Spooner Spotlight: Nā Kama Kai

Posted on February 23, 2024

Spooner Spotlight: Nā Kama Kai
We're proud to partner with Nā Kama Kai on our latest print, South Pacific Voyagers, to support their incredible ocean-based programs that promote safety, conservation awareness, and Hawaiian values among the youth in the community.

Growing up on the west side of Oʻahu, Duane DeSoto was fortunate to be mentored by ocean legends like Buffalo Keaulana and Aunty Rell Sunn at Mākaha Beah. These mentors were pivotal in teaching life lessons in and out of the water that paved the way for his success as an adult.

While traveling the world as a professional surfer on the ASP Longboard Tour, Duane saw that many children lacked the access to ocean mentorship that shaped his childhood and provided him with important skills and experiences to find success in life.

To solve this issue, Duane founded Nā Kama Kai (NKK) in 2008 with the goal of building a program for all youth in Hawaiʻi to engage in ocean athletics. NKK’s mission is to empower keiki (children) by introducing them to the land and the sea to nurture a deeper sense of Aloha (love) and kuleana (personal responsibility) to the natural environment and themselves.

This relationship and a hands-on nurturing environment are NKK’s guiding principles for introducing youth to ocean sports such as canoe paddling and standup paddling. 

NKK offers ocean clinics, after-school services, and the Alaka’i mentorship program - a four-year learning experience covering navigational boating skills, surfing, canoe paddling, canoe sailing, and conservation leadership.

Nā Kama Kai operates its headquarters, Hālau Nā Kama Kai, at Pōkaʻī Bay in Waiʻanae. This location serves as a Puʻuhonua, or place of refuge, for keiki on the west side of Oʻahu. This is a safe, consistent gathering space for youth that is completely free of charge. Keiki from 7-17 come to Hālau Nā Kama Kai every day after school and during school breaks where they receive a free daily meal from Restaurant 604, tutoring, and mentorship in water athletics.

NKK also works with the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Education immersing teachers in ocean safety and stewardship. They use this course to implement lesson plans in their elementary school classrooms. Currently, this provides access to important ocean safety and stewardship curriculum to 120 classrooms across the State of Hawaiʻi.

In 2023, NKK served more than 4,000 keiki across the State of Hawaiʻi and that number is only limited by their ability to fundraise and engage others in the community on the importance of cultivating the next generation of ocean stewards in Hawaiʻi.