Astrophysicist, Photographer, Hula Dancer and Hawaiian Native
Sometimes you meet a person that seems like they’ve lived a few lives worth of experiences. One such human is Leomana Turalde, son of a hula dancing mother and master wood carving father. A young Native Hawaiian combat veteran, Leomana has completed multiple tours of duty as a U.S. Marine, visiting over two dozen countries along the way. Leomana is also a professional photographer and for a time, a cameraman on jumps for Skydive Hawaii.
Following his mother’s footsteps, he also dances hula and has a daughter that dances as well. An avid cultural practitioner of all things Hawaiiana, Leomana’s focus as of late has been up—toward the stars—as a student once again in the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Astrophysics program. Regardless of his upward gaze, staying pono and caring for the ‘āina (land) is a priority of his that remains unshaken. During a recent hike on O‘ahu’s Eastside, Leomana shared his thoughts and his aloha.
Photos by OluKai
Have you always been into hiking and exploring Hawai'i's natural places? No, my dad actually never hiked. My dad is in wheelchair, so he taught me how to dive, to swim, to fish, but not hiking or the mountains. All that I had to learn on my own. If I wanted to go surf a spot on the Big Island, I would four miles to get to it. I’d hike through the lava fields carrying a board, then kind of built up the skills. Then I joined the Marines and I walked across country, and so that built the skills up even more. Since I moved back to Hawai‘i after the Marines, I still get into nature almost every weekend with my friends.
What is one of your favorite things about windward O‘ahu hikes. This is pretty cool because you can see the fish pond right now. That was just this past year that they built it and before that you could see only like one wall going halfway out into the ocean. Now you can see basically the whole pond circle. They built up the rocks. They had a couple of family work days, and all the families from this area on the Eastside came down over here to help build this pond back up. I guess that’s the theme of the past three years—build up the ancient structures of the Native Hawaiians. That’s what’s pono.
When people come to hike this trail, what do you think the most important thing is to have in mind when enjoying this space? I would say, first, let it inspire you, because inspiration usually leads to action. If you can be inspired by the view and how beautiful this is, and you look around and are in awe by the nature, then you’ll be inspired to preserve it. You’ll recognize that we come to places like this to get away from the buildings and man-made things. So if you see litter, you’ll be inspired to remove it from this place and keep this place healthy.
That makes sense, living with that kind of respect for our natural world. Yeah, I always try and leave a place like this better than I found it just because I know people are going to visit it after me, and I want them to think highly of the people who have been here before them. Like, “Oh, that guy takes care of the area, he cleaned it out and made the trail for us to hike.” And hopefully that sentiment inspires people to do the same thing.