Hawaii Waterman Hall of Fame Class of 2012

Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation inducts Brian Keaulana, Archie Kalepa, Ricky Grigg and Michael Tongg

There are those who demand respect, and then there are those who command it.

There’s a distinct difference between the two: One is forcefully requested, and the other is earned.

This year’s inductees into the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation’s Hawaii Waterman Hall of Fame all have earned their respect through their actions, accomplishments and giving spirit.

Brian Keaulana

Brian Keaulana is a man of great wisdom and great wit. When asked, “What is your greatest accomplishment?,” he chuckled and said, “I don’t know. Tomorrow hasn’t happened yet.”

Keaulana is the son of legendary waterman “Buffalo” Keaulana and a wonderful woman many simply call “Aunty Momi.”

“My greatest mentors will always be my parents. They instilled the value of family in me,” says Keaulana. “It was Mom and Dad who taught us to treat everyone like family – feed them, invite them into your home and love them like your own. My parents taught me this life lesson, and I hope I’ve done the same for my kids.”

Keaulana was literally raised at Makaha Beach, where his father was a lifeguard. Keaulana earned the respect of watermen across the world for his powerful surfing style, and later for his ocean safety expertise and lifesaving techniques. He continues to thrive in the ocean as a master of tandem, canoe surfing, big-wave riding and tow-in surfing. The former Hokule’a crewmember also is a professional stuntman and stunt coordinator.

“One of my biggest achievements is being a local lifeguard and saving thousands of people, and being able to teach that skill around the world,” says Keaulana. “Seeing the impact of the Jet Ski being used to save lives and knowing that I had my hand on that, that is something I’m really proud of.”


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Michael Tongg. Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo.

Archie Kalepa

The Hall of Fame honors Hawaii’s legendary men and women of the ocean who have helped establish Hawaii as the center of the watersports world. Maui’s Archie Kalepa is certainly one of the state’s greatest ocean sports pioneers.

“My mentors were my dad and my grandpa,” says Kalepa. “Both were ocean-men who taught me to always give 100 percent in everything I do. I found my comfort zone in the ocean. I’ve been fortunate to be able to help people all across the world.”

Kalepa is the head of Maui Ocean and Rescue Safety, who with the help of Keaulana and Todd Bradley has helped mod-ernize and innovate stand-up paddling. The trio also led the way in the design and testing of groundbreaking lifesaving rescue tools.

“I’m proud to be an ambassador of Hawaii, following in the footsteps of the great Duke

Kahanamoku,” says Kalepa. “My whole life I have tried to do the right thing, whether it’s saving a life, opening a door, carrying a bag or helping someone with a flat tire. I am proud of who I am. I am proud to be Hawaiian.”

Richard Grigg, Ph.D.

Ricky Grigg was one of the pioneers of big-wave riding in the 1950s and ’60s. Grigg was considered a superstar in the sport, winning the International Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Contest at Sunset Beach in 18-foot surf. At the time, the “Duke” was considered the world championship for big surf.

“We weren’t really professionals,” laughs Grigg. “I didn’t win any money. Now some surfers are making seven digits. I’m stoked for them!”

Grigg published several popular books on surfing, including Big Surf, Deep Dives and the Islands, Surf Science and Surfer in Hawaii. Today, Dr. Grigg, emeritus professor of oceanography at the University of Hawaii, is internationally known for his research on the ecology and paleoceanog-raphy of reef-building corals in Hawaii and the Pacific Ocean.

“If I had to pick one accomplishment that I’m most proud of, it has to be the discovery of Darwin Point,” says Grigg of his research on the history of the Hawaiian Archipelago and why islands drown at the northwestern end of the Hawaiian Islands. Grigg was recently awarded the National Academy of Underwater Arts and Science’s Lifetime Achievement Award for underwater research. The Waterman Hall of Fame selection is just as fulfilling.

“I am honored and touched by this honor,” says Grigg. “To be invited into a family that is uniquely Hawaiian, there are no words for that, there are just no words.”

Michael Tongg (1944-2007)

Michael Tongg’s life was his passion for the ocean and his compassion for people. Friends say it’s hard to believe one person could contribute so much in so many different ways.

“A lot of young people are better off today because he shared his knowledge,” says longtime friend and well-respected businessman Anthony Guerrero. “It’s not the house you live in or the dollars you have, it’s seeing people become successful because you shared your mana’o.”

And Tongg willingly shared his mana’o with those who wanted to learn. It started early in his life when his Waikiki Surf Club crew won the Molokai Hoe race in 1966, 1969 and 1973. For nearly 20 years he served as president of Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association, president of The Polynesian Voyaging Society, on the board of directors of the International Hawaiian Canoe Association, and race director for the Molokai Hoe. He also started and ran the Ala Wai Challenge Race for nearly 20 years.

The former Hokule’a crewmember did all of this while running a successful family law practice and a loving home. He and wife Jan fostered more than 50 children together. Tongg died in 2007 after a four-year battle with lung cancer. He was only 63. Tongg’s mantras sum it up best: “Take care of the land, take care of the ocean. take care of one another,” and when it comes to paddling, or anything else for that matter, “paddle from the heart.”

Michael Tongg did everything from the heart.