In the moments after the Sea-Space Summit at Google ended in 2012, and some fantastic work had initiated, Charlotte Vick, who heads up the Sylvia Earle Alliance (and so much more) approached me and posed a very direct question.
“David, what exactly is it that you do?” Ever meet one of those people, who as soon as you connect, the recognition that you are of the same tribe becomes apparent in an innate manner? That was how Charlotte struck me. What she really wanted to know however, is who I was.
Hers was a very direct question. In fact, I doubt that you could find out the real answer if you Google that, and me. (funny video eh?)
Google will not tell you everything, btw. You still must know a person. Knowing is a spirit soul and body process, and will never be digital. Knowing is important.
In the past few years I have found myself immersed in project after project where incredibly gifted, educated people come to the table, and on their own dime, explore large issues concerning the Earth and Humanity. They come for various reasons. Some of these people come due to a self interested, job related reason, some are steeped in crystal clear altruism, others just want to help: anyone. They have high skill levels, each one.
I seem to be getting asked back or otherwise am invited to join the conversation in yet another think tank type event, as soon as the work is completed from the prior one. People want to hear, what I have to say. So I go, listen a lot, and contribute a bit.
Today I am just home from a meeting of what would appear to be far lesser consequence. It was an Advisory Council Meeting for the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, where Dr Andrea Neal, Blue Wolf, a Chumash Indian, proponent and advocate of Chumash Culture, and myself, went to observe, as a part of a commitment to be stewards over our local waters.
In the course of the meeting, two young ladies, high school students, got up and gave a rather lengthy presentation on Marine Protected Areas. A subject which has been in front of me in several elite Science and Engineering based groups these past few years. The information communicated was basically a regurgitation of all that these children had been taught about MPA’s and the Ocean.
When they had finished, and the busy and time pressed chair of the Council asked if we had questions for the girls, I asked a few. Here they are.
- In a year, what sort of things do you do in the Ocean?
- What is your first memory of the Ocean?
- How does the Ocean make you feel?
These very self motivated and well meaning young ladies, who could be doing anything that would be more fun than hanging out with the likes of us, communicated something telling. It was not based on info regarding the MPAs. It was that they did not know the Ocean personally, or intimately. They only knew what they were led to believe, about the Sea. Big difference between those two things: Believing and Knowing.
At their age, I would not have been caught dead in a meeting with the likes of us this day, talking about Marine Protected Areas. I was out in the Ocean engaging as a native, the very waters they were talking about. They simply did not have the same upbringing, opportunity and choices I had been given. (I wish that they did.)
So their talk saddened me a bit. It said a lot about what this culture programs into children, and how we inadvertently indoctrinate them, and in process, separate them from Nature, thereby making them proselytes rather than active members of a vital ecosystem.
This is a great tragedy.
However, the idea of the Ocean inspired the girls, and gave them a sense of scale, and of their significance in the grand scheme of things. Sadly though, they really could not nail down a specific memory of their first introduction to the Sea. That last part said a lot. It is what motivated me to write this piece- accounting.
So, this is who I am.
My name is David Franklin Pu’u. I am the son of David Wahinealoha Puu, a Native Hawaiian waterman, who served this country in the Military, Defense and Aerospace industries, who was the son of Kalani Pu’u, a Hawaiian singer and entertainer. I am Kanaka Maoli, by virtue of my genetics, and relationship with the Sea. (That video reminds me of my Grandfather, especially the voice)
The family history sort of meanders a bit at times, but most accounts trace it back to the Big Isle, where my ancestor, Chief Kalani O Puu, who appears to have been the Uncle of future king, Kamehameha, played a pivotal role in the slaying of Captain James Cooke, at Kealakekua Bay.
When my Father got out of Engineering school at Marquette University in Milwaukee (where I was birthed) the family pediatrician explained that due to genetics, my two brothers and I would likely never be healthy unless we were raised in a warmer climate. So my parents moved to California
I am 53 ocean years old. I was born to the Sea, on a warm Southern California afternoon when I was four. On that day, the water had become my home.
Imagine that, 53 years in the water.
I remember the moment I met the Ocean with crystal clarity. As I stood on the sand and watched a surfer glide to shore, I knew with no doubt that this was where my life would be spent.
And at the chronological age of 57, I am here to tell you, that my life has been and still is, wedded to the water. The Sea has taught me much. But more than that, she makes me happy, and gives me peace, and a sense of well being.
For 50 years I have engaged on a daily basis, my home waters, which range from the Malibu Coast up to Point Conception, and out to the Channel Islands, much as any Hawaiian would.
My colleague and friend, Hawaiian Historian Tom Pohaku Stone, once told me something that resonated. It did not create any bright flash of enlightenment for me. But it will help you understand who and what I am. This is what he said.
“The Sea is our home. The land is where we go to rest”
That is a key element if you really need to know what I am about or anyone is, who possesses an Ocean heritage, for that matter.
I have swum, paddled, sailed, surfed, dove, fished and worked a plethora of jobs and careers in, on, around and about the Ocean. I have traveled and experienced many seas, as was the way of my ancestors, who were explorers, and have learned a lot about Island people and the various globally scattered water tribes.
To this day I spend every possible moment in the water, and as a Film Maker and Photographer see it as routine, the 240-300 days a year I get to be engaging the Ocean globally. It is my home.
I have swum with all manner of marine life, and am currently on swim-encounter number 38 with Great White sharks. I began to keep track of them much as a WW2 flying ace would of his victories, about 18 years ago.
I swim with Dolphins and Seals a lot. Sometimes with enough frequency, that they get to know me, and we create a tenuous, yet wonderful, human-wild creature relationship.
I once spent 10 days in the Maldives, without touching land, swimming morning to dusk with a mermaid, content to rise each morning and meander with light, and current, in a life attached only to fluid passivity, and my mermaid subject’s wonderful, illusionary embrace.
Water is life to our planet, but I know beyond any doubt that the Ocean has been the source of education, development and sustenance, spirit soul and body for me. God Himself touches me when I am in the Sea and through it I feel His pleasure, and have learned His ways.
The legendary Hawaiian waterman and cultural emissary from Hawaii , Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, was quoted as once saying: “Outside of the Ocean, I am nothing”.
I admire the man’s life and leadership style of aqueous precept and example.
He was a pinnacle of human endeavor and life in the Sea. It is what Hawaii is all about.
But I disagree with Duke in a manner of speaking.
Outside of the Ocean I am something greater that I could otherwise ever be, were it not for my 53 years in the Sea. Because when I disengage from my daily environment, I can share with those who will never ever be able to experience what I have. You see, the people who need to know the Ocean, are those not IN the Ocean.
When I stand up in a meeting, before those who may not really know the Ocean intimately, there really is no doubt in me about who or what I am, or what to say.
I am a Blue Voice.
The Wisdom of that voice can help create the brotherhood, and change which Humanity needs.
We all need to aspire to become a great, educated, connected, Blue Voice. For ourselves first, but for our children and future generation’s health, happiness and well being, after that.
Think Blue, become Blue, speak Blue and be the change.
We ought to not only learn of Nature. (That does not help so much) We must become a part of it, and the human segment of the solution to the equations addressing our Blue Marble’s evolutionary progress.
This link is to an Ocean brother’s TedX talk at San Diego recently. His work is far more significant than many may guess. Dr Wallace J Nichols, a Blue Voice.
If, as you get to the end of this, you are more interested, or just want to otherwise question who and what I am, here is a small cross section of my stills work, cut together to the Blue Voice of Hawaiian, Justin Young. “Walking On Our Waters”
If it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, this piece is a novel, albeit a hastily thrown together one. We got to see Justin perform last week here in Santa Barbara with Anuhea. The thought of it still makes me smile. Happiness comes from the Sea and Islanders love to share that.