The Kahuku Red Raiders

The Kahuku Red Raiders

I had a great job fall in my lap to shoot the Kahuku Red Raider’s football team at Hell Week, a preseason conditioning camp where the kids spend the entire week eating and sleeping football.

The job was for Sports Illustrated and I spend a few days with writer Austin Murphy who was spending several months following the team around.  The mag had me show up to document the training camp for a few days.

I arrived Monday afternoon at Kahuku high school to document their afternoon training camp.  Their training, in my opinion, was brutal.  The kids, many of them clearly out sizing me in height and weight, were akin to gladiators smashing and crashing into each other with great fury.  I sat stunned watching these 15, 16, and 17 year old boys hurdle at each other with such power like waves crashing on the rocks.

These kids, and coaches, meant business as the training was pushing everyone to their limits.  Navy Seals liken their Hell Week to pushing recruits beyond their breaking point wedding out those who break.  The Red Raiders apparently took a page from that book.

I saw a kid crumble and cry out in pain like a child.  He rolled on the ground clutching his ankle while the team and coaching staff slowly moved away from him.  As the medical trainers rushed to the boy’s side, one coach looked down with little sympathy as pain was something that needed to be tolerated if the team, and individuals, wanted to win.

After the afternoon training, the kids had a dinner in the cafeteria and then attended classes where coaches taught about plays and reviewed past footage of games and training.

A bit past 10pm, the kids then bedded down for the night in the grimy gym next to the football field.  Dirty shoes, mattresses, clothes, and football helmets cluttered around the many shirtless kids having none of this sleep business.  Hip hop music played loudly with some dancing, others playing games, and wrestling with each other.   I spotted a few giving each other Sharpie tattoos with Polynesian designs popular among many in the mostly Samoan community.

As I had to arrive at dawn the next morning for the training class, I opted to sleep in my car as Kahuku is more than an hour away from town.  I saw no purpose of getting a hotel room as I left campus around close to midnight and I found sleeping in my car part of the excitement of this job.  Once I got comfortable and dozed off, I would awaken to the sounds of howls and grunts from the kids who clearly were not sleeping in the middle of the night.

Around 6am, rain poured on the early morning training session making it a tough morning for the sleep-depraved kids but they managed to get through their tough training.

I went home for a bit only to return later that evening to cover and witness a lesson in the haka dance.  A cultural practitioner not only taught them the dance moves but more importantly, he guided them through the language used as they plotted out their movements.

While most consider the haka dance to be a war chant, the performance sends a message to those viewing it the violent and brutish dance.  It sings of who they are, what their intentions are, and what they will do to defend their homes and families.

I went on and covered a home game a few weeks later and got to see how their training was paying off.  Kahuku is undefeated and have only one loss and that was to a team from the mainland.  They will likely reign once again as State Champs.  They are a fantastic team and I hope many will achieve their dreams of success.

Mooo! Milk on Kauai

Mooo! Milk on Kauai

Last April, the New York Times had me document a controversial issue on Kauai.  eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s proposal to create a small dairy farm near Poipu, Kauai has made many sour in the nearby community.  I traveled to area to photograph the area, meet supporters and photographing opponents. I also got to fly in a helicopter over the land where the proposed dairy would sit.

Kauai has a history of fighting development fearing their already shrinking tropical paradise will disappear.  While many locals welcome jobs and the opportunities development brings, many newer arrivals to the Island fight tooth and nail to protect their newly purchased slice of heaven.

The controversy over the dairy stems from opponents fearing environmental damage from pollution and the environmental impact on tourist in the region.  Along with many other resorts and hotels, the Grand Hyatt sits not far from the farm area in Poipu and they fear smells and other issues will affect their high paying guests.

The Ulupono Initiative, Omidyar’s local investment firm, strives to create a more self-reliant Hawaii and a local dairy farm would likely bring Kauai’s infamously high milk prices down.  However, opponents argue the gains do not outweigh the losses.

Past industrial farming has wreaked havoc on Hawaii as plantations once diverted streams to their sugar cane and pineapple fields and waste has polluted once fertile land.  While many initiatives and technologies has improved farming overall, fears still exist over new farming projects.  A recent dairy farm on the Big Island was accused of illegally discharging animal waste polluting local water sources and this didn’t help Ulupono’s case for a new farm on Kauai.

While Ulupono are making great technological strides to protect the land and limit pollution, its not enough for some residents and lawsuits have been filed to stop the dairy from getting started.

While I was there, I met with a few of opponents who took me to Maha’ulepu Beach claiming the dairy’s waste would damage the pristine area.  Its the same beach I photographed from the helicopter that ran big on the front page of the business section.

front page of the business section August 14, 2017
front page of the business section August 14, 2017

At the mouth of the stream that feeds into the ocean, I clearly could smell something foul in the run off.  They said it was raw sewage flowing down from the above farm areas and little was being done to control the pollution.  Warning signs were posted around the stream stating to keep out of the water.

While the bad smells at the stream startled me, Hawaii’s future must create more sustainability.  We must be more independent and depend less on the monopolies that control the shipping of goods to and from the Islands.  The dairy farm is taking great strides to protect the environment and to keep the land in farming hands means it has less chance to be turned into homes by developers.

I believe Hawaii’s future is to be self reliant but at what costs?  If we allow a few to control the future of Hawaii because they fear bad smells, we will continue to be at the mercy of outsiders.  But we must ensure a new farm won’t pollute the environment.  While fresh milk won’t lower the cost of gasoline or other goods, it is a good start for a brighter future.  But we can’t allow sustainability to turn into sour milk.

The NYT article can be found here.

The Nimitz Byway

The Nimitz Byway

My first professional written article was published in the Star Advertiser Sunday, Nov. 24th.  On a trip to Texas last year, it dawned on me how Hawaii and Fredericksburg, Texas, a small town just west of Austin, north of San Antonio, are directly connected by a man who helped win the Pacific War against the Japanese.  So I wrote a travel piece on visiting this small town in Texas and the significance of one of the town’s greatest sons has in the history of Hawaii.

Chester Nimitz was born to a German pioneer’s family who help settled parts of Texas.  Nimitz rose to be the US Navy Admiral in charge of the Pacific Fleet after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  His role in the defeat of the Japanese is slightly overshadowed by the US Army’s Gen. Douglas MacArthur; but in Hawaii, Nimitz’s legacy is not forgotten.  Nimitz’s name lends itself to one of Oahu’s most important thoroughfares, Nimitz Highway, along with a nearby elementary school several businesses including a yoga studio and a BBQ joint, although those might be named for their proximity to the road, not the Admiral.  At the end of the war, upon returning to Hawaii, he was given a hero’s welcome and led a parade from the battlegrounds of Pearl Harbor to the Kingdom of Hawaii’s historic Iolani Palace.  The Admiral was named “Alii aimoku,” or supreme chief, by all the Hawaiian Orders in Hawaii – a rare feat for a haole from Fredericksburg, TX.  A war museum was established in his family’s old Fredricksburg hotel and the collection of WWII artifacts rivals Pearl Harbor’s historic museum.  The Nimitz Museum actually has the Japanese midget submarine that washed ashore on the beaches of Oahu after the  Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.  Quite a collection, indeed!

Please take a moment to read my first travel piece written as a professional “writer.”  I’ve never thought of myself as a writer yet I’ve written most of my adult life.  Here’s my first chance to prove I can.

 

 

 

 

Take Monday Off!

Take Monday Off!

I’m not sure if you can, but according to the Wall St. Journal’s late December travel piece (shot by me of course) you can manage to see Oahu in three days!

See article here.

I’ve often thought travel to Hawaii is tough as we are a long way from “da mainland” so considering flight times, jet lag, Oahu traffic, etc, it seems like a tough path to follow.  However, the story lays out a great argument of what you can see and do on Oahu in a short period of time.

I had a helluva time shooting the job all considering it rained during the entire commissioned time to work. I had to dodge rain, clouds, and gloomy seas but I was able to produce wonderful telling images of Oahu.

The WSJ article produced a really nice video with all my images which can be seen on their website here… Take Monday Off

Of the wonderful Oahu spots, Iolani Palace is one of those places that lots of tourist seem to visit from the outside but hardly go in.  The interior shows the elegant side of Hawaii’s Royal Family with 18th-19th century imported indulgences giving the Royals that touch of European royal class.

Waimea Bay without waves can be boring as most tourist expect big waves and surfers but when the water is flat, its like swimming in a big lake.  Brilliant place to spend the afternoon and see the sunset…if you can park!

And of course the not well visited Doris Duke’s Islamic shrine, Shangri-La.  Duke, the trust funded daughter of a super rich tobacco tycoon, used her wealth to import only the best art, furniture, and artifacts from all over the Islamic World.  The home is now a museum with limited access.  The ocean side estate is a Pacific mecca of Islamic art and architect bringing scholars from around the world to study and conserve the many artifacts and pieces on the estate .  Although some may see controversy as Duke purchased priceless art and pieces throughout the Middle East, including having an entire room (floor to ceiling) imported from Turkey, she helped preserved parts of Islamic culture that might have been lost dude to neglect or theft, or sadly zealots.  Imperialism aside, Shangri-La is fantastic and well worth the time to visit the home.

Museo Nacional de Antropología

Museo Nacional de Antropología

A man stood next to me in a Korean owned deli in Palisades Park, NJ.  His boots were fake, not real lizard but still in the style of  botas de vaquero none the less.  The boots you can buy in any norteno town where the men have paid thousands to sneak across the border to work as low paid laborers in the US.  His trim mustache and dark skin, tucked-in shirt and ironed blue jeans might have made him a short Lotharo back in Piedras Negras but here, he was just a a guy who worked as a baker in a Korean pastry shop.  Maybe he cut grass, painted, lifted, delivered, hauled, got spit on, harassed, not paid, paid lowly, hid, ducked, drank, shivered, and maybe he did none of the above.  But he was here, not in his country, and trying to work.

The Spanish I heard in Times Square coming from Minny Mouse wasn’t the native tongue of the native Puerto Ricans or Dominicanos.  It was la lengua of the Mexican.  Maybe the Chapinas or the Peruvian.  But it was the accent of the new comers.  They  dressed as Elmo, Spiderman, and Minnie to pose for a dollar or two with the kids of those who stayed in $300 a night hotels in the City.  They crossed borders to stand next to white kids so that their parents could snap pictures of them in the blinking lights.

One guy gets hot and lets slip his facade.  The mask slips revealing a face more fitting inside the Museo Nacional de Antropología than on the streets of Times Square.  Cada de indio as my mother would say of the neighbors.  The face of an indigenista, a face from Southern Mexcio, of Guatemala, of the south.

So Spiderman crossed 9th ave near Port Authority.  Wherever he went, he seemed tired.  Worn from dancing for the Spanish and Italian tourists.  Of hearing the accents of his conquerors and taking the money of his master.  He probably walked to his next job.  His delivery job where he would make a dollar or two running msg-filled Chinese food up six floors up to an uppity Iowan who now calls Manhattan home.  The Iowan feels its his new right to belittle the delivery guy who was five minutes late because he couldn’t walk fast enough.  The rain was too hard, the snow was too cold.

Santiago once pointed out the only people out on the streets during a blizzard were the mojados who were delivering food.

I learned on this trip New York works because of it’s illegal infestation.  An infestation that makes the City move.