Aloha in Waikiki

FOND Group had the honor of helping to produce the first annual Aha Kai Aloha Festival celebrating Hawaiian Surf and Cultural Heritage which took place in Waikiki this past fall. Alison Berman caught up with visionary pro surfer Rochelle Ballard to learn more about the memorable day and the inspiration behind the event.

All Photos by Kai Markell
In Hawaii, surfing is more than an activity or a pass time. It is more than a sport. Surfing goes deep into the heritage of Hawaii; it is embedded in the roots of Hawaiian culture. And, nodding to that deep significance was the first annual Aha Kai Aloha Festival, a one-day Hawaiian cultural surfing event that debuted in Kūhio Beach Park in Waikīkī on September 6th, 2014. The dawn-to-dusk festival was a celebration of traditional Hawaiian surfing and also so much more. It was an effort to bring together and nurture the many at-risk and homeless youth of Waikīkī and reconnect them with their Hawaiian heritage through surf sessions, workshops on Hawaiian traditional practices, and also educating youth on resources available within the community. “It was a really amazing shared day of Aloha, and that’s what Aha Kai Aloha is, it’s bringing earth into the ocean or valley into the sea using all of the elements for sustainability, bringing together the wisdom of perpetuating the land and sea through the love of surfing-Aha Kai Aloha. In Hawaiian culture it is called Ahupua’a -from the valley into the sea of Hawaiian cultural sustainability,” said Rochelle Ballard, professional world-class surfer, who first had the vision for the festival.

Pro surfer Rochelle Ballard (center) leads the opening ceremonies with 'Uncle' Bruce Keaulani of the Living Life Source Foundation.

Pro surfer Rochelle Ballard (center) leads the opening ceremonies with ‘Uncle’ Bruce Keaulani of the Living Life Source Foundation.

Rochelle moved to Kauai, Hawaii as a child, which is where she later took her first leap onto a surfboard. She is an accomplished professional female surfer and veteran of the Association of Surfing Professional’s (ASP) World Championship Tour, and also starred in the original Blue Crush film. After an inspiring professional career, Rochelle continues to cultivate her love for surfing, one way being through her deep involvement with Living Life Source Foundation (LLSF), the organization behind Aha Kai Aloha Festival. LLSF is a charitable non-profit located in Hawaii’s Manoa Valley and has a beautiful mission, “To restore a system of living by embracing all faiths and modern science; teach concepts vital to creating a life of greater meaning, purpose, and freedom; and, educate the people of Hawaii to become self-sustainable and to perpetuate the life-force spirit of Aloha.” Professor Bruce Keaulani, locally known as Uncle Bruce, is the founder of Living Life Source Foundation and asked Rochelle to create an event that would bring together the organization’s efforts with local youth and the healing aspect of what LLSF stands for. And from this sparked the inspiration for Aha Kai Aloha Festival.

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FOND Founder, Nicole Delma, honored to share a moment with legendary shaper Pohauku Stone.

The festival opened with a prayer chant, Oli. Rochelle recounts the moment, “A shower came through, and everyone was facing the ocean, listening to the water and the waves, as to bless the day with safety and the Aloha spirit.” The festival offered a mix of workshops that taught youth about Hawaiian traditions such as pounding Poi, which is the process of pounding taro root into a dough like consistency. A large focus of the day was also to show youth the connection between surfing and Hawaii’s ecology. Local Tom “Pohaku” Stone brought this to life through a hands-on workshop on papa he’e nalu, showing the kids how traditional Hawaiian wooden surfboards are carved. Through teaching these traditional methods it also continues that important aspect of Hawaiian culture, Rochelle explains, “When you stop doing these practices then the culture dies, and people are no longer fulfilling the Aloha, the spirit of where they came from.”

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Aiding at-risk and homeless youth can be a delicate undertaking. On the streets of Waikīkī, it isn’t always easy to identify which kids are homeless, even more so, each child has their own unique story and circumstances. Knowing this, the festival was designed to be as inviting as possible, acknowledging that whether teaching a surf lesson or introducing to a local charitable resource, a critical first step is to earn trust.

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Local groms prepare for the female longboard competition.

Youth Outreach (YO!), which provides medical and social services to homeless youth through YO! drop-in centers in partnership with Waikiki Health and Hale Kipa, Inc., was one of the resources available to the children, as well as Surfrider Spirit Sessions (SSS), a Hawaiian non-profit that serves at risk youth through ocean-based experiential education and mentoring programs.

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Commentator Kaipo Guerrero (left) lent his voice and surf expertise to the day’s events. Guerrero is a well-known announcer in the sport of surfing and a fan favorite.

Surf lessons and an eight-division surf competition open to the public also took place during the day. Competition entry fee was waved for canned food donations and divisions were bracketed by age, not gender, encouraging participating for the love of the sport, rather than for fierce competition.

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Local youth take turns experiencing outrigger canoe rides through the Waikiki surf.

With over 600 arriving for the festival, 100 participating in the surf competition, and 400 healthy breakfast and lunch meals shared, the impact of the first annual Aha Kai Aloha Festival was inspiring. The festival is committed to continuing to partner with existing organizations to enhance and support their efforts to aid local at-risk youth, both for next year’s event, and also with the possibility of building workshops throughout the year.

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Volunteers teach local youth how to make traditional Poi from locally grown Taro root.

Surfing holds a unique significance within Hawaiian culture, which Aha Kai Aloha Festival gracefully demonstrated by connecting at-risk youth with their heritage, its traditions, and community recourses, all through the shared love of surfing and Aloha.

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Special Thanks to Alison E. Berman for this recap of an amazing event and to the Elkes Foundation for helping to make it possible.

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Alison is a storyteller, marketer, and the founder of digital storytelling platform Anchor & Leap. She has a complex understanding of multi-channel storytelling and gained her roots working at prominent media companies Meredith Corporation as a Marketing Manager and previously at Rodale, Inc.’s in-house content marketing agency. While at Rodale, Alison also facilitated a company-wide social media think tank that was formed by CEO Maria Rodale.

As a consultant, Alison helps companies define and share their own stories through rich content marketing and strategy—all with a focus on aligning messaging with the core values of the organization. Some past clients include Nissan, Applegate, Norton by Symantec, Kraft Foods, and Energizer Holdings.

Alison is passionate about creative cultures, design thinking, and social enterprise. You can follow her on Twitter @DigitAlison

Kauai’s Struggle for Health by Amanda Brower

Health and the environment have become the number one issue with GMO operations on Kauai. 

FOND NOTE: During my stay on Kauai, I was presented with an onslaught of information regarding the GMO debate and much of it was downright shocking . What had seemed like a straightforward argument between Chemicals/Genetic Engineering versus No Chemicals/No Genetic Engineering was anything but.  There were and are layers upon layers of history, loyalty, information, misinformation, politics, employment issues and tradition factoring in to the debates taking place on beautiful Kauai.  As I did some digging (which I will elaborate on in a future post), a friend shared the below summary with me of the local issues specific to Kauai – arguably the US capital of GMO industry. I am still doing my own research (as I encourage you to do) but this post by Andrea Brower, originally run on Civilbeat.com on July, 17, does a great job of covering the key issues. Mahalo to Richard Diamond for allowing me to share and Andrea Brower for authoring. — Nicole Delma

By Amanda Brower

Born, raised and educated on Kauai, I was brought up with an ethic of care for this land, its future, and the people of this aina. I was also taught that we have kuleana to stand-up for what is right, just, and in the service of the common good — and that sometimes we must struggle for what is pono.

The movement on Kauai to protect our land, water and communities from the impacts of the agrochemical-GMO industry is reflective of this deep sense of responsibility that my generation feels for our home and one another. We know that the decisions being made today will shape our future and that of many generations to follow.

Despite what they would like us to believe, the global agrochemical-GMO industry — corporate giants Pioneer DuPont, Syngenta, Monsanto, Dow, BASF — did not show up in Hawaii merely because we have a year-round growing season. They came because they saw us as an exploitable community, left with an economic void when the sugar plantations exited, and challenged to think outside of the box of plantation agriculture after 150 years of it.

They saw a community of mostly working-class people, already conditioned to accept an industry that exports all of its profits and leaves behind nothing but pollution, health bills and unsafe, low-paying jobs. They came because, despite our enlightened state motto and constitutional mandate to protect the environment, we allow them to get away with doing things that they wouldn’t be allowed to do in other places.

Since GMO testing began in Hawaii, over 3,000 permits have been granted for open-air field trials, more than in any other state in the nation. In 2012 alone, there were 160 such permits issued on 740 sites.

Kauai has the highest number of these experimental sites, which are associated with the use of 22 restricted-use pesticides in the amount of 18 tons of concentrate each year. Syngenta, BASF, Pioneer DuPont and Dow occupy nearly all of the leased agricultural lands on the westside of Kauai — over 12,000 acres in close proximity to schools, residences, churches, and hospitals.

Kauai residents currently do not have the right to know what is happening on these agricultural lands, or how these activities are affecting our common air and water. We do not know which pesticides are being used where, in what amounts, and what their cumulative impacts might be. We also know nothing about the experimental GMO crops being tested. Even when the federal government determines that new pesticide-GMO crop combos significantly affect the quality of the human environment, as the USDA did in the recent case of 2,4-D and Dicamba resistant crops, we have no way of knowing whether they were tested here and what their impacts might have been.

Kauai County Council Bill 2491 on pesticides and GMOs seeks to correct this obvious oversight. It is a highly reasonable bill that is applicable only to the five corporations who use tremendous amounts of restricted-use pesticides each year.

The bill establishes people’s right to know about the chemicals that are being used, and sets up a buffer zone between the spraying and schools, hospitals, residential areas and waterways. It also requires that the county conduct an EIS so we can better understand the impacts of the agrochemical-GMO operations on our island, and in the meantime puts a moratorium on new operations. And it mandates that experimental pesticides and GMOs be tested in containment rather than in the open-air.

The pesticides this bill pertains to are not the type you purchase at Ace Hardware. They are “restricted-use” pesticides because they are recognized as extremely dangerous to human health and the environment. Chemicals such as Atrazine (Syngenta), banned in the EU and known to cause birth defects, cancer and reproductive issues, and to contaminate ground-water. Lorsban (Dow), known to cause impaired brain and nervous system functions in children and fetuses, even in minute amounts. Other pesticides being used are shown to affect brain cancer, autism, and heart and liver problems.

Pioneer employees who were bussed by DuPont County Council meeting for hearing on Bill 2491 to regulate GMO company pesticide use on Kauai Photo by Juan Wilson.

Pioneer employees who were bussed by DuPont County Council meeting for hearing on Bill 2491 to regulate GMO company pesticide use on Kauai Photo by Juan Wilson.

Atrazine, chlorpyrifos (Lorsban) and bifenthrin have made it inside Waimea Canyon Middle School, almost certainly the result of drift from the chemical-GMO operations around the school, which is a violation of federal law. Bill 2491 is about our right to know where these highly-dangerous pesticides are coming from so we can determine how they might be affecting human health and the environment. It has nothing to do with whether we are for or against the science and technology of GMOs.

While it would be great if we could count on the state and federal governments to adequately regulate, the fact is that they haven’t. And this issue cannot wait. People are sick now. We need to know now. Our state and federal governments have spent the last decades putting the interests of these transnational corporations over the interests of the common good.

The US government’s own Accountability Office concluded that the EPA is severely lacking in its implementation of laws relating to pesticides. It is up to us on Kauai, the people who have direct experience of the industry’s impacts, to take the necessary action. This bill has been reviewed by many local and national attorneys, and we at the county level have the right to protect our health, safety and environment.

Rather than be responsive to reasonable concerns, the chemical-GMO companies are doing everything they can to fight this bill. They are some of the largest and most powerful corporations in the world, and infamous for their fierce opposition to any kind of disclosure and regulation. This is not a matter of “bad” people doing bad things. These corporations are legally mandated to make profit for their shareholders at other expenses.

Beyond the rhetoric of their well-paid marketing, they do not care about the places where they operate. They may have a few friendly and concerned managers who live locally, but the economic structure that they operate within does not prioritize environmental and human health. That is why this issue requires a structural response — actual policy that will limit these corporation’s ability to externalize their costs onto us.

The industry is using the unfortunate tactic of threatening workers that if this bill passes, their jobs will be lost. While the claim of these incredibly wealthy corporations that they can’t afford to be more responsible in their chemical usage seems exaggerated, if not absurd, we need to be compassionate and sensitive to the position workers are being put in.

If in fact the industry does decide to leave simply because we’ve asked them to be transparent and responsible, then we must generate new agricultural jobs that are higher-paying, less hazardous and long-term. Jobs that express who we are and are integral to our local economy rather than those dependent on the whims of transnational corporations who can get up and leave at anytime.

As an island dependent on barges coming from at least 2500 miles away for 85% of our food, one obvious place for job generation is in developing our sustainable agriculture industry. There are huge possibilities. Half of the lands used by the agrochemical-GMO industry on Kauai are state lands, which could be made more easily available to real farmers. Water that is currently being hoarded by the private chemical industry could be returned to streams and agricultural users, in line with state water law. Subsidy support and research could be consistently put towards sustainable and locally-appropriate agriculture.

By privileging the chemical-GMO companies’ use of our resources over local agriculture, we are paying the high costs of missed opportunities. Sustainable agriculture to service local needs would generate local revenues and stimulate the economic multiplier effect, plug economic leakages, support a wide variety of other small businesses, employ far more people, insure food security, add to the resilience of our economy, distribute benefits more equitably, and be a real draw to tourists.

While we do face structural challenges to building our local agricultural industry, some of which are national or global, there are innumerable creative and immediate solutions. These include a variety of socially responsible enterprises, cooperatives, food hubs, land trusts and ag parks, land use policy in favor of local ag, farmer training, and research funding for sustainable ag. The public will to proactively create and support these solutions keeps growing. Young people especially are looking for opportunities to farm, to be stewards of the aina and feed their communities.

By regulating these transnational corporations, we are supporting the possibility of local agriculture and food security. By protecting our fragile, limited and precious resources, we protect the possibility of real agriculture (that actually feeds us) thriving in the long-term. This is a turning point in the island’s history, one which will determine the type of path we will take.

On Kauai we take pride in our values of care and responsibility for one another and the aina. Now is our moment to lead the state and show the nation how a small community can stand-up for what is obviously moral — putting people and nature’s rights ahead of corporate profits. When it comes to the health of our population and environment, we must demand self-determination. The world is watching, and we will send a clear message, one way or the other.

Andrea BrowerAndrea Brower is doing a PhD on the politics and economics of food and agriculture. She has a Masters degree in Science and International Development from the University of Sussex.

Please visit Civilbeat.com to view the original article and browse more great content.

YOGA + SCIENCE, DISCOVERING THE ANATOMY OF WELLNESS WITH MICHAELLE EDWARDS

HOW I LEARNED TO RETHINK MY BODY BACK INTO ITS RIGHTFUL POSITION

When I visited Hawaii this past spring, I was told stories about a very special woman living up in the hills of Kauai named Michaelle Edwards who had dedicated her life to helping people get repositioned in their bodies so that they could enjoy them as they were meant to be used. This intrigued me on a personal level as I had often felt as though I wasn’t sitting quite right in my body and had great difficulty doing anything that required me to remain still for any length of time. More than just your average restlessness, my body actually brought me tremendous pain if I was forced to be still and, while this predisposition served me well in sports and running very long distances, it also prevented me from pursuing other activities I was curious about such as yoga or meditation.

Regardless, I had tried Yoga only to be chastised by teachers who insisted it was the restlessness of my mind that was causing my physical pain (viable, I thought) or forcefully tried to ‘straighten me out’ and pressure me in to positions my body wasn’t ready to accept. Strangely, not one teacher had ever suggested the reverse – could it be that the positioning of my body might actually be agitating my mind? What’s more, as a trained massage therapist versed in anatomy and physiology, I found it very disturbing that some of my teachers didn’t even know the various parts of the body or the mechanics of how they were connected yet they were bold enough to sit on me to try and get my body where they thought it should be. There had to be a better way to work with my body, I thought.

The view from Michaelle's property in the hills of Kauai just outside Hanalei.
The view from Michaelle’s property in the hills of Kauai just outside Hanalei.

While reading Michaelle Edward’s book YogAlign, which was gifted to me by one of her former students, Pro Surfer Rochelle Ballard, I read something that quite possibly changed my life. Using detailed attention to anatomy and physiology, Michaelle explained that the Psoas muscles, which connect your spine to your legs, have a direct connection to your emotional state and that connection goes both ways. You see, the Psoas are somewhat of the ‘fight of flight’ muscles that respond directly to stress and are linked to the proactive tightening of the tissues around our torso/major organs that occurs to protect our most vital parts when danger or a threat are imminent (an approaching predator, for instance). The thing is, improper positioning or stress on these muscles and associated nerves can actually cause the agitation in the centers the brain responsible for the ‘fight of flight’ response to stay on well after the perceived threat is present and when there is no threat at all. Hence, a physically rooted cause for a restless mind. Aha! This was a light bulb moment for me and I at once contacted Michaelle and arranged come and study/work with her for a week at her home and studio on Kauai.

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As I got to know her, I learned that Michaelle Edwards has spent the better part of her 60 years studying the human anatomy, the dynamics of movement, the brain/body connection and various disciplines of yoga and bodywork and applying that knowledge to her own unique method. Over time, that method evolved into a specific set of exercises or adapted Yoga poses aimed at freeing that stress on the Psoas and thereby relaxing the mind and just generally shifting us into a more peaceful place at home within our bodies. Her technique, called YogAlign is the embodiment of much of her life’s work coupled with her own personal practice and that of the hundreds of students she has worked with over the years. Understanding the intricacies of human anatomy, its connection to our brain and our spiritual and emotional well being is Michaelle’s passion and, after spending a week with her, I could clearly see was also her calling.

Out front of Michaelle's property, an ample supply of surfboards, snorkels and fresh bananas.

Out front of Michaelle’s property, an ample supply of surfboards, snorkels and fresh bananas.

I arrived at Michaelle’s amazing green property just outside of Hanalei in early July where I was housed with Katrina, one of her advanced students who teaches YogAlign in LA and was there helping her to shoot some informational videos to post on YouTube. The property is nearly completely sustainable and she and her students can subsist on the fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs and coconut water naturally provided from her land with little need for anything from the outside. As I came to learn, this is not unique on Kauai and is part of a growing movement to help keep out GMO yet, for Michaelle, it was just a way of living she had acquired nearly 40 years earlier to stay in sync with the natural environment around her. This pure diet is likely one of the reasons she looks substantially younger than she actually is and is literally exploding with energy.

Michaelle at work with a student in her studio.

Michaelle at work with a student in her studio.

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Our days together mainly consisted of an hour of YogAlign group class in the morning, an hour or two of swimming in Hanalei Bay early afternoon (in which she always swam twice as fast as me), running on the beach or on the trails above her home followed by a natural lunch and then 2-3 hours of focused practice working on my own unique ‘posture challenges’ and learning a specific combination of exercises, breathing, bodywork and mental techniques I could use to reset and realign myself to a more natural and dynamic positioning. As Michaelle explained it, our bones are really just ‘strung’ together by our fascia, muscles and ligaments – all of which are soft tissue and can be coaxed back to their optimal positions. When we are aligned, motions and proper posture take far less effort as the natural human form is quite efficient by design- just watch a toddler move sometime and you will see how effortless their motions are before their posture begins to get compromised.

Daily swimming is part of Michaelle's healthful regimen. The waters of Kauai are said to be curative.

Daily swimming is part of Michaelle’s healthful regimen. The waters of Kauai are said to be curative.

Michaelle absolutely blew my mind with her knowledge and I genuinely felt as though I was sharing time with someone who had indeed ‘figured it out’ and was on to something remarkable. After one week, I could see a marked difference in my posture and actually measured a full inch taller in height as a result of the release of the pressure on my spine that was being imposed by a wound up Psoas from years of suboptimal posture and overconditioning. What’s more, I felt so different. I was sleeping better than I had in months, my eyes and sinuses were clear and my energy levels were steady and strong. At 60, Michaelle still ran circles around me in terms of her energy level but I got the sense that she had tapped into some inner knowledge of health and longevity that others had not.

The studio where we practiced daily. Michaelle hosts regular retreats and training on her property: Manayoga.com

The studio where we practiced daily. Michaelle hosts regular retreats and training on her property: Manayoga.com

We took before and after photos, measurements and careful notations on things I would not otherwise have looked at such as the distance and positioning between my toes. Realizing that my little toes being crunched up had a direct connection to pain in my neck was eye opening, literally. There were techniques she showed me which actually changed the way my face looked by altering and releasing the stresses that pulled on my eyes and jaw and positioning of my head to my body. We sat together and went through photos of her previous students who had even more dramatic results after spending weeks with her and even my skeptic’s mind started to change. Perhaps the secret to ‘straightening out’ my body had nothing to do with forcing through painful positions and stretching muscles to the point where I was hot and throbbing in pain. Perhaps the key to evoking lasting change in my posture was actually in these very subtle movements coupled with focused breath and mental techniques. (You can see some before and after photos here on Michaelle’s site Manayoga.com. )

Since leaving, I have kept up with the practice and continue to see added benefits and results. I look and feel taller, lighter. My core is toned and elongated all the way around. My running is better than ever as I now feel as though my legs and hips are moving efficiently in an anatomically correct gait. I would not go so far as to say that I am a Yoga devotee but, when it comes to YogAlign and the techniques and theory I learned from Michaelle, I can say that I have unquestionably received tremendous benefit and that the quality of my life has improved as a result.

Michaelle even taught me how to sit correctly (though she is the first to explain how most of our human health woes seem to have evolved out of our sitting culture). As I sit and write this, I am pain free and thinking of my next run – a 22 miler and considering I might actually bump it up a day as the need to recover from yesterday’s 18 miler just doesn’t seem to be there the way it used to be.

Thank you Michaelle for helping me to find a pain-free way to be within my own body – in stillness and in motion. I can’t promise I will sit still any time soon but, at least it is good to know that I now can 🙂

Mahalo!

Nicole

MICHAELLE IS COMING TO NY! – SEP 21, 2013This Fall, Michaelle is making her way to New York to teach her first ever clinic here: Change Your Posture, Change Your Life. The class will take place on September 21 and I will be sure to be there and will post more information on how to sign up as it becomes available. If you are interested, feel free to email me at nicole@fondgroup.com and I will alert you when I have those details.

The view of the studio from above, nestled in the green hills.

The view of the studio from above, nestled in the green hills.

The GMO controversy came up a lot during my time on Kauai - a heated local and global debate.

The GMO controversy came up a lot during my time on Kauai – a heated local and global debate.

Michaelle cracking open a fresh coconut for me post-class.

Michaelle cracking open a fresh coconut for me post-class.

Her beautiful chickens that provide much of the protein for the property.

Her beautiful chickens that provide much of the protein for the property.

The chicken coup.

The chicken coup.

Daily greens with equally vibrant views were a part of the wellness routine at Manayoga.

Daily greens with equally vibrant views were a part of the wellness routine at Manayoga.

View from a hike above the house.

View from a hike above the house.

The stunning hidden bamboo gardens Michaelle took me to.

The stunning hidden bamboo gardens Michaelle took me to.

Mangoes and papayas fresh from the trees were in constant supply at the house.

Mangoes and papayas fresh from the trees were in constant supply at the house.

An accomplished musician, Michaelle treated us to an impromptu jazz performance after dinner one night.

An accomplished musician, Michaelle treated us to an impromptu jazz performance after dinner one night.

Hanalei Farmer's Market was easily one of the best I've ever experienced. Fruits and veggies you've never seen before and GMO free!

Hanalei Farmer’s Market was easily one of the best I’ve ever experienced. Fruits and veggies you’ve never seen before and GMO free!

The view from the backyard never got old.

The view from the backyard never got old.

Hanalei sunsets were spectacular every night.

Hanalei sunsets were spectacular every night.

Kauai Proper – living the life of a local Pro Surfer…well, almost

While I don’t like to pick favorites, there is no secret that I feel incredibly lucky to have Surf Pro Rochelle Ballard and her company: Surf Into Yoga (SIY) as one of my clients. Surf, nature, sweet gear, massage, amazing natural foods, Hawaii…what more could you need? From the moment she told me she was moving from Oahu’s North Shore to reestablish SIY Wellness Adventures from her native Kauai, my bags were pretty much packed while I waited for the green light.

That green light to come and check out the new digs in Kauai came in July when I anxiously boarded a plane to spend 16 days in Kauai working, brainstorming and ‘testing’ (wink, wink) all the experiences SIY Kauai Wellness had to offer.

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Napali Coast view from the North

Aside from the obvious perks of this arrangement, add in a refreshingly humble world-class athlete who generously offers tips on the Hawaiian approach to health, nutrition and local wave knowledge and you pretty much have the perfect Hawaiian experience. Couple that with the the fact that she is who she is, a surfing legend who truly helped pioneer the sport for women, and you can imagine that the experience of jaunting around her favorite local haunts, surf breaks, camping spots and excursions is that much better.

BETTER WITH A LOCAL LEGEND: CASE AND POINT, SURF LESSON WITH ROCHELLE
On the first day Rochelle took me out to surf the very break she learned on, I was shown so much Aloha from the locals paying their respect that you might have thought I was in Blue Crush and not her. Not one dirty look, not one negative word – it was all positive and powerful energy of encouragement as I paddled into waves twice the size of my comfort zone. I know Hawaiians are super friendly but, I’m not naive. I’m aware that much of this welcome reception had to do with who I was paddling out there with and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

Not only did I get countless smiles and thumbs up from perfect strangers who made me feel completely welcome as I struggled just to stay put in the line up on her Joel Tudor single fin (about 3 feet shorter than any board I’d ever actually stood up on) but they lovingly launched into a joint hoot of booming cheers and whistles when I finally caught my first ever short board ride allllll the way into shore (albeit on my belly-foot-knee-belly-butt). It was an unbelievable experience I will never forget. In between receiving tips from Rochelle on how to position myself, how to breathe, where to put my toes, how to open my stance, I sat in awe as she paddled outside to the larger sets and gracefully demonstrated why she is a champion of the sport.

The itty bitty Joel Tudor single fin I rode/tried to ride my first day out on a short board.

The itty bitty Joel Tudor single fin I rode/tried to ride my first day out on a short board.

Day two of surfing went a little smoother once I got back on the comfort of a long floaty board.

Day two of surfing went a little smoother once I got back on the comfort of a long floaty board.

What is so cool about what Rochelle is doing on Kauai is that she is aiming to share that priceless insiders-only experience with visitors right there on the very beaches that she grew up learning to surf at. The experience is about understanding what it really means to enjoy the Hawaiian lifestyle, to value nature and family and to live with a strong sense of community, health and service to others. Surf Into Yoga has now successfully relocated from Oahu to Kauai and has expanded into an outfit offering lessons, day packages and full multi-day wellness retreats to include anything and everything from Surf, SUP paddles up the Waimea River, Napali Coast Boat Excursions with Snorkeling to Private Yoga and Massage or Ayurvedic Wellness Consultation. Like any good researcher would do, I had to try all of these things myself before I could sign on and approve. The verdict: AMAZING.

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Rainbows abound daily on Kauai. This is, in fact, a double rainbow!!

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Breathtaking views of the Napali Coast cliffs from the boat during our excursion – this view is an actual Windows Screensaver, for obvious reasons. And yes, those are dolphins!

The experience one can have on Kauai surfing and exploring the far less touristy west coast is unparalleled and the waves, well, no complaints here. Yes, the North Shore of Kauai is spectacular and beautiful but the west is magical in its own special way and for so many reasons. Most notably, its proximity to some of the most amazing sights and adventures on the island of Kauai. Nestled right at the base of the Waimea Canyon and 30 minutes below the majestic hiking territory of Kokee State Park, the west coast also offers direct access to Napali Coast Boat Adventures where you can cruise the sights of the pristine northwest cliffs and beachfront inaccessible by road.

An experience on the west side guided by Surf Into Yoga allows you to explore the island as something more than just another tourist and to get a sense of what is truly the Hawaiian way of life sans the overcrowded and overpriced restaurants, souvenir shops and marked up coconuts you will find in the more resort-focused areas. The accommodation options, ranging from converted plantation style cottages to private beach bungalows, are nestled among beachfront communities where you are more likely to stumble on family potlucks than bars and very likely to be greeted as though you are a neighbor rather than a foreign mainlander.

During my stay, we surfed, camped and hiked up at Kokee, paddled at sunset up the Waimea River, boated up the Napali Coast, snorkeled, bodysurfed, practiced surf-specific yoga, did an outdoor massage, talked a bit of Blue Crush history, ate gobs of fresh lilikoi, avocado, mango and payapya right from the trees, sucked down buckets of Mate (a miracle green tea), ran, planted some trees, did some work in the garden, caught every sunset and almost every sunrise, did a little off roading, ate some killer fish tacos, had a campfire, experienced a run in with local bulls and pretty much wore our faces out smiling.

My experience was so epic that the final days of my trip consisted of me looking at potential rentals for a more permanent stay along this lesser traveled coast in what is arguably one of the most magical places I have ever visited.

I returned home nourished, tanned, toned and so excited to start sharing my experience with friends so they too could see what a special thing she has going there on Kauai’s west side with Surf Into Yoga.

Contact: Visit SurfIntoYoga.com for info or email info@surfintoyoga.com or call 808.343.0616 for custom package or booking options. Be sure to mention FOND for special rates and preferential treatment 😉

Mahalo to Rochelle for hosting me, to Aura and her other friends and family for amazing food and hospitality, to Nukumoi Surf Shop, Hanapepe Naturals, Brennecke’s Deli, Napali Coast Adventures, Michaelle of Manayoga.com.

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Sunset overlooking the valley on my final day on Kauai.

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Early morning view from my tent atop Kokee State Park where we spent the day hiking along rivers and waterfalls.

The original SIY sign finds a new home in Kauai.

The original SIY sign finds a new home in Kauai.

Overlooking Waimea Canyon on the way up to Kokee.

Overlooking Waimea Canyon on the way up to Kokee.

I think we saw dolphins everytime we were in or near the ocean - so beautiful.

I think we saw dolphins everytime we were in or near the ocean – so beautiful.

My makeshift massage table where I was treated to bodywork by Rochelle, a Licensed Massage Therapist for over 20 years.

My makeshift massage table where I was treated to bodywork by Rochelle, a Licensed Massage Therapist for over 20 years.

More stunning views from the Napali Coast Adventure.

More stunning views from the Napali Coast Adventure.

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Closing out the day with a perfect sunset moments before the 'bull incident'.

Closing out the day with a perfect sunset surf moments before the ‘bull incident’.

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Quick swim in the river after a nice hot hike in Kokee.

Quick swim in the river after a nice hot hike in Kokee.

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