This oral history interview is a project of the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The legal rights of this material remain with the Outrigger Canoe Club. Anyone wishing to reproduce it or quote at length from it should contact the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The reader should be aware that an oral history document portrays information as recalled by the interviewee. Because of the spontaneous nature of this kind of document, it may contain statements and impressions that are not factual. A full transcript of the video may be found below.
An Interview by Marilyn Kali
July 6, 2018
MK: Today is Friday, July 6, 2018. We’re in the Board Room of the Outrigger Canoe Club, and I’m Marilyn Kali (MK), a member of the Club’s Historical Committee. One of the Historical Committee’s projects is to do oral histories of long time members. Today it’s my pleasure to be talking to Kimo Austin (KA). Good morning, Kimo.
KA: Good morning.
MK: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, when and where you were born, and where you grew up?
KA: I was born during the war (WW II). I remember the invasion of Pearl Harbor. We lived on Kailua Beach. I went to a kindergarten there before going over the Pali to Punahou.
MK: You were born in 1936?
KA: That’s right.
MK: Have you always been nicknamed Kimo?
KA: That came about by having three Jameses in the same area. One became Kim Woolaway, one became Jim James, and I became Kimo. That’s how that came about. There were too many Jameses.
MK: You come from an old kamaaina family. Your great grandfather arrived in Hawaii in 1849 for a two-week vacation and wound up staying for 22 years. What was your grandfather’s name?
KA: James Walker Austin.
MK: Are you named for him?
MK: You’re the third?
MK: All right. What can you tell us about your family?
KA: Wait, I take that back. Jimmy is the third. I’m the second.
MK: Okay. Then your father was not named James.
KA: No. He was Lindsley.
MK: So there was a break in the name for a generation.
MK: Then you brought it back. Can you tell us a little bit about your great grandfather, what he did?
KA: He graduated from Harvard and decided he wanted to see some part of the world before he had to go to work so at that time the Gold Rush in California was ongoing so he went out there, but it wasn’t for a proper gentleman in a bow tie so he didn’t think that was his style so he went into a bar and asked some guy at the bar, “What was the most interesting thing that you had done that you really liked?” He mentioned the Sandwich Islands. At that time Lahaina was the capital. With his law background he started practicing law in Maui, that was his start.
MK: Then he became a legal adviser to the king?
KA: He became an adviser to (Kamehameha) III, IV, V, I think, yes.
MK: That’s Kamehameha?
MK: Then he was also a justice of the Supreme Court from Maui?
KA: No, he moved over to Honolulu back then. He was a justice of the Supreme Court from Oahu.
MK: He moved over here, okay. Well, he was originally from Boston?
MK: Then he went back to Boston after the 22 years?
KA: He went back several times. I think by then it was by stage coach but his son, Walter, graduated from Punahou in 1901 so that was a pretty good accomplishment. My mother and father were born in Massachusetts and they really … My grandfather brought them out here but then you know, my dad was not born here.
MK: Where was he born? In Boston?
MK: So, you were the fourth generation Austin in Hawaii?
KA: I guess.
MK: Yeah. Now, your grandfather …
MK: … Walter, he lived here.
KA: He lived here.
MK: He was born here?
KA: I think he was.
MK: He went to Punahou?
KA: He went to Punahou.
MK: What did he do?
KA: He took over his father’s business, and at that time it was basically real estate. He, too, went back to Harvard and graduated. I was the only one that didn’t seem to accomplish that.
MK: Now, the Austin family has had a ranch on Molokai for more than 165 years?
MK: Where is it located?
KA: It’s on the eastern side, a little port there at Kamaloa , it used to be a wharf. It’s no longer there now anymore but we have a little piece of acreage that we use for a cattle ranch.
MK: How many head of cattle do you have?
KA: Not a bunch. Maybe 30.
MK: How did the family acquire the land on Molokai?
KA: You know, most of the real estate positions were a gift from the royalty for services done. When they didn’t have any cash they would deed a piece of property. So, that happened on most all the islands. He (my great grandfather) represented them and then in kind deeded the property to him.
MK: What’s the name of your ranch?
KA: Kapualei Ranch.
MK: Are you still managing it?
KA: No. My son-in-law, Anthony Hunt, past president of the Outrigger has taken over all duties now.
MK: Do you get over there very often?
KA: Not often. I still have some health problems so I have to have somebody take me. Isn’t that lame? But it’s what happens when you get older.
MK: I know there’s an annual rodeo over on Molokai, are you involved in that?
KA: This year we’re having the 150th rodeo, 150-year rodeo and I hope to be there.
MK: Is it on your property?
MK: I know a lot of people from the Club go over there for it.
KA: I know. They look forward to it in Molokai.
MK: When is it? What time of year?
MK: November, great. Now, both of your parents were born in Hawaii?
KA: My parents? No. They were born in Boston.
MK: Your dad, you said his name was Lindsley?
MK: And your mother’s name?
MK: What was her maiden name?
MK: When did your father come to Hawaii?
KA: I can’t tell you.
MK: Okay. What kind of work did he do?
KA: He took over from his father so it will be my grandfather’s real estate business, and he ran a trust company with Austin-related businesses.
MK: How about your mother?
KA: My mother?
MK: She was born in Boston, too?
MK: Do you have any siblings?
KA: I have a sister, Ariana, graduated from Punahou Class of 1951. She now lives in Boston.
MK: What was her nickname?
MK: Bunny. How did she get that name?
KA: No idea.
MK: Were your parents members of the Outrigger Canoe Club?
MK: I know I saw your father mentioned as being a member as early as 1939. That was before, when we were still the old Club. You have any idea when he joined?
MK: Is your sister a member also?
KA: Yes, she’s still a member. I don’t think she ever uses the Club but she wants to maintain her membership.
MK: That’s wonderful. Where did you go to high school?
KA: I graduated in 1955 (from Punahou). I think my parents took us off across the Pali after the war, 1947 maybe, something like that.
MK: Who are some of the other Outrigger members in your graduating class?
KA: Well, I can remember Mary (Flanders Philpotts) McGrath, I should remember her, and Tay Perry, Sam Cook, Blake Johnson were a couple.
MK: Yes, people who are very still involved in some of the athletics that we have. Some of those people are still involved in the athletics and still swimming.
KA: Blake’s still swimming, yeah.
MK: Did you play any sports at Punahou?
KA: I was just in swimming and I had kind of a proficiency to swim and surf and dive and fish and everything so I was pretty used to the water. I did pretty well.
MK: What events did you swim?
MK: Did you swim the individual medley as well?
KA: Yeah, yeah.
MK: Was it three strokes then or four?
KA: Let’s see, breast, butterfly … Four, backstroke, and yeah.
MK: I know when I interviewed Harry Huffaker there were only three strokes they were using for the individual medley in those years. So, did you letter in swimming?
MK: How many years, do you remember?
MK: Did you win any championships?
KA: I suppose.
MK: You won the Territorial Championship in 1955 in the 100-yard breast.
MK: Who was the swimming coach back in those days?
KA: I think his name was Rolly Higgins. I don’t know how I came up with that.
MK: Where were your swim meets held?
KA: We went to various pools … McKinley and Farrington, and we swam at different pools.
MK: Did you ever swim in the Natatorium?
KA: I did, yes.
MK: That was the only saltwater pool then I guess.
MK: That was quite a place. Do you have any other memories of swimming in the Natatorium?
KA: Yeah. Dick Cleveland was there. There were other Olympic champions training in the Natatorium. It was in beautiful condition. A little bit salty and you couldn’t see very well but to be racing with some of those Olympic champions was an honor. I just loved it.
MK: Where did you go to college?
KA: I went to University of Iowa on a scholarship to swim.
MK: You swam the same events, breaststroke and IM?
MK: Well, I know you were touted as an Olympic hopeful for the 1956 Olympics. Did you try out?
KA: I did.
MK: How did you do?
KA: Well, you know, just before that came about, they changed the rules in swimming where breaststroke with a frog kick could become dolphin. My forte was to swimming underwater holding my breath and coming up at the end of the pool. In the new rules you could only take one breath so I pretty much was finished. All freestylers took over as dolphin butterflyers. That was pretty much the end of my swimming.
MK: Well, breaststroke, too. I remember when they changed the rules. Your head had to be out of the water. You couldn’t submerge your head.
KA: You couldn’t dive in, and hold your breath, and go one end of the pool without covering up, you had to come up in one stroke. They changed all those rules.
MK: In the old days, back when Dad Center was coaching swimming, they had an event they called the Plunge which was basically doing what you’re saying, diving in, and swimming underwater as far as you could go. The person that could go the farthest underwater was the winner. So amazing how the breaststroke was similar then. So Dick Cleveland was swimming back then, you mentioned you swam against him, or …
MK: He was a freestyler.
KA: He was a freestyler. Then there was a guy named Bill Smith, and he was an Olympian, he was a backstroker. There were great Olympic swimmers swimming in that natatorium. We all looked up to them, they were our heroes.
MK: Did you ever swim against Duke (Kahanamoku) or with Duke?
MK: What was your major in college?
KA: Business Administration. Tried to take over what my father was leaving to me.
MK: What year did you graduate?
KA: I can’t remember.
MK: Were you ever in the military?
MK: Those between wars?
KA: I had eyesight problems, I have thick glasses. I was 4F.
MK: So after college, you went to work for your father.
MK: Are you still working or are you retired now?
KA: I’m retired.
MK: You joined the Outrigger in 1946 at the age of 10, do you remember who your sponsors were back then?
MK: Well, you joined right after the new Club was built in Waikiki in 1941, and the war ended, and that’s when you became a member. Had your family moved to town by then, or were you still in Kailua?
KA: Oh, yeah. We were in town.
MK: What do you remember about the Club in Waikiki?
KA: I didn’t go down there very much. There was a parking lot across the street, I remembered all of the hired help, Richard at the snack bar, the boy who was the parking lot attendant.
KA: Sunshine. Exactly. Yeah. That’s right.
MK: So you remember the employees, did you get involved in surfing, or canoe racing, none of those?
MK: Were you surfing at all then?
MK: What kind of board were you using?
KA: Actually, we moved to Portlock Road. I spent a lot of time fishing, and I met a man that worked on Lunalilo Home Road, Marsha Rosa’s father, John Rosa, and he was a trap fisherman. I just took a loving to this guy, and he took me out, and showed me the different trap lines, and the names of the fishes, and the octopus, and squid. I just had a great time, so I didn’t spend that much time at the Outrigger during those years. It was just fishing, and diving, and surfing.
MK: You didn’t surf at Waikiki at the Club? You surfed at Portlock?
MK: What kind of board were you surfing on? Big one, small-
KA: Yeah. Big one, long board.
MK: A fiberglass, do we have fiber glass boards then?
KA: No, I didn’t. No.
KA: I think it was foam.
MK: A foam board?
MK: So you didn’t hang out with the Club after school, and on weekends, and all of that?
KA: Not quite then. No.
MK: You did not paddle?
MK: Do you remember any of the Beach Boys at the old Club?
KA: Rabbit (Kekai) the most. Rabbit, he took us under his wing, and he babied this. We had little surf contest out in front of Waikiki, and Rabbit was always the winner. Rabbit came down to the Outrigger often. Didn’t he work for the … He was a lifeguard, was he a lifeguard here?
MK: He was head coach back, after we moved to this Club, but yeah, I think he was a Beach Boy at the old Club.
MK: He was your most memorable Beach Boy?
MK: Tell me some stories about Rabbit?
KA: I can’t remember having a few too many drinks with him. But everybody’s got their own stories.
MK: Did he take you out to Makaha to surf?
MK: I heard some stories about him just loading all the kids up, and taking them out to Makaha.
KA: He was good that way, he was good with the kids.
MK: He liked them. Well, we’re going to talk about him a little bit later, because I know when you started surfing as a masters surfer, you were competing against him almost every week. We’ll come back to that. Did your sister surf, or paddle, or was she involved in the Club?
KA: Not athletically. I know she was maybe served on some committees. But she didn’t come down to the Club that much. She got, if I’m not mistaken, she got married right out of college, and they moved back to Massachusetts, and then they moved to Florida. It wasn’t a happy marriage. They had one son, and I see him from time to time, he’s a nice boy. He’s a good swimmer.
MK: You kept the membership going in the family.
MK: You said you don’t remember Duke, or Dad Center at all even as a little kid?
KA: No. No.
MK: So at some point, you dropped your membership in the Club, and then you became a member again. What were the circumstances?
KA: I can’t remember if my dad didn’t do that to me, because I wasn’t using the Club at all during those years. I think he was paying my dues, so I think that’s what happened.
MK: Well, don’t use it, you’ll lose it, right?
MK: Did you move away or you didn’t ever move away, you’ve always lived here?
KA: I’ve always lived here.
MK: So you rejoined in 1969, that was after we moved here. Did you have to pay back dues, or what did you have to do to get reinstated?
KA: Can’t tell you.
MK: You don’t remember, it’s a long time ago. When you came back, and rejoined, did you get involved in canoe racing?
KA: I got involved in all kinds of stuff. It was a different era, Cline Mann had all his Hobie Cats out there, there was no such thing as one-man paddling, or there was paddle boarding, and I was involved in paddle boarding as well.
MK: Were you on any Regatta teams or …
KA: Any of the what?
MK: Regattas, did you paddle in Regattas?
KA: Not really then, no.
MK: Did you ever paddle distance?
KA: Yeah, yeah. But by then, I was no threat, I was too old already.
MK: Well, I know you did one masters event. You paddled with the 60s, or something one year in Molokai.
MK: Yeah, but I know that you also were very supportive of all of our Molokai crews, and you used your boat as an escort. How many years did you do that?
KA: A lot of years. I think Cline got us all involved in that, and in that particular time we kind of innovated a new way of making changes, and the boat driver I remember was somebody named Sherry Dowsett, and everybody was making changes off these big boats. I had a small whaler, a 26-foot whaler. We hung this mattress over the back of the stern, and I mashed the whaler up against the back. So changes never had to get wet, we would drop them off, and pick them up.
MK: Much safer way to do it.
KA: Then everybody started doing that.
MK: I think that came in the year that they lost somebody out there and spent hours looking for them on a change, not our paddler but from another club.
KA: I remember that.
MK: That was a scary thing, he was out there for several hours by himself, because their big boat couldn’t turn around, and come back, and get him. By the time they came back, they couldn’t find him. Any good stories you can tell about Molokai crossings?
KA: One I remember all the time was we’re coming across, Fred Hemmings was steering, and Cline was on the boat, and we were in third, or fourth position. Fred yells at Cline, “Do we need to go around the Diamond Head Buoy?” Everybody assumed the race finishing on Diamond Head on Waikiki Beach who had to go around Diamond Head Buoy. The word came back from Chris Farias who ran the race at the time, “You don’t need to go around the Buoy.” So Fred brought the boat right along the beach. At that time, we had a raft out here right on the seawall, and we put the relief paddlers. I came in with the relief paddlers, dropped them off on the raft, they got on, and won the race, and everybody screamed, “Outrigger couldn’t do that.” But when it was all over, we had won the race, and that was Fred’s idea.
MK: That was wonderful. Anything else that you can recall from the Molokai races?
KA: All kinds of events, but nothing that–
MK: Well, tell me. Tell me something good.
KA: No, I can’t remember that anything stands out. But Cline was instrumental, and everything we did in canoe racing, and he like to have a few beers too. So we loved listening to him. Somehow, I don’t know who, Jeff Kissel, but they found a little mountain retreat called Opaeula. He used to take the crew up there, and he would tell us before we had any coaching, he would tell us how to do this, and make changes, and we’d sleep all over the floor. We had a great time up there, I don’t know what became of it, but that was Cline’s idea as well.
MK: Team bonding.
MK: I know he is the one that started the change charts, the …
KA: Cline did that.
MK: He kept them, and they were so exact.
KA: Didn’t he have a friend, Jerry Ober, do you remember that name?
MK: Yes, mm-hmm (affirmative).
KA: Yeah. Those two-
MK: Did he help him?
KA: Yes. Yes.
MK: They were both Winged “O”s.
MK: Well, we found some of Cline’s old change charts in his memorabilia that he donated to the Club. It’s just fascinating to look at. I mean they’re so précised, and in his handwriting, when I write, I write big, and you’re on a boat, and it’s going up, and down, and back, and forth. His writing is still as precise as if he was on land. Even after a few little brewskis, he was still able to do it.
KA: A left-hander never seems to have good penmanship. Have you ever noticed that?
MK: Was he left-handed?
KA: No. He had flawless penmanship.
MK: He learned that at Punahou, he said.
KA: Okay. Yes. He did go to Punahou.
MK: Well, you got involved in the canoe surfing with Fred Hemmings, is that something you enjoyed?
KA: Oh, yes. We just loved that camaraderie, and stories, and post-race activities, and that was so much fun.
MK: Are you still canoe surfing?
KA: No. I’m paddling in a one-man, maybe not for long. But I have arm conditions where cartilage joints are giving out, arthritis is setting in, so I’m doing what I can but I’m still on a one-man.
MK: Tell me some stories about canoe surfing with Fred.
KA: One story I remember, we used to like to go out to Castles in the three-man canoe. Fifteen feet was pretty much the maximum size, and it was a big day that day. My steersman was my son, Jimmy, and Fred, and Pat Bolen who was the owner of the Denver Broncos (were in the other canoe). We had caught the wave in through Publics, and we’re both on the same wave. When we came to the beach, I yelled at Jim to ram the beach hard, and see if you can get it to go up few more feet than they could, so we would hold the distance record. We did that, and Fred said it didn’t count. But we claim the distance record from outside Castles.
MK: That was fun. I remember one time when the surf was big, and Jimmy was a little boy then, and he wanted to go out canoe surfing with Fred. I remember Gay telling him, “You better not kill my son while he’s out there,” because he was maybe seven, or eight years old.
KA: Yeah. He had a life jacket on, and yeah.
MK: Yeah, but you let him go.
KA: Yeah, we were watching from the shore.
MK: Was it hard waiting for him, and as I recall, Fred made him bail out of the boat in one of the waves, and you guys were all going …
KA: I can’t remember.
MK: Any other canoe surfing stories you had some?
KA: No, not off hand, no.
MK: You rode some big waves.
KA: Yes. You mean out of Castles?
KA: We rode maybe the farthest out, and some of the biggest. They don’t get terribly big, but when you’re in a canoe, it’s meaningful.
MK: When you look over your shoulder, it looks big. That’s great. When did you start surfing competitively, and as a masters surfer?
KA: I can’t remember. I think Rabbit (Kekai) got us into it. Yeah, just a bunch of guys, we were in the elite division. We weren’t a threat to anybody, masters men, or something like that.
MK: Yeah. You started out as masters, and then you became grandmasters, and then legends. But in almost every meet, you and Rabbit were competing against each other.
MK: Were you about the same age?
KA: As Rabbit?
MK: I don’t know how old is Rabbit, Rabbit’s older.
KA: My lord, he’s 25 years, 30 years older than me. Yeah. No, Rabbit–
MK: You were in the same division.
KA: Rabbit was exceptional.
MK: I noticed a lot of those races, a lot of those competitions he beat you.
KA: He did.
MK: Tell me a little bit more about Rabbit, he was such a good surfer. Was he strong, or what was his …
KA: He always was competitive, and he loved kids, and he did a lot for the Club, and he taught a lot of people how to surf. That was his forte. He loved to take little kids out with life jackets, and tip them on. He’s a wonderful person. I don’t remember his brothers that well, Johman. I don’t remember them, but Rabbit is one of our greatest all-time members that I can think of. I never saw him get mad at anything. He was a happy guy.
MK: Were you involved when George Downing was the head coach?
KA: Yes. We looked up to him.
MK: Tell me about him.
KA: He basically was with another club, (Waikiki) Surf Club so he didn’t come down to the Outrigger but he was one of the legends down there at the time. Yeah.
MK: Well, before Rabbit, he was our head coach.
KA: I didn’t know that.
MK: He was the Outrigger coach, and then when he left, then Rabbit came in. So I didn’t know if you might have paddled when he was your …
KA: No. No. I didn’t start paddling until I was 40, 45.
MK: So you’re always been a masters?
MK: When you were surfing, did you surf here at the Club, or did you surf around the island?
KA: I did. I got into surf a little bit but I wasn’t a big wave surfer at Sunset Beach, or anything. I surfed some nice waves at Haleiwa, and Makaha, and I surfed around but I wasn’t a big wave surfer, but I was a fun surfer, and I like to be with my friends out there. Maybe being of the wrong racial extraction is hard sometimes out there but I had a good time.
MK: You did very well, you always got a medal. You did a good job. Were there any Outrigger members competing against you in those meets?
MK: Was Flash (Joe Dubiel) out then?
KA: Joe Dubiel, I remember that name. Yeah, I’m sure there were others.
MK: Well, I remember Joe being there, too. You even went to the mainland to compete, to compete in the nationals at Huntington Beach?
KA: In surfing?
MK: In surfing.
KA: I can’t remember that, no.
MK: Well, maybe the championships were here. The US Amateur Championships.
MK: I know you won in one of the masters division, so that’s great. You said you’re not surfing anymore?
MK: Too tough on the body.
KA: Things are falling apart mentally and physically.
MK: Well, I know you also competed in paddle boarding. Was that at the behest of Cline, or did he get you involved, or were you just …
KA: I’m sort of surfing that really unless you were into sailing. That was really the only other surfing, paddling, and paddle boarding. That’s the only water sports.
MK: You were very competitive in that.
MK: You won a lot of the winter, and summer paddle board races, the 10,000-meter ones. Your wife competed as well. Her name is on some of our trophies.
KA: She did.
MK: How did she get interested in that?
KA: Probably through me. But my wife had a twin sister, May, and they were always Outrigger members. May is Peter Balding’s wife, and she’s still going strong, and she’s in great shape.
MK: Yes, she is. So I know Cline was the instigator of all the paddle board races. Did he encourage you to get involved or … ?
KA: I always thought I was too old but everybody said, “Give it a try,” and after a while with my swimming background, your stroke may be a little bit better. So I did pretty good.
MK: Yeah. Then you got Jimmy into paddle boarding.
KA: I did.
MK: He did really well, too.
KA: I had some problems. I took probably maybe 10 years out of my life to see if I could get Jim involved in water sports, and he’s done exceptionally well.
MK: Well, in 2000, we started the Cline Man Koolaupoko Paddleboard Race, and I remember you made the beautiful trophy for that race. The first name on it is Jimmy, and he won it the very first year we had that race, and then the second year. Tell me about making that trophy.
KA: I can’t remember, it was a Milo trophy.
MK: It was made out of Hau from the Hau Terrace.
KA: No, I can’t remember it.
MK: Well, it’s a beautiful trophy, I’m looking to see. I don’t see it in the Board Room right now. I think it’s up in the Lobby Display Case….
KA: I think I know what it looks like. It’s got a bunch of tags on it all the way down, the number of years. Yes.
MK: It was a beautiful trophy, and I thought it was very fitting that you said you made it for Cline, because the Hau Terrace was his place, and he spent all his time there. So you took some wood from the Hau Terrace, a trunk from the Hau Terrace, and turned it into a trophy.
KA: Cline was another legend like Auntie Eva (Pomroy), remember Auntie Eva? Everybody loved Cline, and everybody wanted to do their utmost, and they wanted to win for Cline. Cline was one of our all-time people. He was a surveyor, wasn’t he? We all loved Cline.
MK: Well, you said you made it in his memory, because it was a place that he loved, and you wanted to honor him. I thought, “What a wonderful tribute that was.” Then for Jimmy to win it, be the first two names on it for the two years he won it in a row, that was even better, because that’s a long race.
KA: I had a hard time getting him to that point, when we started I think he was about 14, and we had a race from Sandy Beach to Waikiki. We got off at Koko Head, and he started crying, “Oh, dad. I want to get on the boat, I can’t do it. I can’t,” I just said, “Keep going, just finish the race. Keep going.” That was his start, and after a while he became a really proficient swimmer. Now, today, he’s done very well.
MK: Yeah. I saw him at the Macfarlane Regatta this year. He was steering a lot of the crews, and …
KA: He was.
MK: He was giving them tips on how to do this, and how to do that, and he just ne of our …
KA: Probably some of that came from Rabbit, don’t you think?
MK: Well, he didn’t ever paddle for Rabbit, did he?
KA: No, but he was young-
MK: Learned from you, passed on. Yeah. Anyway, I thought that was a very nice tribute that you gave to Cline, and it’s such a beautiful job on that trophy. But you’ve enjoyed wood working?
KA: I do.
MK: I know that you made paddles for our Molokai crews for years?
KA: Yes, I’ve been making bowls for a number of years. It keeps me busy.
MK: You were experimenting with different paddle designs when you were making the paddles for Outrigger. What kind of ideas did you have?
KA: I don’t know. We just had different templates, let’s try this. Mark Buck wanted to try this, all that didn’t work. Tommy Home said, “Oh, we got to have this,” so I tried them all.
MK: Did you come up with one that they really liked?
KA: I think Tommy Connor had a paddle that he liked that the Club did well with, so we stayed with the Molokai crews with that for a while.
MK: Any idea how many paddles you made over the years?
MK: I bet. Did you keep a collection of paddles that you made?
KA: I have about three at home.
MK: Well, considering how many you made, that’s not a whole lot. Did you make steering blades as well?
KA: Yes. Yes.
MK: Big Bertha’s or what kind of steering paddles?
KA: Fred Hemmings had all kind of ideas on how it should look, and we tried them all. If he won with it, it was the best blade ever until somebody else came along.
MK: Were there other people making steering paddles, and canoe paddles back in those days?
KA: Yes. Yes.
MK: Commercial or …
KA: Tom Connor made paddles.
MK: He made some?
KA: Yeah. There were others though.
KA: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
MK: Well, now, I remember you also got made some steering blades, and some paddles for Hōkūle’a on its bi-centennial trip to Tahiti.
KA: I did.
MK: Can you tell me about that?
KA: Well, at the time, I met a person named Herb Kane who was doing a painting for me, and he said that I should get involved in this new project that was coming out, and they were going to paddle to all the other islands. I went down, and looked at the double-hull canoe. I think there was a Ben Finney, was that a name there?
MK: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
KA: He designed the paddle, and I made the two paddles, big sweeps, long 12-foot sweeps. They were to hang out the back, and then manipulated by the crew members. After a while, that didn’t prove that successful, and the trial runs to the different islands, and they finally put on rotors, I think. But I quietly stepped aside, because there was a racial thing there. It was best that I didn’t become a part of that, it was just the Hawaiian effort.
MK: Do you have any Hawaiian blood?
MK: Then what did you make their paddles out? What kind of wood?
KA: I don’t know if it had to be native wood, or I can’t remember was there a rule that everything had to be built with native wood. I can’t remember.
MK: But it was wood.
KA: Oh, yeah.
MK: In the old days I know they were using that and they were using Birch, and they were using hau, and all kinds of things.
KA: Mostly not Birch, that’s not a Hawaiian wood. maybe Milo. I can’t remember if that was a rule or not.
MK: You were a swimmer. Once a swimmer I guess, always a swimmer. You used to enter the Castle Swim. You did the Waikiki Roughwater swim. Was that when you … I noticed it was during the years when Jimmy was of that age. Were you training Jimmy then, or were you … ?
KA: I spent a lot of time with Jim, and already I was a lot older, kind of swims with Diane Stowell and some of the older members. Yeah.
MK: Are you still swimming?
MK: Can’t do that here.
KA: No. My arms are just about gone.
MK: Did you swim in … Well, in pools after college or did you just mostly ocean swimming?
KA: When I came home just the ocean.
MK: You said you got involved in one-man’s.
MK: Did you build one for yourself or … ?
KA: No. I think Tommy Holmes had kind of the idea and then it went to Olympic champion named Karel Tresnak. Then he started building the prototype in Kailua. Then his son became very proficient and won a lot of Molokai solos. Jim entered them and did pretty well. He held a record there for a while and there’s about three of four companies that make the one man’s and whichever boat wins, everybody’s got to have it, right? It’s the fastest thing. But I’m still paddling on one. I enjoy getting out there and feeling the surf behind you and you don’t have to call somebody up and say, “Can you get four guys? Let’s go out,” anytime you want them.
MK: You go out from here from the Club?
KA: I do.
MK: Are you going out a couple of times a week or … ?
KA: Three times a week.
MK: Three times a week.
KA: If I can.
MK: Who do you go out with?
KA: I’ve been going with the older guys because they … The doctor told me don’t go alone because of my heart problems, so they keep an eye on me, but it’s very early. They have to be at work at 8:00, so they’re paddling at 5:30 and 6:00. It’s a little disconcerting. You can’t sit down and have a cup of coffee. They’re all gone already. So I’ve been paddling with the older guys lately.
MK: Oh, who are those?
KA: Jeff Harris and Brian Tepper and Winston … I can’t remember his last name (Gample). Very good paddlers, yeah.
MK: Oh, great. Are there any ocean sports that I missed asking you about?
MK: You mentioned paddle boarding, swimming, canoe paddling, one-man’s, paddle boards?
KA: Six-man, no.
MK: I know you enjoy fishing.
MK: Do you consider yourself a big game fisherman?
KA: I did at one time. We all had to go to the Kona Billfish Tournament. I went across in a boat with two people. I mean, across Alenuihaha Channel, and that was little frightening, but we had a good time. Never caught anything. There were fun times meeting great people there.
MK: Were there other Outrigger people?
KA: I remember Dale Crooker. Remember that name? He loved it. He had his own boat and he did the same.
MK: That’s great. But you never caught a fish?
KA: Not during the tournament. I caught many fish, you know.
MK: Do you fish mostly here or …
MK: … off of Waikiki or were you up Molokai?
KA: I had a trailer and I could be anywhere, but mostly right out in front of Portlock.
MK: Is that where you kept your boat?
MK: I remember that you also ran some marathons.
KA: Yes. There was a member here at the Club named Jack Scaff, and he came up with this theory. I don’t know where he came up with it, but he said, “Anybody that finishes a marathon will never have heart trouble.” I’ve had nothing but heart trouble. Jack is a little overweight right now, so his theories did not pan out. I ran four and my wife ran three, and we had fun doing it, and it was a lot of training but it was the rage, Marilyn, everybody had to do the marathon.
MK: Yeah, I remember. You had some good times.
KA: For an older runner.
MK: Yeah. You were under four minutes.
KA: Kent Davenport, he was, he was one of the better Outrigger members, and he loved it. He was a doctor, wasn’t he? Yeah.
MK: He was my doctor until he retired. Did you ever play volleyball?
KA: Never. Too short. Not fast enough. No, I never did. I loved watching it. Tommy Haine and we’d sit by the hour watching them.
MK: But it never intrigued you?
KA: I was just no threat to anybody.
MK: Okay. Well, now, let’s talk about another sport that you excelled in, skeet shooting.
MK: How did you get involved in that?
KA: My dad, and during the war years in Kailua, they set up a range there, right on Mokapu Point, I think it was. They had four ranges, and my dad ran it, and he passed away, and I continued on. Then I think we lost the lease to Errol Castle on that, and that was the end of that. There was one, I think Hickam had a range after that, but in between that time, I did go back to the mainland to a number of different championships in Dallas, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia, had one. I went to one in Montreal, Canada.
MK: You set some world records, and you were an All-American …
KA: I did pretty-
MK: … for a number of years. You won Champion of Champions at the World Skeet Shooting Championships.
MK: 1968. So you got involved because of your dad …
KA: It cost me my ears, you know that.
MK: You can’t hear.
KA: My hearing.
MK: What did your dad tell you about standing up?
KA: He used to say “stand up there, stand up there like a man and take it. You don’t need any ear plugs. That’s for sissies”, so naturally, I’m deaf.
MK: Was he deaf, too?
KA: Totally deaf.
MK: Can you explain to me a little bit about what skeet shooting is?
KA: Well, it’s a shotgun sport where they throw, they eject targets out of a low house and a high house, and you administer the proper lead, so they will collide together at the shot and the target, and it breaks and the greatest … If you get a perfect score, you generally win. But depending on your age and your reflexes, it goes down from there. I was young, you know, I was in my 20s. For some reason, I got involved … Somebody said I should go back to a shoot in Dallas, and I met … I shot a Winchester gun that year.
I met a professional Winchester pro, and we kind of took a liking to each other, and we did a lot of fishing together. We did a bird hunting together. We went to different tournaments. I look forward to seeing him, and he finally died. He was older. Fred Missildine his name was. So, I kind of gave up from there. I really disappointed me, and it was very expensive. Very expensive.
MK: With all the traveling and …
KA: Hotel rooms. The airplanes were 16-hour Stratocruiser to California. I can’t remember how far.
MK: You had perfect scores so often in all those tournaments.
KA: After a while, I became pretty proficient, you know.
MK: It’s four different guns in some of these tournaments. Explain that.
KA: I started out with pump guns, and that’s because of Fred Missildine was the Winchester pro. He said, “Oh, you gotta use these.” It was difficult to pump the shell in the barrel, the chamber each time. So I moved to an automatic, where you just put shells in the gun and push the button, and it would engage in the chamber. Then in going to these different mainland tournaments, our space was critical, so I changed to a barrel set with all four barrels. A German gun called a Krieghoff, and it was just in a little small box, and it was very easy to travel with. That’s where I ended the sport, in that barrel set of skeet guns.
MK: Well, they had different gauges. What does that mean?
KA: That means, the greater amount of shot, the .410 had the least amount of shot, and then the 28 a little bit more, 20 a little bit more, and 12 the most.
MK: Because you had to compete in all four different ones in some of the tournaments?
KA: I did. Yes.
MK: In a tournament, you’re trying to get the highest score.
MK: When you’re getting a 100 out of 100, how much practice does it take to get such accuracy?
KA: I practiced quite a bit. Yes. I was a bundle of nerves all the time. I was always nervous. A slightest little sound made … I was on edge all the time. We were so mentally tuned into this, and doing it three times a week, it was really too much, you know? You can’t afford to be a fraction of an inch off or you miss.
MK: It’s kind of like golf.
KA: You got to know what you eat the night before. Are you getting a good night sleep? It’s just ridiculous.
MK: A tough sport. Well, I remember that Dave Hendrickson started the Skeet Shooting Club in Outrigger for a while. Were you part of that?
KA: No. But he did open up a range in Koko Head. The fallout zone, that’s where all the shot … You need an area for the shot. The fallout was a big area and it took away from the rifle shooters that wanted to go there during the weekend. They wanted to use the range and there wasn’t enough room, so the skeet range was the fatality.
MK: I know that the Club only lasted for a couple of years.
KA: It didn’t last long.
MK: They competed at Hickam also.
KA: We competed at Hickam. That was the last one.
MK: Yeah. In 1980, you were elected to the Winged “O” which is for Outrigger’s top athletes. How does it feel to be in a rarefied company of Duke and Dad and …
KA: Very honored.
MK: What do you think your athletic achievements were that brought you this recognition?
KA: Swimming, and surfing, and paddle boarding, and contribution to the races all those years. I’ve always thought of myself as trying to serve on some sort of committee to just pay back for what I have received from, maybe the greatest sporting club in the world. Outrigger has been my home. I spend more time down here now than ever.
MK: Do you remember a race that Cline Mann started? It was to honor the Club’s best athlete, and he … We had events that we had every year, the Castle Swim and the paddle board races. I can’t remember what the other ones were, but it was a competition and there were only a few of you that competed in all of those events. You remember that?
KA: Vaguely, yeah.
MK: I think it was between you and somebody else who was … He had it for a couple of years. He had a trophy.
KA: Most people are proficient in one or two sports, but to be reasonably good in all of them was rare and I did well there.
MK: Yeah. I just wondered, I was looking for a story about how Cline got that started, but you don’t remember?
KA: No. I don’t.
MK: Now, you served on the Board of Directors, and have been involved in committee work for many years, do you remember any of the committees that you were on?
KA: I think most of them all.
MK: Now, you were appointed to the Board of Directors in 1981, and that was to replace Fred Trotter who had resigned from the Board. Remember who convinced you to take on that responsibility?
MK: Then you ran for two terms of your own. You were elected. Do you remember any of the assignments you had while you were on the Board?
KA: You know, there was the House Committee and the … I like the athletics the best because I was familiar with a lot of that. But I was willing to contribute to any of them if I could make a difference.
MK: Well, you were Coordinating Director of Athletics, Admissions and Membership, Special Projects, Entertainment, and Historical. You kind of worked your way through all of them.
MK: I read through some of the Board minutes when you were on the Board, and some of the topics that they had been are very familiar now. They were concerned about athletic memberships, they were concerned about security and about the seawall.
KA: Still talking about the seawall.
MK: Still talking about all three of those. Do you have any thoughts about why they’re still issues?
KA: No. Seems to me we’ve lost some sort of erosion in front of the beach, so it’s under continual repair. The Club took down the (Elks) groin didn’t they?
MK: We did.
KA: That didn’t help matters. That took away all the sand over towards Colony Surf. That may have been an error. I like to be involved in all that though. But I still say that all the people that sit out in front and complain and yell and scream about, “This should’ve been done. Why didn’t we do this?” Should serve on a committee to try to see if they could help make a difference, and they’re just constantly complaining about something that they might be able to help.
MK: Well, I see a lot of people out there every morning. They seem to be mostly men who were out there.
MK: Having their coffee.
KA: Mostly 75 to 90.
MK: I was going to say that. But you guys have a good time out there.
KA: We have a good time. We talk about every topic. Politics is very critical. We cover a lot of subjects. Yeah.
MK: Do you solve all the problems in the world?
KA: All the problems. There’s always an answer whether it’s right or wrong.
MK: That’s an answer, yep. In the years that you were on the Board, the Outrigger had a full social agenda. We had lots of theme parties. It seems like every month there was a party, there were steak fries, there were seafood buffets and all of that, the luau. We stopped having all that stuff for a while. Now I see your daughter, Siana, is on the Entertainment Committee, and she’s bringing a lot of this back. Any thoughts about what happened during those years?
KA: I don’t know why we stopped. Everybody loved those steak fries. Was it Friday night?
MK: Saturday night.
KA: Saturday night. Come to see the sunset go down. I don’t know the reason for that, but my daughter is a dynamo. She runs Make A Wish Foundation. She’s never-ending busy down there, and comes down here and puts in more time.
MK: She’s great. I remember from a little tiny girl. She always had ideas and knew what needed to be done. Do you think Outrigger’s fulfilling its mission to support the sports of old Hawaii?
KA: Outrigger is probably the biggest, greatest sporting Club not only in Hawaii, but in the world. We have so many unusual … Well, first of all, records of all Olympic medals from Tommy Haine all the way down and paddling, and there’s no other Club as a water sports outfit could equal the Outrigger.
MK: We have more, I think Molokai championships, and State championships, in canoe racing, and Na Wahines than any other club. We’ve really done well. You think we’re continuing to perpetuate these things or are we kind of losing our way?
KA: Are we moving away from athletics into more social membership? I don’t know the answer to that. But we were founded as a sporting outfit, not really worried about our dining room at that time. So I think we should stay there.
MK: Now, you were married to Gay for 37 years.
MK: Did you meet her at the Club?
KA: I did. She is the twin sister of May, Peter Balding’s wife, and we always had a good time together, and she never argued. Everything was positive and plus, so how could I not love that. She did everything for me. It’s been hard. She’s been gone three years, and I was so used to her doing the laundry and cooking and shopping and the yard work, and I miss that. I miss her.
MK: She was active in a lot of the sports we had around here. What all did she do?
KA: Well, we got involved in Jack Scaff’s marathoning. She took to that. She liked it.
MK: She paddleboarded with you.
KA: She paddled.
MK: Did she play volleyball at all?
KA: She played volleyball. I think Dave Shoji kind of took a liking to the two girls. They were really too small, but they did play volleyball.
MK: Did she swim?
MK: Did she canoe paddle?
KA: She canoe paddled. But at that time we’re all in Master’s brackets.
MK: You have two children.
KA: Two children.
MK: Siana and Jimmy.
MK: They’ve grown up here.
MK: Their whole lives. I remember them. Tell me a little bit about Siana. You mentioned that she works for Make A Wish Foundation.
KA: She runs Make A Wish Foundation. She has endless energy. I don’t know when she ever sleeps. She’s married to Anthony Hunt, past President of the Outrigger. They have a great relationship. They have two beautiful kids.
MK: The kids are Aukina …
KA: And Ariana. Yes.
MK: So, is Ariana named after your sister?
MK: How old are they now?
KA: Let’s see, Akina just got his driver’s license, so that makes him 16, I think, and Ariana’s about 14, and they both paddle. They’re good water kids. They’re doing well in the ocean sports.
MK: Following in their father’s and grandfather’s and mother’s footsteps. Siana’s Chairman of the Entertainment Committee now.
KA: I didn’t know that.
MK: She’s very involved in everything. She was running around. Oh, she’s doing registration for canoe racing this year. She was busy like crazy on Wednesday at Fourth of July (at the Macfarlane Regatta).
KA: That’s a great old tradition. Surf race and we, we all walk down there and Outrigger had the best steersman. It was a fun race. Everybody looks forward to it. I think Alice (Guild) and Mary (Philpotts McGrath) have an apartment up above and they watch it from there.
MK: Did you ever paddle in it?
MK: You remember what it was like?
MK: Tell me a little bit about Jimmy.
KA: Jimmy is a good watersport. He’s also a captain at Hawaiian Airlines. He also teaches at Punahou canoeing, kayaking. He also sells one-man boats. He’s got three children, and he’s got a full schedule.
MK: What are his children’s names?
KA: Oh, boy. I was afraid you’d ask me that. William, Emalia, and Olivia. Pretty good, huh?
MK: Yeah, you got it. Do you remember how old they are?
KA: William is four, and Emalia is about eight, and the other one is about six.
MK: So one of them will soon be paddling, become members and …
KA: Pretty soon.
MK: Hope they start paddling.
KA: They were down on the beach there for the Fourth of July. I saw them there.
MK: Well, you must be very proud of Siana and Jimmy.
MK: You’re a grandfather of five. Wow. Life’s treating you well.
MK: What activities are you enjoying these days?
KA: I’m still one-man paddling. I still have my wood shop at home that I enjoy making not so much furniture but bowls. So I’m still doing that.
MK: Still have all your fingers?
KA: So far. I’ve had few injuries. I’m doing okay.
MK: That’s great. Now, you’ve been a member of the Club for seven decades, you’ve raised your children here, and you’ve given back through serving on committees and the Board. What do you think your biggest contribution has been to the Club?
KA: I couldn’t tell you, but I love the Club. I love its people. I’ve just had more fun here than anywhere I can think of. There’s a lot of people out there in the Terrace in the same manner. They’re winding down. They enjoy sitting with the older friends out there talking about nothing, but the Outrigger, too, is their whole life.
MK: It’s where their friends are and that’s become their family.
KA: Yes. A lot of them have lost their wives.
MK: Well, before we wrap this up, is there anything else that you’d like to add?
KA: No, but I thank you for inviting me down here. I hope I answered as best I could. My memory is not sharp. I can’t think of anything I’d like to add to that and all.
MK: Can you share maybe a memory, a wonderful memory you have of raising your children here?
KA: Too many. I’ve just had sunsets going down, kids down here surfing, contest. I can’t tell you how many we’ve enjoyed.
MK: It’s a good place to raise your children.
KA: Oh, the best.
MK: I have one last question for you.
MK: What has the Club meant to you?
KA: Everything. It’s my whole life. Marilyn, I come here every day. I’m not in the best physical shape, but I’m going through the years as best I can. I love all the people. I don’t dislike anybody. Everybody doesn’t like this guy or that. I’m perfectly happy. Everybody can have their own passionate ways about them. I just love to listen to the banter of these guys down here. I just love the Outrigger.
MK: Keeps you on your toes.
KA: Oh, it’s fascinating.
MK: Well, Kimo, thank you so much for sharing your stories with us today. It’s going to be a great addition to our archives.
KA: Thank you very much, Marilyn.
1980 Elected to OCC Winged “O”
1991 National Skeet Shooting Hall of Fame
1999 Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame
Service to the Outrigger Canoe Club
Board of Directors
1981 (Replaced Fred Trotter 3/26/81)
1982 Coordinating Director Athletics and Winged “O”
1983 Coordinating Director Admissions & Membership
1984 Assistant Secretary, Special Projects
1985 Coordinating Director Entertainment & Historical
1986 Assistant Treasurer, Coordinating Director Historical
Admissions and Membership Committee
Beach & Water Safety Committee
Canoe Racing Committee
2009 2nd, Masters 60
1989 2nd, Men 50-54
1993 1st, Men 55-59
1994 2nd, Men 55-59
2002 2nd, Men 65-69
2003 2nd Men 65-69
2004 2nd, Men 65-69
Waikiki Ocean 10,000-Meter Paddleboard Race
Dec. 1978 1st Masters Men (record)
Aug. 1981 1st Masters Men
Aug. 1982 1st Masters Men
Dec. 1982 1st Masters Men
Aug. 1983 1st Masters Men
OCC Surf Contest
1972 3rd Masters Men
1974 1st Makule
1980 3rd Makule
1985 4th Men 30+
Waikiki Roughwater Swim
1986 5th Men 50
1982 1st Grand Masters (45+), Hawaii State Amateur Surfing Championships
1983 2nd Grand Masters (45+), Hawaii State Amateur Surfing Championships
1984 5th Grand Masters, USA Amateur Surfing Championships
1984 2nd Grand Masters, Hawaii Surfing Association Ala Moana Bowls
1986 3rd Grand Masters, Hawaii Pro Am Surfing Circuit
1987 2nd Grand Masters, Hawaii Pro-Am Surfing Contest
1987 1st Grand Masters, Hawaiian Pro-Am Surfing Contest, Haleiwa
1987 1st Grand Masters Local Motion Surf Into Summer
1988 3rd Grand Masters, Hawaii State Amateur Surfing Championships
1988 2nd Grand Masters, Hawaii Surfing Federation
1990 1st Grand Masters, Hawaii Surfing Federation
1990 3rd Grand Masters, Hawaii State Surfing Championships
1992 2nd Senior Grand Masters, U.S. Amateur Surfing Championships
1999 1st 60+, Toes at the Bowls
1999 2nd 60+, Longboard Classic
2001 1st 60+, Hawaiian Style Classic
2001 1st 60+, Aston Hotels Surf Classic
2001 1st 60+. Hawaii Long Board Federation Local Motion Classic
2001 1st 60+, Steinlager Pro
2001 1st Final Year ratings, Hawaii Longboard Federation/Steinlager Series
2002 1st 60+, Moku Hawaiian Open
2002 2nd 60+, Hawaiian Long Beach Surf Classic
2003 2nd Legends, Ala Moana Bowls Shortboard Contest
2003 1st 60+, Hawaiian Style Kewalo Kup
2003 2nd Kupuna, Hawaiian Long Board Contest
2003 1st 60+, Hawaii Longboard Federal Championships
2004 1st Super Legends, HIC Faith Riding Classic Longboard Surfing Championship
1960 1st Spring Skeet Shoot Trophy
1960 1st Fall Skeet Shoot Trophy
1961 1st (tied) Hawaiian Open Skeet Championships
1963 Selected to Sports Afield Magazine All-American Skeet Shooting Team
1964 Selected to Sports Afield Magazine All-American Skeet Shooting Team
1964 Co-Holder of World Record for the 250 target (four gun event, 249×250)
1968 1st Place Champion of Champions at the World Skeet Shooting Championships (perfect 100×100 with four guns combined)
1968 1st Place Hawaii State Skeet Shooting Championship
1969 Selected to Sports Afield Magazine All-American Skeet Shooting Team
1969 1st Place Hawaii State 20 and 28 gauge Champion
1969 1st Place World Skeet Shooting Championship
1969 Set world record with 249/150 with four different guns
1970 1st Place Hawaii State Champion Skeet Shooting
1970 2nd Place Champions of Champions Event (100×100)
1970 Selected to Sports Afield Magazine All-American Skeet Shooting Team
1973 Captain of Sports Afield Magazine 2nd Team All-American Skeet Shooting Team
1975 Selected to Sports Afield Magazine All-American Skeet Shooting Team