The lyrics of the late Israel Kamakawiwo’ole paint the perfect landscape of the Waianae coast, one of the most sublime sights Hawaii has to offer.
But with 18 percent of the population below the poverty line and an ongoing homelessness problem, the west-siders are getting help from the Seariders to create a culture change.
“I just grew up at a young age. I saw a lot of people go down a road I didn’t want to go down. I saw families get torn apart, I saw drugs, and I just always told myself I don’t want to be that guy,” said UFC featherweight and Waianae graduate Max Holloway.
“We all know where we come from and we all kind of come back to that place. It’s what made me as a person and I take a lot of pride in that,” said Oregon defensive end and Waianae native DeForest Buckner.
The commonality of Waianae’s up-and-coming stars was that no matter how much tough love their hometown showed them, they never turned their back on what, and who, raised them.
“When I grew up, it taught me all the life lessons that I needed to be successful in life. Yeah, sometimes it’s rough. You gotta do what you gotta do,” said Seariders head coach Walter Young.
Now Young is guiding his football team to learn what they’re capable of.
With community service projects, cleaning up local beach parks, and reading to elementary students, the Seariders are joining their role models in taking care of their home.
“It feels good doing work for the community, knowing that there’s a lot of people out there that support us,” said Waianae defensive lineman Joey Nuuanu-Kuhiiki.
“It’s a good opportunity, being able to be a role model, a positive role model, for the next generation,” said Waianae offensive lineman John Kapua IV.
The students become the teachers, like an innate responsibility. From the humble beginnings of Leihoku Elementary to the college ranks, the key to Waianae’s growth:
Always remember where they’re from to guide them forward.
“Just the word, just the name Waianae, it means a lot. Whenever I hear it, it’s right here because you have it in here,” said Waianae running back Royce Carrick. “You wouldn’t know it until you actually really embrace where you’re from.”
Now, for Coach Young, it’s keeping the progress without the guidance, for the kids to retain the habits when it’s time for them to leave the confines of Raymond Torii field.
“That’s what we’re gearing it to. We get these kids into college and they can come back and give back,” Young said. “That’s what we’re going to ask, better people in society.”