Kiko Johnston-Kitazawa, Hawaiian Canoe Builder, Sailor, And Educator
In Kiko’s own words: “Hilo Boy’s Club library, seven years old; I wasn’t any good at sports, so I went and hung out at the library. I read a book called “Kodoku , Sailing Alone Across The Pacific”, by Kenichi Horie. This 24-year-old guy sailed this little 19-foot plywood sailboat across from Osaka, Japan, to San Francisco. It took him 94 days by himself. I thought “hey, I want to do something like that””.
Kiko went on to become one of our Big Island experts on Hawaiian sailing canoes. Over the ensuing years, he built a “halau wa’a” (canoe building shop and school in Hawaiian) in his beloved Punaluu, on a black sand beach with the the ability to launch canoes right out the front door into a protected cove, and from there sail them out onto the ocean. He spends an incredible amount of “pro-bono” time taking people out for free to raise their awareness and knowledge of traditional Hawaiian canoes and canoe sailing.
Because he not only knows about Hawaiian canoes, but also a tremendous amount about proas and other Oceanic canoe designs, as well as keeping up with modern advances in materials and technology, Kiko is our advisor on traditional Oceanic canoe technology.
(Below) Kiko is one of the most positive people we know; and is our kumu (Hawaiian for teacher/elder) of the canoe building and sailing arts.
(Below) Kiko’s wa’a kaulua, or double canoe, ready for a canoe adventure. Over the years, Kiko has taken thousands of people from all over the world out sailing, educating them about the history and technology of Hawaiian canoes.
Available NOW! Click here to book a daytime canoe charter on Kiko’s 28-foot Wa’akaulua, a Hawaiian Double Canoe; $175 per person, (minimum of 4 Persons-$700)
(Below) Another canoe of Kiko’s design and construction; the 40-foot long “La ho’i ho’i ea” (explanation follows below photo), which is nominally a Pacific proa, but is also a unique amalgam of Oceanic proa design, Viking ship construction (copper-riveted lapstrake construction of spruce planks on the main hull), and Chinese lug-rigged dacron sails, which are incredibly easy to sail under.
La ho’i ho’i ea is the anniversary of the events of July 31, 1843, and means “Restoration Day” in Hawaiian. That was the day when a British admiral sailed into Honolulu with a proclamation from Queen Victoria restoring sovereignty to the King Kamehameha III, following a five-month-long rogue British occupation. The day was celebrated as a national holiday for several years thereafter.
Since 1985 this holiday has been revived by Hawaiian sovereignty independence activists who symbolically lower the U.S. flag and raise the Hawaiian flag, demanding restoration of sovereignty and Hawaiian independence from the United States.
(Below) Kiko’s 28-foot wa’a kaulua is incredibly light on the water. Although made with Western materials such as fiberglass, dacron ropes, and dacron sail cloth, the construction is accomplished without a single nail, bolt, or screw; the canoe is entirely connected together with lashings done according to the ancient traditions.