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Individuals of all economic strata are shedding their jobs, hometowns, and lifestyle to embrace a wider experience and a more meaningful existence.

Maluhia Kinimaka

Maluhia KinimakaMaluhia Kinimaka, born on October 2nd, 1996 in Anahola, Kaua'i, Hawai'i is a professional surfer and Engineering student at Stanford. She has known how to surf since before she could even walk. Somewhere in Maluhia's home on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, with a population of only 65 thousand, is a photo of her as a tiny little girl grinning from between her father's legs on his surfboard, riding one of her first waves.

Her father, Titus Kinimaka is a famous retired big wave surfer who owns a surf school that he took over from one of his brothers when he passed away.

Maluhia worked her way from small, local competitions, to state-wide contests, to nationals, and, seemingly out of the blue, stopped just before the internationally qualifying series. Everyone knew Maluhia loved surfing and many wondered why she would stop?

To understand Maluhia's story, you have to go backwards. The ocean is crucial not just for her father who grew up by the seaside alongside his eight brothers and eight sisters, but just about for the entire family.

"When you're raised with it as a means of being connected to family or friends it becomes a lifestyle. I believe my experiences in surfing have molded who I am today.

For one, I was able to travel to foreign places while competing. This taught me cultural variety and open-mindedness that results from exposure to the unknown.

In Hawaiian culture, family holds the highest value. Thus it has always been a central part of my life. My parents never did anything without my sister and I tagging along with them.

Maluhia KinimakaI believe that because of this, we have developed a closeness to the things our parents loved to do: surfing, swimming, being active. It came naturally to me because they loved it, and therefore I grew up loving it as well.

We surf first for happiness, and second for competition. I always believed that if you're doing something because it makes you happy, success will follow naturally.

But most importantly, surfing has helped me develop awareness for our planet and natural conservation.

When you are constantly immersed in nature, you want to preserve it as if it were part of your own body because it becomes a part of you.

Without surfing, I wouldn't have the unique perspective on life that I have today.

Maluhia's mom runs the surf school, and her sister is following in the footsteps that Maluhia left behind - surfing and modeling for Roxy, a surf company.

You'd never expect it by looking at her, but Maluhia was always the tomboy of the family. "I was very much a goober", she says. "My mom was very supportive of however I wanted to act or dress, so long as I was being a kind person."

Her sister, Mainei, is in many ways was the yin to Maluhia's yang. "She was the girly, feminine, creative one," Malu says. "I've never been easily endowed with writing or artistic abilities."

Maluhia KinimakaMaluhia and her sister are very close. What about her parents? "My mom keeps shit together, and my dad is the one who adds spice to life," says Maluhia.

As her surfing ability progressed, she began to pursue the sport competitively. Over the years, Maluhia enjoyed competitive success in the junior ranks. Like many aspiring junior surfers, Maluhia competed in regional events in Hawaii.

She distinguished herself by earning a spot on the Hawaiian Junior National Team and securing a sponsorship with Roxy. However, unlike most junior surfers, Maluhia excelled outside the water as well, in a place not usually associated with surfing: the classroom.

Alongside surfing and competing, Maluhia challenged herself with a difficult class load throughout her years of schooling. Her hard work paid off with an acceptance to Stanford University

But Maluhia's talents riding waves traces even further back than just the influences that a water-loving family had on her. In Hawaii, the surfing tradition has been passed on for generations and generations.

"For Hawaiian families, surfing has been in our culture for a long time," Maluhia says. "It's an outlet." Maluhia feels especially connected to surfing because of her indigenous roots.

"My mom is from Pacifica, and my dad is full native Hawaiian," she says. "I'm a half child: we call them Hapa." What's the relation with surfing? "It originated as a chiefly sport," Maluhia says. "High ranking peoples were surfers. Pre-western contact, the ocean was a holy thing from where natives got all of their sustenance."

Maluhia Kinimaka"To this day, the ocean figures heavily in traditional chants. Surfing is a way of tapping into this natural power," Maluhia says.

"When Hawaii was colonized by missionaries, they forbade traditional indigenous dress, languages, and traditions because these were deemed ungodly."

"Surfing was one of the only ways Hawaiian culture could be expressed," Maluhia says. "That was one place Hawaiians could still excel in the Western perspective. They weren't good at being leaders, or at being educated in the Western view. But they were really good at being water men."

One would think the situation has greatly evolved since then, but maybe not as much as we would hope.

In a way, surfing is a form of cultural affirmation against the colonized mind, and Maluhia sees herself as playing into this ancient lineage.

It's one way that I can perpetuate my culture and be somewhat respected, she says. "Especially as a woman. You don't see many girls surfing at a high level."

So, again the question is - why stop?

"Well, for one, patriarchal implications. "There is an aspect of surfing that's very sexualized,"Maluhia says. "It's all about ˜how many Instagram followers do you have? How many likes do you get? How can we market you?" That's a lot of pressure, being a woman.

"Ultimately it all came down to one thing: stress. Surfing used to be a place where I could meditate, think, straighten my life out," Maluhia says.

Maluhia Kinimaka"Competition sucked the joy out of it. I was getting burned out from the pressure of having to perform at such a high level."

"And this high level demanded an equally high time commitment: it wasn't just the time it takes to get to the beach, suit up, and hit the waves."

Maluhia describes surfing at her level as a full time commitment. It not only meant that, but also constantly having to push your body further, going over videos and other disciplines.

Some might see it as a loss, but Maluhia doesn't regret her decision. Even her father, who was always the biggest proponent of Maluhia's surfing, was behind it.

His thoughts on the subject were, "You can surf better than 95 percent of boys out there, so I'm satisfied."

Besides, coming from Hawaii, even Californian surf conditions are bound to be disappointing. And having to travel an hour to get good waves wasn't the only difficult change Maluhia had to learn to adapt to.

"When I came here, I was very overwhelmed. Kauai is so small. If you do something shitty to someone, you are gonna see that person tomorrow or the next day."

"It gets annoying: you do one thing and the next day your parents are like, 'I heard you did this and this'? "

"But you learn to respect people, treat them like you want to be treated. Here, you do something shitty and never have to see that person again. At Stanford, you are afforded more privacy, but you're also lonelier."

Maluhia Kinimaka"In middle and high school I enrolled in as many honors and AP classes as I could simply because they had good instructors and I found the coursework interesting. I never chose my classes with the intent to pursue an education at Stanford. I chose them because I liked learning."

"I always had a passion for learning, but I decisively decided to pursue a higher education around the middle of 11th grade. To be perfectly honest, I was highly doubtful I would be admitted, but a nagging intuition made me apply anyway."

"I don't believe a lot of students from Kauai apply to Stanford because it seems out of reach. I have never been one to put limits on myself before attempting a challenge so that may explain why I applied, as well."

"I plan to study engineering because my favorite subjects thus far have been higher-level math and physics. I want to become an aerospace engineer because I have always been fascinated with rockets, aircraft, and more recently, drones."

"I am aware that this will be a demanding major but I have faith that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to."

Maluhia is excited to see what Stanford can do to her, but she does eventually want to go back to Hawaii and try to slowly mend the old scars of colonization - it is all a process, and being at Stanford is a key step.

"Coming here, you could take Hawaiian language classes," Maluhia says. "I can understand and read it pretty well, and finally learned to write and respond."

Maluhia knows that learning more about her culture is especially important if she wants to find ways to fix its problems, and she is still trying to decide how she fits into all of that. "As an engineering major, it is hard to see how I can be of direct benefit," she says.

Maluhia Kinimaka"I could invent a new type of energy that would make profits, but that doesn't necessarily solve anything. I want to co-term and finish my pre-med requirements, maybe become a doctor to help people directly."

Another promising avenue is politics. Maluhia doesn't see herself as much of a speaker, but she believes that Stanford could give her the necessary tools to educate political groups.

One of the biggest problems Maluhia sees today is that that Hawaiian natives are not granted the benefits afforded to American or Alaskan natives.

"In the 70's and early 80's, Hawaiians were demanding to be recognized as natives," Maluhia explains. "To this day, no federal recognition has been granted, and Native Hawaiians are not being allotted the same benefits available to federally recognized Indian tribes."

Maluhia and other Native students feel that subliminal oppression still persists, even at a place like Stanford.

"Fraternitys have things like Luaus," she says, refering to Kappa Sig's recently 'Hawaiian themed' party. "I actively boycott it. It's a cultural thing, and they know it is."

"But, they blatantly choose not to care. Anything the native community has tried to send them, they are just like, 'Oh, whatever'. People don't know how much my people have suffered."

Overall, it seems that Maluhia has moved on to addressing bigger waves than just the ones she rides in the sea. "I feel like I was guided here by something out of my control," she says. "And I am super thankful for it every day."

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The Mauna Kea summit is ceded land - that is, part of the roughly 1.8 million acres seized from the Hawaiian Kingdom government and Queen Lili'uokalani by a cabal of sugar businessmen and missionary descendants with US military backing - an undertaking that President Grover Cleveland called "an act of war."

The cabal gave the stolen property to the US, and the US in 1959 transferred 1.4 million acres of the property to the State of Hawai'i for purposes such as "the betterment of the conditions of native Hawaiians," as stipulated in Section 5(f) of the Admission Act. As such, Hawaiians have more than a spiritual connection to the Mauna Kea summit. They have historical, political, and economic claims to these lands as well.


This campaign will help to maintain the active presence at Pu'uhonua o Pu'uhuluhulu and the Ala Hulu Kupuna where education, the continuance of cultural and spiritual practice, and on-going 'kaina advocacy in protection of Maunakea happens daily.


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