Kama Kai received a 2022 WSL PURE grant to support its monthly ocean clinics. In 2022, Nā Kama Kai connected 664 keiki with the ocean with the help of 278 volunteers and 16 youth Alakaʻi volunteers. With this amazing support, Nā Kama Kai is able to expand its reach and programming. The non-profit plans to continue to assign resources to the restoration of the coral reefs at Pōkaʻī Bay. They believe that they have a shared kuleana (responsibility) to Pōkaʻī Bay.
The coral reefs on the westside of O'ahu have suffered devastating losses due to pollution, natural weather events, and a lack of environmental education among island residents.
"We are fortunate to be part of today, not only for us as surfers but as people. The ocean is such a big part of our lives especially here in Hawaiʻi so [...] the more we can learn how to preserve it and pass down the knowledge we learn today is super important." says Zeke Lau.
The health of our Ocean is an important part of Nā Kama Kai'is mission. That is why it made sense to begin the restoration of coral reefs at Hālau Nā Kama Kai with the experise of Kuleana Coral.
"We also look at Nā Kama Kai's message as establishing and honoring future generations, what they do so well is educating not just safety but also to take care of the ocean and thatʻs really what we need for coral reefs to be healthy," explains Kuleana Coral Co-Founder and Executive Director Alika Garcia. "The partnership with Nā Kama Kai made perfect sense as we are doing this for our ancestors to build something beautiful for our keiki."
All surfers understand that the future of our ocean depends on our actions today and the impact we can have on the next generation of ocean leaders.
"I'm here with my daughter Coral and we are learning about how to plant coral in the Ocean. It's amazing to understand how to cut in the right way and how to grow in the right place, and put in the right spot in the ocean. I am very grateful to do something for the new generation coming," says Two-time World Longboard Champion Phil Rahzman.
The athletes along with Nā Kama Kai Alakaʻi cut coral and attached them to structures so that they could be placed at the planting site. The athletes and youth then took the coral on Kūmau, Nā Kama Kai's 30 foot double hull sailing canoe.
"This waʻa (canoe) is going to be for the Waiʻanae community for the keiki to get experience to hopefully one day be a part of Hōkūleʻa's legacy. This is how we got to these islands, on canoes, waʻa's, it's a really good connection back to our kūpuna," explains Nā Kama Kai Founder and CEO Duane DeSoto.
Powered by the wind and with the help of voyager and canoe-builder, Moani Heimuli, the group took the coral about a half-mile off shore to meet Kuleana Coral scientists and scuba divers. It was a beautiful day in Waiʻanae with the sun shining and consistent 15 mph trade winds to fill Kūmau's peʻa (sail). The ocean colors were vibrant blues and greens with uncharacteristically high underwater visibility for Pōkaʻī Bay. Kūmau anchored while the athletes and youth dove down the coral structures some 30 feet to the scuba divers below.
"A lot of these individuals enjoy the waves that the reefs provide," says Garcia. "So again its a part of amplifying the message and being a part of restoring it."
According to Garcia, the coral that is being planted will provide critical habitat for numerous fish and sea life to support the underwater ecosystem at Pōkaʻī Bay.
"The ocean has been a big part of my life," says Olympic Gold Medalist and Five-Time World Champion Carissa Moore. "It has given me so much joy and I think that it is all of our responsibility to take care of it not only for ourselves but for future generations and itʻs all about living in harmony with others and our environment to make the world a better place."
NOTE: Please do not touch any live coral without obtaining a permit! Special permits are required for handling coral in Hawai'i [SAP 2022-41]