Malama Pono. Take care of my ocean. Be nice. These are just a few of the hand-painted children's signs that adorn the entrance of Kohanaiki, more commonly known as Pinetrees, on the Big Island. They serve as a reminder to all who surf, camp, snorkel, and dive here that the land and water are sacred and shared by all. The nonprofit organization Kohanaiki Ohana was founded with the intention of keeping Hawaiian traditions alive, keep the value of aloha strong, and create individual advocates for the land and sea.
Big Island's kapuna (elders) and keiki (kids) help inspire and guide Kohanaiki Ohana. Community events, conservation activities, youth projects, and cultural education all help keep the program alive and encourage growth. In 1994, Kohanaiki Ohana developed a vision statement that aimed to keep Kona's coast (specifically Pinetrees beach) open and available to the public.
"We envision a coastline where our community can continue to gather in an area open for fishing, surfing, camping and other recreational and cultural activities", reads the statement. Close to attaining their goals, Kohanaiki Ohana continues to focus energy on the completion of a park, and also toward a very promising group; the keiki of Hawaii.
Rebecca Villegas, who works with members of Kohanaiki Ohana to organize Keiki Surf for the Earth events, recalls the driving force behind the event's inception; it was the kids who rallied their parents for a surf contest at their home break, where they could feel safe and supported.
"In 2013, we will celebrate the 18th Annual Keiki Surf and Beach Clean Up. With the near completion of a county park at Kohanaiki, and the challenges associated with so much change, it's more vital than ever that we remain vigilant. Our goals remain the education, inclusion, and support of our keiki and their ohana. It's vital to the success of the park that future generations continue to acknowledge their kuleana (responsibility) to malama (take care, preserve, protect) this place."
This past year, families participated in a beach cleanup, arts and crafts, and environmental and cultural trivia. Kids under the age of 14 also competed in a friendly surf contest, where every child who participated received a handmade goody bag with prizes donated by local businesses and other corporations."Sportsmanship outweighs performance," Villegas explains.
"Kids are really encouraged to focus on participation instead of just focusing on the next heat of competition." Older kids are also encouraged to stay involved by mentoring their younger peers and helping organize raffles and prizes.
Above all, Keiki Surf for the Earth emphasizes the importance of caring for the beach. "Only with responsibility comes the privilege of activities at the beach and the surf contest," says Villegas. A stewardess of the beach community, this local leader feels it part of her kuleana to perpetuate the tradition of preserving the land. Villegas also hopes to maintain the intention, integrity, and purpose of Keiki Surf for the Earth for future generations. She looks forward to seeing Kohanaiki continue to serve as a gathering place for her grandchildren, their children, and the rest of Kona's community. For more information or to get involved, please visit www.kohanaiki.org.