He’s a fish in the water and an incredible artist and leader. Just some of the reasons why Akira Williams of Kauai was recently named the the top winner at the Duke Kahanamoku Foundation Scholarship Awards ceremony.
When Duke Kahanamoku burst onto the global scene he was dubbed the human fish. And that’s not too far off from the nickname Akira Williams has earned himself.
“When I’m not swimming, I’m just trying to get out into the ocean and spear fish or fish. It’s really what I’m passionate about. The water for me is like almost it’s how I put my stress out. I put stress out in the pool, swimming just makes me feel so good like runners high almost,” said Akira Williams, “So just for me, being able to have access to water is almost necessary, it’s kinda weird because growing up I wasn’t always like that.”
At around 4 years old Akira nearly drowned in a hotel pool.
“I just remember the feeling of not being able to breathe and not being able to do anything about it. But thank god my mom was watching me and pulled me out instantly,” said Akira, “But just that feeling is probably the worst feeling anyone can have, just the powerlessness.”
Shortly after the harrowing event, Akira’s mom signed him up for swimming lessons and started him on a path to where he is today–a state champion.
“When I watch him swim, he’s constantly making minute adjustments to his body and how he pulls and how he catches the water,” said Curt Colby, Akira’s coach, “I mean I can’t explain it sometimes but just the amazing feel for the water.”
“I really love watching him swim because he’s really determined and swimming is his own sport and his own passion. It’s really nice to watch and he just doesn’t quit,” said Takuyo Williams, Akira’s mom.
And within the past year, he’s taken that passion for swimming and used it in a new venture–spear fishing.”
“My first try, my static breath hold was 310 so 3 minutes and 10 seconds. So, I mean that’s just from swimming. I was doing nothing else to prepare for that,” said Akira.
Now able to hold his breath even longer, he sometimes has his mother double guessing her choice to put him on this path.
“And spearfishing as a mom. Sometimes it really scares me because sometimes he goes down really deep. But thats why he’s doing swimming. He can swim really good,” said Takuyo.
But for all his time devoted to the water, it’s solid mechanics he’s looking to pursue.
“Like he’s really good with engineering like mechanical, working with mechanical parts and models and robots and thats very unique,” said Takuyo.
It’s a trait he picked up from his dad who develops toys for Mattel. Add that to the creativity he’s honed throughout the years helping his mom who is an artist and designer.
“For me I live in a family of artists. But I really just being an engineer has always been my passion just growing up my dad he works on prototypes and stuff like that. So I would help him out on mechanical linkages and trying to solve actual hands on problems. So I just realized early on thats what I wanted to do,” said Akira.
And he’ll work on achieving his dream next school year at the Colorado School of Mines.
“For me I’m just so happy to have gotten this far. I didn’t even realize how much like Duke I am. I know I’m probably never gonna be as influential as he was. He’s an olympian. But what I think I can do is just share the spirit of Kauai and Hawaii. Just being me, I think I’ll be able to represent this small island in Colorado. I’ll be happy to get out there and do what I do just a little less water.