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Oct 31, 2017

Talking Story with Hōkūle'a

There are four necessities for an epic Aloha Friday: Hawaiian music, beer, food, and talk story.

Recently, all four came together at Ward Village's IBM Building to mark the release of the book, "Mālama Honua: Hōkūle'a, a Voyage of Hope." Authored by Jennifer Allen and illustrated by John McCaskill, the book chronicles Hōkūle'a's inspirational voyage as it circumnavigated the globe on a double-hulled sailing canoe using traditional methods of wayfaring. To celebrate the release of the book, senior leadership of the Polynesian Voyaging Society held a talk story event, allowing guests to ask questions and intermingle with Hawai'i's storied seafarers.

Famed adventure brand and Ward Village merchant Patagonia published the book, which chronicles Hōkūle'a's three-year, 60,000-nautical-mile mission around the world to raise awareness of climate change and the importance of sustainability. Complete with photos from renowned surf and adventure photographer John Bilderback, the beautiful book does an exemplary job of capturing the crew's harrowing adventure in vivid detail and imagery.

At the event, singer/songwriters Kawika Kahiapo and Paula Fuga opened the evening and set the pace with their beloved music. Both artists have been stalwart supporters of the wa'a (canoe), and it was only fitting to have them serenade the crowd as a slideshow of Hōkūle'a's journey was projected behind the musicians. As is true with all Aloha Fridays, the evening was met with a steady supply of cold Kona Brewing Co. beers and an impressive spread of local grinds like poi, poke, cone sushi, Chinese-style roasted pork on bao buns and more, all supplied by Patagonia.

Prior to the talk story portion of the evening, Hōkūle'a apprentice navigator/'Ōiwi TV photographer Jason Patterson introduced a video edit depicting life aboard the wa'a. As a takeaway, it's safe to say that it takes a special breed of person to commit to such an endeavor. According to Patterson, the video served as a teaser to a full-length documentary about Mālama Honua. Following the screening, photographer John Bilderback took the stage to introduce the senior leadership of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and original Hōkūle'a crewmembers, Billy Richards, Bruce Blankenfeld, and Nainoa Thompson.

Blankenfeld, aka "Uncle Bruce," began the talk story by acknowledging the tremendous support that was necessary for the long and arduous journey. "You need a large community behind you to not only undertake this type of endeavor, but to see it through. I want to say 'mahalo' to all of you. So many wonderful things happened on the voyage, but to see all of the beauty displayed in the book is amazing. It really does Hōkūle'a justice and captures what was going on out there...because it was a lot of crazy stuff."

After Blankenfeld's initial talk, the microphone was then passed to Billy Richards who echoed the sentiments of gratitude to Hawai'i. He also explained the background of the wa'a and its creations. "The Hōkūle'a was conceived as a Bicentennial project. Nineteen seventy-six marked the voyage and it also happened to be the 200-year anniversary of the nation," explained Richards. "Although it began as a Bicentennial project, it became an awakening for the Hawaiian people and helped them understand where we came from; it helped the Hawaiian community rediscover itself."

As Richards elaborated on the history of Hōkūle'a, famed navigator Nainoa Thompson arrived at the event. As he made his way to the stage, fireworks erupted. Literally. In a perfect coincidence, the Hilton Hawaiian Village's weekly Aloha Friday show began as the face of Polynesian Voyaging Society took the stage. Then, another hō'ailona (sign) appeared: it started dumping rain. The 'āina acknowledged his presence.

From there, Thompson recounted his impressions of the journey: "I've often thought, 'When this voyage is over, what can we do to sustain the spirit of the voyage well past the homecoming? How can we make this meaningful, not just now, but 10 years...20 years down the road? But when I flip through the pictures within this book, I see a road map to kindness and compassion – inside this book I see the soul of Hōkūle'a."

And the epic Aloha Friday was then made pa'a (solid).

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