The one thing that grounded me was that my father was there. He was my rock, and I knew that no matter what happened, I was safe because I was with him.
“ʻO wau ʻo Kalā Baybayan, no Lahaina mai au. My connection to the canoe and to voyaging began from even before I was born. My father has been sailing from before when I was born. He fell in love with the canoe and so, from then as a little boy in high school, he kept following the canoe. For me, I always grew up around the canoe. I never sailed on it. I always saw this canoe as something that I knew that he felt a strong connection to, but as a child growing up, I really didn’t understand it. I graduated high school then college, and was having conversation with my grandma and I was just telling her, ‘What is it about the canoe that dad loves so much? I really want to know.’ She’s like, ‘Well, you should go sail with him.’
“I remember just getting on the canoe and I wondered am I gonna get seasick? Or, how am I gonna use the bathroom? All of these kind of anxious feelings. But the one thing that grounded me was that my father was there. He was my rock, and I knew that no matter what happened, I was safe because I was with him,” said Kalā.
“In the early morning hours, everything is so calm, and I was just under this blanket of stars in this circle, and I’d never ever experienced anything like that. All this time I’m steering the canoe, and my dad’s talking to me about the stars. I swear, I saw every star that night, and it stuck to me. It was like a hook, and I wanted to know more about this. I want to know everything about this. For me, growing up, I felt like I was kind of in a box, protected from everything, from the world around me. That one sail like broke down all the walls, and I realized that there is so much more around you and there’s so much that you can learn from your environment,” said Kalā.
Since her first sail, Kalā has grown into the position of apprentice navigator. With this new kuleana, Kalā is faced with a unique learning perspective being the daughter of one of the five Hawaiian master navigators, Chad Kālepa Baybayan.
“I hear a lot you know from other crewmembers ʻOh you have such big shoes to fill. He’s an amazing man, he knows so much, and I just get so anxious being compared to him. I don’t like to be compared to him because to me, him and all the other pwo navigators are like these super heroes with these superpowers. How could I ever be at their level? I just want to learn from them. To me, it’s just being his daughter, it’s even like more intimidating,” said Kalā.
“Working with my daughter’s a real honor and privilege, but I always tell her, she’s got to carry her own weight. I can provide information for her, but she’s got to study on her own. She’s got to demonstrate her own willingness to learn by her own commitment to that learning process,” said Kālepa Baybayan.
And Kalā has shown her commitment as she went through training and participated in navigational study on Hikianalia for the leg from Hawaiʻi to Tahiti.
“That first leg down from HawaiʻI to Tahiti has changed me and and how I am on the canoe,” said Kalā.
Kalā continued on Hikianalia for the next leg through Samoa under the direction of her father, an experience of growth and satisfaction on both ends.
“It was very rewarding to have my daughter participate and show great interest in navigation. It has taken us quite some time to get into this generational shift of participation. Now we’re getting into the level where our own children are participating. It is quite fulfilling to see the generational shift. But it is also a process of being very patient as they develop their own leadership skills. They just need to be good students. My hope for today’s generation is that they can harness our ability and then to elevate it and amplify our level of proficiency at doing good work and carry us into the future,” said Kālepa.