Robert took to the water the way a boy growing up on Kaua’i inevitably takes to the water—he was led there. Days were spent on the beach, surrounded by aunties, uncles and cousins. Some were relatives, others were family in the way of Kaua’i—part of the tight-knit community, looking out for each other as if they were blood kin. Over time, they taught Robert everything he knows about the ocean.
“I’m not going to say I’m a natural surfer,” he says. “But experience teaches you a lot. You bump into the reef, get some scratches. When you get washed up, the people with experience will see that. See you with the scraped-up knee. The community, they’ll point it out to you. ‘Eh, boy. Wait for the sets,’ they’ll tell you. Whatever it is you need to know. Giving you pointers.”
Absorbing hundreds of those pointers, hundreds of lessons—both on the water and related to the land—Robert learned the lore and wisdom of Kaua’i. And when he came to Kukui’ula more than a dozen years ago (“Actually, Kukui’ula found me,” he laughs), he helped create the original Island Pursuits program that is now known as Huaka’i Outfitters. He based the outdoor adventure program loosely on his own experiences.
“We want people to enjoy Kaua’i the way we do,” he explains. “There’s a specific way things are done on Kaua’i that isn’t exactly like anywhere else.” Like how to paddle an outrigger canoe along the shoreline. Or how to use weather and water conditions to gauge which beach will be best for snorkeling or fishing at any given moment of any given day. Robert can teach those things.
But most of all, Robert helps guests learn to relax. “We can go to the beach, the first day, and dad is on his email,” he says. “By the end of the trip, he’s done with that. Being here, people realize that in their regular lives, it’s so fast paced, they miss being able to concentrate on their kids.”
So perhaps in the end, the best pointer Robert can give anyone—the lesson that contains the essence of Kaua’i—is how to be present, in the moment, and available. How to open up and embrace the experiences, memories and life Kaua’i is offering.
“I don’t have an office per se,” he says, lounging outside the Clubhouse, relaxing in between trips taking guests on adventures around the island. “I get to come back to all this.”