Kamehameha Schools – Class of 2003
Founder: Makahiki Challenge
Kapu Gaison is refreshingly honest about what he was like as a high school student at Kamehameha: “I was weird,” he says. He describes himself as a friendly guy who sought fun and laughter, someone who knew lots of people, yet always felt like he didn’t quite fit in. Academically, his engagement fluctuated (depending on the class being taught). Kapu believed that school was about the experience of learning and gaining knowledge, but grades weren’t as important. It is likely that he is describing himself in a similar way that many high school students feel about social groups and academics. Perhaps it is why Kapu Gaison eventually found a career path independent from what traditional academia set him up for.
After graduating high school in 2003, Kapu attended Chapman University and earned a degree in Entrepreneurship. Always physically active, he competed in track and field. Kapu then went on to earn his MBA specializing in International Finance. He worked in various financial fields leading to a mortgage loan position at Bank of Hawaii. While working as a loan officer, Kapu developed the concept for the Makahiki Challenge – Hawaii’s First 5K Obstacle Mudrun. He took his idea to various venues where he struggled to convey the concept to those who could grant him permission to use their property. Eventually, the Makahiki Challenge found its home at Kualoa Ranch, and the venture proved to be a hit with the public. Kapu was able to leave his job at Bank of Hawaii to pursue the endeavor full-time.
The popularity and success of the Makahiki Challenge (which held its 6th race on December 17, 2016), can be attributed in large part to its design. It’s much more than a race to the finish for participants. The obstacles test their mental and physical stamina, their endurance, and their hearts. Through his desire to push physical boundaries and his entrepreneurial background, Kapu has created an event that keeps people coming back again and again.
He is man of few words, but a lot of action, which is how he go to where he is today. Read our short Q&A and see more from Kapu below.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Happiness and success are internal.
Who from present day or history would you drop everything for to have a conversation with?
If you met your teenage self, what would you tell him about life and success?
You’re on the right track. Don’t hesitate. Move faster!
What does Hawaii mean to you?
The beautiful place where I’m from, where my ancestors passed down great life lessons and human values, and set me on a path with the rest of the world to preserve our species.