Kamehameha Schools Kapalama – Class of 2006
Founder: Holokino Hawaii Voyager/Apprentice Navigator: Hōkūleʻa
Have you ever had a reality check experience? Austin Kino has. In the first five minutes of his inaugural voyage on the Hōkūleʻa in 2005 as a high school junior, he became seasick. It humbled him. It even made him question what he had signed up for. Yet, as time went on, the sail to Ni`ihau improved. Austin’s initial doubts shifted into feelings of comfort and excitement. The thrilling adventure of being on a beautiful canoe with his friends, forging through the Pacific to the Forbidden Island, left a lasting impression on him.
For the last ten years, Austin has chosen to commit his life to the Hōkūleʻa as a crewmember and apprentice navigator. It is not a commitment he takes lightly, but with a deep regard for the meaning behind what the Hōkūleʻa’s represents to the people of Hawaii and the world beyond. At the forefront of his decision to take on the responsibilities of voyaging is the drive to learn about his Hawaiian culture. It is a determining factor in all his decision-making. It is a point Austin returns to again and again as he finds opportunities opening up on the horizon.
A hallmark of Austin’s devotion to Hawaiian culture, history, and ocean education is the development of his sailing business, Holokino Hawaii. On January 19, 2017, Holokino was launched through the blessing of the Uluwehi – the Hawaiian Sailing Canoe that is the vessel on which guest voyagers will have the opportunity to experience the way-finding techniques used by Navigators for centuries throughout the Pacific.
Based at the Kahala Hotel on Oahu’s South Shore, Holokino Hawaii provides its riders with a voyagers’ authenticity that is second to none.
In 2016, Austin was named among Hawaii Business Magazine’s 20 for the Next 20 – a selection of “emerging leaders who have already made major contributions to Hawaii and who are expected to have an even greater impact over the next two decades.” It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway), they got that choice right with Austin Kino.
Additionally, Austin has shared his adventures as part of OluKai’s Anywhere Aloha campaign, in National Geographic’s Beyond the Edge adventure blog, and he has appeared on the covers of Hawaii Business Magazine and Summit Magazine.
Read our Q&A with Austin below and see what he has to say about self-doubt, challenges, and how the experiences he has amassed voyaging on the Hōkūleʻa resonate when navigating life on land, too.
What were you like as a teenager?
I had a love for anything to do with the water – pool sports or beach activities, but I think I was a follower. I was into whatever my friends were into. I wasn’t really independent. That’s honest and it might be a benefit for kids to know. Now that I think back, I recognize it. Whatever my peers and leaders in my grade were into, I was like “Oh yeah, that’s cool.”
Talk about your first experience sailing on the Hōkūleʻa and what kind of imprint it left upon you.
It was a reality check. You envision something, imagine it, and have an idea built up in your head. I got seasick going out in the channel in the first five minutes. I realized, “Wow, this is what I signed up for,” but as days went on and we got comfortable being out there, it was such an adventure.
The scope of what you’ve chosen to commit to as a crew member and navigator on the Hōkūleʻa is impressive. Do you ever have thoughts of self-doubt and if so, how do you handle them?
Self-doubt is healthy, as long as it’s followed up by realizing how you’re going to meet it. When I’m met with a challenge, I reflect on another experience where it started off difficult. I trust in myself, and build on previous experiences of sticking it out, and giving it a fair chance. Whatever decisions I make, the “why” is most important. It always comes back to “does it resonate through my culture?” If you can clue in on what makes you, YOU, then it’s okay to try a bunch of things and fail, because you’re being true to yourself.
What are some critical traits one must have to voyage on the Hōkūleʻa?
The ability to get along and work with other people. To confront differences. You can’t jump off of the boat if things aren’t going well and communication is breaking down. You have to be able to humble yourself. You have to be able to learn to forgive others and move past things. You can’t hold on to negative experiences or thoughts, because they will break you down. You need to stay as a team. I think that’s the biggest trait. There are so many strong feelings towards this canoe that people also get really sensitive to it. If they feel disrespected, some just don’t come back. To be on the canoe, you have to be able to overcome adversity and get through things.
What has been your most challenging moment in voyaging?
Trying to settle miscommunications within a team atmosphere. To the rest of Hawaii, Hōkūleʻa is not full of drama. When conflict arises, dealing with it and understanding what is at risk is really hard. Whether it’s feeling a combination of homesick or offending others when you didn’t intend to, I had to realize at a certain point that I had to resolve them internally in order to move on and be healthy.
What brings you the most joy when you’re out on the ocean?
Showering in cold salt water and being on the deck with the wind howling. It’s scary and you’re moving really fast. It’s a spaceship. There was one moment, I remember laying back at night looking up at the stars. We were just flying and the wind was insane. Everything about the situation is dangerous, and you kind of can’t control it. You feel really free. The freedom of sailing in the same spirit of our ancestors gives us the most joy.
Recently, you spent time in New Orleans with musician Calvin Johnson for OluKai. What are some interesting things you’ve learned in your travel experiences outside of Hawaii?
I took away a couple things with Calvin as we were going different places in New Orleans. Aloha exists other places than Hawaii, they just call it something different. Also, how important it is that family can tie us to places, and we can share that in bigger spaces outside of Hawaii. Calvin comes from generations of musicians, and certain musician families have always had places to perform publically. When he rolled up to these places, they knew him, they knew his grandfather and father, and he knew them. Seeing that – it’s how I feel when I go to certain beaches where families have been for generations.
How would you describe Hawaii if someone, hypothetically, had no idea where Hawaii was?
Hawaii is a group of islands full of people who understood how to live in harmony with their natural environment and with one another. Our ancestors were explorers and risk-takers and they liked to have fun. They invented surfing which is the predecessor to all adventurous sports. Today, what is unique about Hawaii is that the spirit and interconnection with the environment is still tangible and being practiced. It’s not just a thing of the past. Hawaii is fortunate enough that we still get to celebrate it through our daily lives, because we’re so close to the environment on this small island. I would think, in a modern day context, that’s pretty rare.