On a beautiful calm November morning at the Kihei Canoe Club on the south shore of Maui, 20 of our survivors and staff stood at the shoreline attentive and speechless. Kimokeo sang, heartfelt and deep, to the ocean and to us. His voice commanded a presence and garnered a calm that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. I think many of our survivors felt the same.
One at a time, survivors and staff introduced themselves to Kimokeo and the paddlers with the Kihei Canoe Club with our camp power names — Sahwanie, Malolo, Touchdown, Honu, Gecko, and Goose to name a few. Kimokeo remembered all of them — 20 to be exact.
Kimokeo has “mana”, which in Hawaiian, means “energy” and “spiritual power.” It’s hard to understand unless you’re there experiencing it. We all felt it, but couldn’t quite describe it. Over and over again, it came up as one of the most memorable moments of camp.
“Uncle” as he is commonly referred to, taught us everything from paddling skills to life skills in about 30 minutes. It was like it was all we ever needed to know in life — paddling basics, ocean understanding, and the fundamentals of living simply. After all, what else is there?
Led by some incredible paddlers from the Kihei Canoe Club and our friends at the Pacific Cancer Foundation, we rolled the canoes out one at a time in teams of 6. There were no questions or hesitation. Teams formed and into the ocean we went. It was beautiful and empowering for everyone.
I won’t go into too much detail here, because I wouldn’t want to spoil the magic for anyone looking to attend camp for the first time. Just know — the experience is just as much worth looking forward to as surfing and standup paddling.
Kimokeo entered the lives of our cancer survivors for just a few hours, but left them with a lifetime of fulfillment. Words cannot describe his impact and the paddling experience on everyone, from those still in treatment to the survivors to the volunteers and staff on the beach. Each of the lead paddlers played a role in this too. Whether you want to call it healing, energy, or just a paddle in the ocean, it was a special experience. Thank you Kimokeo, Anela, Jeff, Gayle and the rest of the crew at Pacific Cancer Foundation and the Kihei Canoe Club for making it happen!
Special thanks to Jeff Scharnhorst, Kimokeo, Anela Guiterrez, Gayle, Ellen Federoff (we missed you!), the Kihei Canoe Club for letting us use their boats, and Tracy Kraft Leboe for the beautiful photography! Thank you!