Paul Leo Klink explaining how living with Aloha has helped improve his life even when staring congenital heart failure face to face. 

Missing out on the action? Check out the Hawaii photography of helicopter rides in Maui

Hiking with our photography equipment into the Waianae Valley was no easy task. The west side of Oahu is normally extremely dry but today the atmosphere was unbelievably humid, with no trade winds and a glaring Lahaina noon. Rays from the sun seemed to shine sharply like an ancient Hawaiian pike and the humid air in the valley didn’t seem to help us accomplish our goals.

Waianae used to be rich with sandalwood.

Sandalwood was ordered to be harvested and sold to European settlers. Hawaiians used this natural resource to gain supplies and even naval vessels. It was because of the pressures to trade sandalwood, which was once abundant on the Waianae Coast, that eventually caused the plants extinction on the islands. In fact Hawaiian’s of this time period spent so much of their resources harvesting the sandalwood in the area, that the main food crops began to dwindle. Today Waianae has a different story than the days of trading sandalwood.

The Waianae Coast is home to the largest homeless population in the United States.

Though not photographed, within several miles of the Waianae Valley is a homeless population larger than most small towns in America. Living along the coast is up to as many as 7,000 people. Called Tent City, this place is where families without a house to live in go for refuge. Even though many families live in this homeless community, many Hawaii locals will not leave Tent City even if the city of Honolulu paid them to do so. This small community is tight knit and share a sense of Ohana amongst one another. However there are many dangers living in a homeless community especially for children.

Waianae still remains largely populated by Hawaii locals. This special place keeps its small town vibe and the majority of people living on the Waianae Coast enjoy the beauty of the west side, as well as, the fishing industry. The Valley as photographed above is depicted in historical records as being extremely lush, with misty waterfalls and abundant wildlife. However when the US military became involved with the islands they diverted various fresh water sources and the Waianae Valley has since dried up. Hunters still are able to catch wild boar in the Waianae Mountains using dogs and machetes. Rifles are restricted in many places in Honolulu County including all areas that are near any US military bases or installments. Even though Waianae is mostly populated with Hawaii locals the military has taken over certain areas that used to be ancient hunting grounds.

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This is a precious kukui nut.

Kukui nuts have had many useful purposes to the people of Hawaii over the centuries, if placed on a timeline one can see how the kukui trees have provided much more than shade for nearly two millennia. Kukui trees grow along beaches and more commonly on the low valleys of mountainsides but can also be found as landscaping for homes during the modern era. The coloring of the trees resemble an aquamarine with silvery highlights around the edges and the trees can grow to be 80ft tall if given the right conditions. These majestic plants that produce the kukui nut have been known to symbolize much more than just survival. They have traditionally symbolized peace, protection and Mālamalama. Mālamalama means clarity of the mind or in other words enlightenment.

What does Hawaii nei mean? Hawaii nei means beloved Hawaii in the Hawaiian language.

The flowers and husk of the kukui tree have been used by Hawaiians to treat yeast infections of the mouth, a health problem also known as thrush. Before the popularity of western medicine, Uncle Harry Mitchell of Keannae suggested the use of kukui nut in small doses to treat high blood pressure. Ancient Hawaiians were more than incredibly resourceful, they were highly intelligent in their usage of natural riches brought or found on the islands. They were also keenly aware of how important the kukui tree was to survival. More than medicine, the kukui is well-known for the role of providing light. Kukui nuts could be burned at predictable intervals, each kukui nut lasting for about 12 minutes at a time. Hawaiian’s would (some still do) burn the kukui nut speared with a palm leaf. It was due to the Kukui nuts reliable burning that early Hawaiians also used this as also a way to measure time. In fact, it is often a joke today when kids are late to come home in the evening that they must have been tracking the time with a slow burning kukui nut. Uses of kukui are so many that it was named the state tree of Hawaii. Fisherman used Kukui oil to help strengthen their nets and protect them from daily use in the glaring sun over the Hawaiian Islands. Dye was produced from the inner bark and used in a variety of clothing. In the tattoo culture of Polynesia, charred nuts were used to create tattoo dye. If one was to get a traditional Polynesian tattoo done today, those who still practice the ancient methods would likely use kukui dye for the Polynesian tribal tattoo designs.

Did you know? Hawaiian fishermen would scatter roasted kukui across the water to improve visibility when looking at the fish underneath the surface. Now that is ancient Hawaiian science!

The kukui nuts were introduced to Hawaii by the original Polynesians. Even thousands of years ago ancient travelers knew of the many uses of the kukui nut, as well as, the plants critical role in survival. 

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Surfing in Hawaii is much more than a sport. It is an identity and culture of the Hawaiian people. If you ask any of the old timers in Hawaii about the origins of surfing, you will more than likely hear that it all began on the Hawaiian Islands. Though, few other places outside of Polynesia had ever heard of surfing during the sports infancy. Hawaiians believed that the art of surfing was just as much a way of their society as it was a spiritual experience, long before the sport brought to existence surfing legends like Kelly Slater. In the days when the first western sailors visited the islands, priests would pray to the gods for safety while surfing and more. Catching a wave in Hawaii is still a spiritual experience that most modern surfers will speak openly about. The deep rooted personal connection that many of this sports enthusiasts feel is almost symbolic of the awe inspiring power the Pacific Ocean has over all who enter the great waters. Some surfers are so extremely dedicated to their sport, they make huge personal sacrifices to spend the most possible time they can in the water each and every day. When the waves are pumping in Oahu, surfers of all skill levels can be found doing what they love the most.

"Out of water, I am nothing"
Duke Kahanamoku

In the late 1800s several teenage students from a boarding school in Hawaii decided to take their hand crafted redwood boards over the San Lorenzo river mouth to catch waves. Though these students were likely not capable of doing the 360s and aerials that are typical of modern surfing today. These young Hawaiian princes are the first example of surfing in California. Mahalo to the spreading of ideas, since if it wasn’t for Hawaii’s passion for surfing the sport may have never become what it is now.

During the early days of settlers on Hawaii, missionaries tried to stop the locals from surfing.

These priests would use Christian messages and values as a means of making the Hawaiians feel guilty about their culture. Though this was often disregarded by the locals, enough of the local population became convinced that there were issues with surfing that might be a problem to their way of life. By the mid 1800’s many native Hawaiians had already given up their religion for Christianity. Along with their religion Hawaiians were forced to give up their language, culture, society and soon afterwards their kingdom. Some records seem to indicate that the missionaries might have saved the Kingdom of Hawaii, but eventually the Hawaiians would be forced to give up everything by European businessmen.  

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Hawaii is paradise. It sounds cheesy to say it, but there’s music in the air there.