Chasing Energy With Hopena Pokipala

Hopena Pokipala is a canoe paddler and all-around waterman from Kailua, O‘ahu. He started paddling for Kailua Canoe Club when he was eight years old and has been chasing that passion ever since. When Hopena’s not on the water, you can find him running his catering service, Oysters Hawai‘i. He recently joined us on a trip to Tahiti, where he connected with his Polynesian neighbors and unlocked a new level of energy.


As a paddler and waterman, how do you channel your energy into your passions?


My life revolves around my passion for ocean activities. I train everyday to remain physically and mentally sharp so that I can perform to the best of my abilities in the water. In addition to the side training, I try to get in the ocean as much as possible throughout the week. It may be waking up before dawn to sneak in a surf before work, or a quick paddle on an hour lunch break. If I have the day off, I’ll be on the water from sun up to sun down. The energy I put towards the ocean, pales in comparison to the energy I receive from it.


How do you work with or draw on the energy and currents of the ocean when paddling?

When I think of paddling, the first thing that comes to mind is an overwhelming feeling of solace and respect. There’s something about being surrounded by the ocean, away from the shore, that makes you appreciate everything you have on land. The energy received from the ocean is a form of meditation, as well as just good old fashioned fun.




The paddle itself is a source of energy. How do you think the craftsmanship behind the paddle impacts your experience?


There’s so much time and effort that goes into building paddles. Countless hours of measuring, cutting, sanding, and varnishing are required for each paddle. Not to mention the years of trial and error that went into the finalized designs of the blades and shafts themselves. As the Tahitian paddle/vaʻa builder Michel stated, he does it out of love. Every time you go for a paddle, it’s because a passionate and skilled craftsman dedicated their time and energy to providing you with a functional and beautiful piece of equipment. I definitely am appreciative for craftsmen like Michel, and my friend, Hawaiian paddle maker Mikey Dowsett. Craftsmen like them make it possible for us to all enjoy the sport of canoe paddling.


How do the energy of the ocean and the island lifestyle inspire you?


The “ʻōlelo noʻeau, “he waʻa he moku, he moku he waʻa,” comes to mind when I think of island life. It translates to, “the canoe is an island, and the island is a canoe.” The lessons learned on the water can be scaled up and applied on land. For instance, if you’re unable to maintain personal relations with each other in the canoe, you’re not going to get anywhere. Problems are sure to arise, so positive and efficient means of communication are necessary for the canoe to move forward. Island life can be viewed as life on a canoe. With limited space and resources, communication, common goals, and unity are required for prosperity. This inspires me to be the best crew member/community member I can be.



In your daily life, what keeps you inspired and invigorated?


My friends and family keep me invigorated on a daily basis. I think being surrounded by a good support team is crucial. I look forward to surfing with my girlfriend, Allie, throughout the week. Or there are times when I’m feeling too lazy to work out, and my friends will push me to snap of it. Having a team gives you a reason to get out and get after it.


What kind of spontaneity comes with living an island lifestyle?


I think spontaneity and island life are synonymous. This is especially true as a waterman and dealing with the ever changing ocean. I’ll spend all year waiting for the right combination of swell, wind, and tide to come along. When that window of time presents itself, and if I’m able to, I’ll drop whatever I’m doing in a heartbeat to get after it. I think having an impromptu mindset is a hallmark of island life. You can only plan so much, at the end of the day you have to play with the cards life deals you.


Are you finding any similarities between the energy of life in Tahiti and Hawai‘i?


From the hilltops of Tahiti, to the bays of Hawaii, the geographical similarities of the two places are uncanny. As a Hawaiian whose ancestors sailed from Tahiti, I definitely felt a connection to the ʻāina down there. As far as the way of life goes, I think O‘ahu in particular is more fast paced and city-esque. At the end of the day, I think the same values of ʻohana, aloha, and an affinity towards the ocean are shared. It was awesome getting to learn about Tahitian culture and seeing the resemblance, as a Hawaiian. This will be the first of many more trips to my cousins down south.



Shop The Story

Explore Similar Stories