Indigenous Terrain
When I enter the ocean, my indigenous identity emerges. I become a his-
torical being riding waves, running as a liquid mass, pulled up from the deep
and thrown forward with a deafening roar. I disappear with fish and strands
of seaweed as I course through veins of ocean currents. John Muir spoke of
how he went out for a walk and stayed until sundown. “For going out,” he
said, “I found, I’m really going in.” When I enter the sea, I enter a process of
reimagination as the power of the ocean continually reshapes me alongside
the coastal shores of my home.
Hitting that first whitewall of water, I become a Kanaka Maoli (Native
Hawaiian) surfer. I ride waves; read the wind, swell directions, and tides;
know the reefs and the seasonal sand migrations; and find myself most com-
fortable floating atop a board with my na‘au (gut), mind, and heart facing
the sea. In ma ke kai (in the sea), my physical involvement with, and thus my
physical capabilities in, the world evolve. I become more agile in the water
than on land: I can soar, glide, dive, and spin. I’m faster in the ocean, and can
better navigate coral heads than roads. Sounds, smells, and tastes expand to
include those not found on terra firma. I become aware of my pelagic origin
as I soak in the same salty waters as Kanaka Maoli centuries before me.
It isn’t until I enter ke kai for he‘e nalu (surfing) that I am able to recon-
nect with my Kanaka heritage. On his deathbed in 1972, my mother’s father
revealed his Kanaka blood to her with tears in his eyes. His family tried
to cover up that his grandmother was a Hawaiian woman because at that
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