Maui Tauotaha ’97

Anchored Through Family

Hōkūle‘a’s Storytellers

Over the last 40 years since her first voyage, Hōkūle‘a’s story has been told by many voices through verse, song, dance and imagery, each story taking on a life of its own through the eyes of the person who experienced it.

The alumni featured here have found their own unique ways to continue sharing Hōkūle‘a’s story: from behind a lens, in Google Hangouts across oceans or simply by sharing tales of the sea.

Read additional stories in this feature by Monte Costa ’74 and Michael “Buddy” McGuire ’58.

By Rachel Breitweser ’03

“We made an unscheduled stop in Florida,” said Maui Tauotaha ’97, describing one of many stories from journeying with Hōkūle‘a. “Some of the locals there were watching the Google tracker, and before we even finished tying up to the dock, a man pulled up to us in a boat asking if we needed a place to stay for the night.” The man lent the crew his car, fed them, organized an impromptu pa‘ina and even housed half of them the few nights they were there.

It’s moments like these, the connection and community experienced that night, which are highlights of Tauotaha’s time on Hōkūle‘a. After sailing over 7,000 miles thus far, he affirms: “We experience aloha everywhere we go.”

Tauotaha got his start working aboard the canoe with ‘Oiwi TV, where he is now the senior editor. However, it was more than the job that led him to the canoe. “Fate brought me to the voyage,” Tauotaha admitted.

If it weren’t for the Hōkūle‘a, he might not have been born. His mother, from Virginia, met his Tahitian father through canoe paddling after venturing to Tahiti where Hōkūle‘a had landed just a few years prior. Tauotaha thanks his mom, who stressed the value of education, for giving him the opportunity to attend Punahou.

“The start of my education for my current career came from Punahou ITV under the guidance of Mr. Mike Dahlquist,” Tauotaha shared. “I’ve had many amazing teachers but Mr. D was my first mentor, and I will always be most grateful to him. He gave me my first opportunities to shoot, edit and tell stories. Those experiences planted the seed for the work I have been doing for the past 20 years and will continue to do for the rest of my life.”

After graduating from Punahou, Tauotaha attended Loyola Marymount University before returning to Hawai‘i and taking a job at KGMB as a news photographer and editor. From there, Tauotaha moved to Los Angeles and lived there for seven years, working under experienced editors and producers for major TV networks.

Longing to return to Hawai‘i, in 2010, Tauotaha took a leap of faith and did so without having a job lined up. “A few months after moving back home, I got a call that there was an opening at ‘Oiwi TV, a part-time position as an intern,” he said.

In July of 2010, Tauotaha went on his first Hōkūle‘a sail, a six-day training sail for the Worldwide Voyage, as a videographer for ‘Oiwi TV. “Being out in the ocean, out of sight of land, is a very special feeling,” he explained. “I was anxious and nervous about how I might handle it, but when I finally got out there, it felt good, peaceful, appropriate.”

On the canoe, Maui documents the crew and the vessel’s movements through video and photos, and sends material back to the ‘Oiwi TV main office in Makiki to be shared with the community. He also chronicles the triumph of Hawaiian culture that is the voyage. “This story is special to many,” he said. He barely sleeps when he’s at sea because he doesn’t want to miss a thing. “It’s a great honor and a great kuleana; every moment with Hōkūle‘a is sacred.”

Aboard the canoe, Tauotaha is not only keen to capture up-to-the-moment happenings, he also uses the time to reflect on his past and connect with his grandfather, Puaniho, who was a master canoe builder and champion paddler from Tahiti. During Hōkūle‘a’s maiden voyage, the crew stayed at his grandfather’s home in Tautira. He later became a crew member, and his name is inscribed on the “Na ‘Aumakua” plaque in the aft of Hōkūle‘a’s port hull.

“He was around in 1976 when the first crew arrived in Tahiti, and I love hearing stories about him from some of the older crew members who knew him,” said Tauotaha.

On land, Tauotaha is still steeped in the mission of the Voyage. He often visits classrooms to share about the canoe. “At the end of the day, the Worldwide Voyage is about education, most importantly preparing the younger generations to take care of each other and this Earth,” he said.

Last school year, Tauotaha met with second-graders at Punahou via Google Hangouts during a leg of the voyage, and later in person. He also gave an Academy Oceanography class a tour of Hōkūle‘a’s sister canoe, Hikianalia. And, with the desire to give back to Punahou’s ITV, now the Punahou Video Production Department, Tauotaha plans to visit students to share his expertise.

To the delight of younger students, Tauotaha travels on Hōkūle‘a with two stuffed animals: Hokupa‘a and ‘Imiloa. They are honorary crew members that represent the children of Lunalilo Elementary School and Kulaniakea, an educational nonprofit Tauotaha started with fiancée Kaulalani Robins. “The kids love the idea that they have a representative on board. Whenever I come home from a leg, I visit the school and bring along the stuffed animals. It is a wonderful way for the kids to connect to the Voyage.”

Though the Worldwide Voyage will conclude in 2017, there is no end in sight for Tauotaha’s journey as he plans to keep the canoe connection alive into the future. “One thing I see for my future is learning to build canoes with my dad,” he said. “It is the family legacy and my duty and privilege to learn, in order to be able to pass on to my children. Canoes are in my blood and always will be.”