The Doc Is A Paddling Photog, Too

Dr. Peter Caldwel

Dr. Peter Caldwell. Ron Mizutani photo

For 31 years, Dr. Peter Caldwell cared for Hawaii’s keiki working as a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente. So it’s no wonder Caldwell continues to serve island families.

But these days his office is at the beach.

Fifteen years ago, Caldwell joined Anuenue Canoe Club and fell in love with the sport of canoe paddling. While he enjoyed the excitement that summer regattas offered, he found there was a ton of “down time” as he waited for his event. Instead of sitting idle, Caldwell put down his canoe paddle and grabbed his camera.

“I’ve always enjoyed photography, so one day I decided to bring my camera to Keehi Lagoon and take pictures of paddlers to share with people,” he laughs. “That’s how I got started and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

That was 10 years ago. Since then, Caldwell and his camera have been fixtures at canoe races. The 72-year-old ball of energy is often right up on the action. His fine work has helped him develop many relationships over the years. Depending on race venues and conditions, Caldwell is sometimes invited to take photographs from the escort boat of race officials.

“Being on the boat gives me a different perspective,” he says. “It’s like I’m right there in the race.”

When that’s not an option, you’ll find him on the shoreline where the energy and emotion are brewing. He says he easily takes about 150-200 pictures during an event.

“There are so many things to capture at a regatta, there is so much going on,” says Caldwell. “There is so much color and so much energy to catch on camera. I love it.”

He loves it and paddlers love his work. Caldwell has his own website,, where he shares his photographs with anyone who wants to see them. Several years ago, people started offering him money for his photos. Caldwell chuckles at the thought of his second career.

“No way am I going to make a living off my pictures,” he laughs. “If someone wants to order prints, they can do so at an affordable price. It’s like going to Costco, only more convenient. I started doing this because many parents were asking if they could buy prints. I do it for the love and I’m still learning.”

Caldwell’s work has been featured in two books, with a third due out in time for the holidays. He also has a blog,, where he shares his stories and photos. Of course, when it’s time to race, it’s time to race, and he gladly puts away his camera and proudly reaches for his paddle.

“There’s nothing like racing,” he says with pure excitement. “We have several 70-plus-year-olds in the canoe including Uncle Nappy (Napoleon) and Gaylord Wilcox. We’re like the super kupuna. Sounds better than Golden Masters.”

Caldwell says he and others in his crew feel like they have a new lease on life when it comes to events. He points out that the World Sprints now has a division for paddlers in their 70s.

“We have two crews going to the World Sprints in Calgary Aug. 11 to 16,” says Caldwell. “This is our big chance! We’re still going strong. It’s a real high to be out there!”

Caldwell considers himself semi-retired, although he still does volunteer clinic work and finds time to interview students applying for admissions to John A. Burns School of Medicine. His secret to longevity is balance.

“We all need to take time out to recharge out bodies,” says Caldwell. “Get some time off and get fired up for what you need to do. Sometimes it’s hard to do that, but we have to make time for ourselves.”

Despite his busy schedule, he still has the energy to capture time for many of us.