Being out on the open ocean with no land in sight and having limited resources, can be a scary experience for most. But for an up and coming navigator, the scary part is learning how to become a leader in this kind of environment.
“It was a little uncomfortable for me when Robert or Nainoa would say, ʻWhat do you think? Tell me your ideas, like what do you think about this? For so long I would just be so timid and shy, saying what do I have to contribute, why should anyone listen to your voice? Slowly, I’m realizing that people do want to hear what young people have to say because we will inherent the earth when they are gone,ʻ” said Jenna Ishii, an apprentice navigator on Hōkūleʻa.
“I’m invested, I’m committed to- to young people today because that is going to define what tomorrow is going to look like,” said master navigator Nainoa Thompson.
Nainoa speaks from firsthand experience about the importance of having strong mentors.
“I’m like the luckiest person on planet earth that has, had, the Herb Kānes and the Mau Pialug and the Eddie Aikaus and the greatest navigator that I know in my life, my father. So I take what I have, and I take the gifts of navigation, and I create the opportunity for someone to take it, take it from me,” said Nainoa.
His ʻike, or knowledge, is now in Jenna’s hands and in the hands of many others who fall under his teachings. Together they continue to prepare for the day they open their sails into a new direction- a journey around the world.
“If someone is going to invest in me all this knowledge, of the physical act of navigation, what comes with it are the values of leading your community, of being that kind person and so that’s all I can take with me is that, yes, we’re learning how to navigate, but it’s far bigger than a trip to Tahiti, it’s now we’re going to have relationships with people wherever we go, and we’re going to be looked at to take leadership roles. We’ll learn, and we’ll change course, but that’s not my biggest fear, but just anxiety. That we have this much time, to do a thousand things, and how do you prioritize and what goes to the top?,” said Jenna.
“That piece about the navigation to me, it teaches perseverance. It teaches young people to be willing to take risks to train and prepare, to find their destination. It helps understand the power of vision, and it makes people work together. It teaches leadership,” said Nainoa.
“Our leadership is so focused on who will lead this canoe, who will lead Hawaiʻi in the next 50, 100 years? I just want to make sure we do it right. We have one chance, and it’s not like we can just practice in the Pacific and it’ll get better the next year and the next year,” said Jenna.
But what the Pacific can and will provide is one of the most important lessons any navigator could learn.
“That allows our young people to be deeply grounded in this land and in this ocean, in who they are, linked to their ancestry and proud of it. Comfortable with it and moving with it, and yet still have the kind of education that can take them anywhere in the world,” said Nainoa.