Austin Kino: Voyager | Entrepreneur | Philanthropist | Hokulea | Hawaiian


Coco: Kino means body, is that what your last name means?

The parts of the canoe are the ama (“the outrigger float”), the ‘iako (“the spars connecting the ama to the hull of the canoe”) and the hull is the kino.


Coco: What’s the meaning in the name of your business?

Holokino Hawaii is the name of my business.   People think it means to “holoholo” but it also means to sail.  It does mean to move from place to place, but the verb also means to sail.


Coco: Do you have a Hawaiian name?

I do, Austin John Pukalani Haloa Kino.  If you have to shorten it Haloa.  There is a Hawaiian story that talks about that name meaning the first child that came from the Kalo (taro) plant, but it actually means long breath.  Ha is your breath, loa is long.  So the story, it’s pretty funny.  It’s about a boy that finds a reef that goes from past to future.  So when you swim on this reef you travel from past to future.  This kumu wrote this story down from my Mother before I was born.  He told her that this name, when given to a child, will be a very old soul.  I kind of have an old soul.  It’s interesting, how you get named a meaningful name and then your personality depicts the name.

Coco: I have always wondered if you start emanating your name after birth, or if your soul  was that way, and your parent or Kumu, (who ever was named you) tapped into the essence of your spirit before birth, and were then guided to name you something that matched your personality.  And that was always what your name was meant to be. I have always felt it was the latter.



Coco: Tell us about your childhood?

Well, this is pretty much where I grew up. Not at the Kahala Hotel but on the south side, or the Kona district of Oahu,  Right in front of Wailupe Valley, which is now known as Aina Haina.  I grew up here with my friends surfing, paddling canoe, and diving.  I did whatever I could do to stay in the water. I went to school at Kamehameha and did water sports there.  The whole time our parents just kept us in the water.  Kept us out of trouble that way.  That’s how I bonded with friends.  I hung out with the beach people.


Coco: How old are you?

I am 28 years old.

Coco: What was your fondest childhood memory?

Probably surfing.  I remembering the best thing in the world was getting my first new surfboard.  Graduating from your boogie board to a surfboard.  And then going surfing.  Joining your friends at the beach was like the biggest deal.  It probably felt like getting a new car.  


Coco: What’s makes you the happiest?

I think, what makes me the happiest, is when I am challenging myself.  For me, I have been into sailing,  Sailing, it really hard. It is an intimidating environment.  Everything about it, physically, mentally, you’re away from home, you’re against the elements. .  But it puts you in this place that a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to experience.   Challenging myself makes me happy.  Once you experience those challenges, go to those places, it is harder to enjoy other things.  Situations where you’re not putting yourself out there.  Like people that climb big mountains, they are never happy at home.


Coco: Do you find yourself most challenged on sailing canoes?

Well sailing canoes, and then I think just trying to find new projects that challenge me.  To not just reside in one thing.  My new challange is starting this new sailing canoe business at The Kahala Hotel.  You’re putting your name to something, you’re responsible for the safety of others, you need to be trustworthy.  Your kind of putting yourself out there.  And letting yourself be judged for it, one way or another.  Weather is not successful, or it is successful.  That’s been my latest challenge.  And every day that I am going after it I go to sleep extremely happy.  Because I did something that was me, it was challenging.  I have failed a couple of times.  Failing is inevitable,but as long as you don’t get to overwhelmed, and your staying in that place where you are bettering yourself through your challenges.


Coco: What inspires you?

I like people’s stories.  I think we have it so nice here in Hawaii with our lifestyle.  I get inspired by old couples that have been together for years. I think there is this generation before us that really had it together.  When they talk about life decisions, their quality of life, their partners.  They were just trying to be happy and healthy.  As long as everyone was well fed, they had a roof over their heads, they were rich.  Especially people I meet around the ocean.  They have been together like 60 years without social media, without anyone telling them there’s something else out there.  They are happy.  That inspires me.  Now the world is telling us a different thing.  “You need this.”, “There is always something greener.”  We seem to be getting further and further away from happiness with all this information.  So, I think happy old couples from Hawaii inspire me.


Coco: What is your favorite past time?

I like listening to Hawaiian music.  Live Hawaiian music.  Terrible at playing Hawaiian music.  Can’t ever do it.  But listening to live Hawaiian music,it just brings me back.  It’s nostalgic.  That’s a pastime that will never change.  So many things change with the generations but I don’t think Hawaiian music will.  You see generations of musicians that all play Hawaiian music.  They play together, that’s pretty cool.


Coco: Where do you see yourself in 10yrs?

I feel like I am a person, who will never settle.  I want to continually evolve.  In 10 years I hope I am way more in tune, I hope I have kids, I’m a father.  I want to raise my family in a Hawaiian household where we know where our food comes from.  A simpler pace of life, not the rushing around.  I don’t necessarily want to be monetarily wealthy.  If we have some land….  The cycles are coming back.  Quality of life, they say the millennials really cherish that.  The time you have off is just as important as the little bit of money you would have made working.  But I think that is a luxury we have because our parents worked so hard.  They gave us the luxury to choose anything we want to be when we grow up.  I don’t think that was the reality they had.  So, in 10 years I hope to be able to slow down, raise my kids and be a family man in a place that resembles an older Hawaii.

A lot of what I base my life around is been around that challenge we were given from our voyaging teachers.  When Hokule’a left in 2014 for this trip around the world they asked us what is your life going to look like in 2017 in 3 years?  That whole voyage is about the next generation growing and showing leadership traits.  They challenged us, what are you going to do?  The voyage and that challenge pushed me to start and education program, to get me captains licence, to start this business.   A lot of other voyagers did education’s initiatives, a lot of environmental initiatives.  It was a good shorter term to set tangible goals.  3 years we can do, 10 years was too broad.  


Coco: When did you start canoe sailing?

When I was a senior in high school was the first time I went on a sailing canoe.  We didn’t have many canoe sailors on this side of the island.  Its a wealthy man’s sport.  There is a lot of maintenance.  To keep the canoe updated.  Not as many guys did it recreationally.  Keeping a boat anywhere is expensive.  In highschool I got the chance to come down and go on the Hokulea.  Which is a bigger voyaging canoe.  And see how that world worked.


Coco: Do you go back out on the Hokulea soon?

Yep, we go out at the end of this month in March from Rapa Nui to Tahiti.  I was on the first voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti in 2014.   It was really cool when we arrived in Tahiti and the canoe pulled into the harbor.   The beach was people as far as you could see.  It was so cool to see the beach like that.  People were on the rocks, pulling the boat in, we were like, no, no”   People were swarming the canoe.  It was crazy.  It was a sea of heads.  We were like “Oh my God”.  It was bizarre.


Coco: Have you always loved the ocean?

Yes.  The ocean connects me to my family.  My Dad was a surfer, my Mom was a paddler.  It is a lot easier when you always have that bond.

I am a follower.  I made a speech the other night and I wanted to start like that.  Not everyone knows their path.  I felt a lot of comfort following my teacher, my culture, my family.  There was a peace in that.


Coco: What do you want to perpetuate with your trade?

I hope to perpetuate respect for indigenous knowledge. In a very subtle way, not in a big statement. To shift people’s perspective about Polynesian people and indigenous knowledge in general.  So they realize how much it still has to offer the world.  

We are is a special time right now.  Look in the news.  There are so many issues where indigenous knowledge and perspectives are being overlooked and it’s getting noticed and people are standing up and saying something about it.  With social media you don’t have to be a radical person to be able to speak up anymore. As a people we are moving in the direction of respecting other culture’s ways. I am seeing more positive reactions than negative to what happening  in the world.  People across the globe are understanding that these indigenous people, no matter where you are from, have a right to speak up.  Especially because they have not had the environmental problems we now face.

So whether it’s through a product, like Kuha’o, with clothing, something you wear that tells a story, or an experience.  We need to get creative to get people to think.  Like for me, with this business which is an experience for mostly tourist.  They will make an opinion of what canoe sailing is and leave with that.  I am trying to send them home with more knowledge of Hawaii.  Like “my ancestors were some of the greatest explorers”.  “Did you see the movie Moana?”  I want to have a positive affect how visitors see Hawaii and the understanding they have about our culture.  In this age I can talk about these things.  In the 60’s I would not have been able to talk about these things.  Now people are listening.  So its alot easier to share indigenous knowledge.  


Coco: Do you have other career goals?

I want to help save lives.  My Dad is a fireman.  He’s been a fireman for 35 years, search and rescue for the 10 years before he retired.  I just love that.  There is something very sacred about that.  I grew up around a lot of these people that, that’s what they did for their job.  They used their knowledge of growing up here and they saved a lives.  


Coco: If you had to give a message to the world, what would that be?

I think I would pass on the one that has effected me the most,  “I you don’t have a vision for your future, someone else will try and impress their vision on you.”  

I think that is such an important message.  For what ever you are doing, what ever community you live in, what ever financial status, your voice, your vision is the most important.  Nainoa Thompson told us that when we were really young and just starting out.  Before we learned how to navigate, he was giving us these lessons.  What he was really doing was teaching us how to be navigators on the land and the ocean.  How to navigate life and to be leaders in the community.  However you take that on.  Speak up.  So basically, it’s important to not get caught up in what people tell you but to have a vision for your own life.  And realize that if you don’t and you’re not confident in that, then there is always others that will impress their vision on you.

Austin Kino Interview

Location-The Kahala Hotel

February 9, 2017


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