Hokulea sails to the west side, celebrates Buffalo Keaulana


It was a gorgeous day for a celebration on the west side Saturday.

It was perfect for the first arrival in years of two of Hawaii’s voyaging canoes and for celebrating a legend.

Keiki first: Hikianalia entered Pokai Bay in Waianae under native son, captain Sam Kapoi, a veteran Hokulea crew member on the voyage around the world. Then Hokulea, under native son, captain Kaina Holomalie, also a veteran crew member of the worldwide voyage.

For the first time in four years, Hokulea kissed this shore and the community pulled her closer.

The crew members are the voyagers of tomorrow, and they got to sail the canoes to their home today.

“Seeing everybody on the beach just giving their respect and giving their aloha for the Hokulea and seeing how much they care about the Hokulea and how important it is to their culture, that was really the biggest part for me,” said crew member Anuhea Strickland.

“It was just a heartwarming feeling for me and made me feel proud as a Hawaiian to see everybody come together for this one event to show their pride and to show that they’re proud to be Hawaiian,” said crew member Kristyn Kailewa.

Ceremonies also honored Buffalo Keaulana, legendary lifeguard and big wave surfer.

“Just an awesome kanaka and representative of Waianae and Makaha, and braving at that time, braving the seas with Hokulea down to Tahiti on the first crew. (They) gave, for us guys that grew up in the water and whatnot, gave us hope that we can do that too, and so, he’s just the beacon, really,” said Kapoi.

Also on Saturday, organizers announced the creation of the Buffalo Keaulana Endowed Scholarship Fund.

In a statement, University of Hawaii president David Lassner said: “This scholarship will not only honor our friend and hero, Buffalo Keaulana, it will hopefully inspire our young people to pursue education and become leaders within their own communities here on the Waianae Coast.”

Hokulea will be in Pokai Bay for two weeks, hosting schools, plus many opportunities for the community to visit. Canoe tours are weekdays through Dec. 21 from 3 to 6 p.m. plus Saturday and next weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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