Recently I was brought on to shoot in the water for a Corona project with my expertise being surf photography/videography. The story was about the origins of surfing, but ended up going much deeper than that. I’ve been looking for projects to get involved with that make a difference in my local community. This project isn’t necessarily on Oahu, where I’m based, but it helps bring recognition to local Hawaiian’s which I think is incredibly important.
Nainoa and Sam grew up in Hawaii, whereas I grew up in Ohio. Their understanding of the Hawaiian culture is much more extensive than mine. My education began while taking Hawaiian studies courses at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. As an outsider who has made Hawaii home, or haole, it was incredibly special for me to have the opportunity to be involved in a project like this to have a first-hand experience and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for Hawaiians and their culture. On top of this, I want to pass this knowledge and these experiences on to others through the inspiring or educational content I create. This project in my opinion does both.
Speaking with the surfboard shaper and main character, Bronson, in Anahola, Kauai, we learned that Anahola is one of the worst areas in Hawaii for alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicide. This was shocking for such a beautiful area, nestled in a picturesque bay with dramatic mountains in the background. We learned how the Hawaiians living in this particular homestead land receive little to no help. The education is poor and the jobs are scarce in such an expensive place to live. Many natives have resorted to selling their homes to get by or relocate to somewhere with better resources and a lower cost of living.
This led to my main concern and question, “well what can we do to help?”. Bronson summed it up perfectly: “There needs to be less bitching and more solutions. Everyone needs to do a little part to fix a bigger problem so that it will have a larger effect”. He’s truly leading by example with action and not just words. With a crossfit gym at his house, Bronson offers his expertise as a coach and his gym up for free for Anahola residents to use to stay fit and have a sense of community.
Something that has really resonated with me since completing since talking to Bronson is the appropriation and exploitation of the word aloha. Aloha is more than hello or goodbye, regardless of what pop culture or touristy marketing gimmicks might tell you. It’s a lifestyle, a mentality, and how you should live your life with love. Loving others, always being kind and welcoming. Truly showing others aloha, that’s who Bronson is, and what he does. This spirit of aloha, the love and compassion Bronson has for his community, is passed through his hands to every alaia board he shapes. It’s this mana, the spiritual force that is so strong in Anahola and in Bronson that truly left me in awe upon finishing this project.
I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to be involved in this project. I'm thankful to have been able to learn more about Bronson and the Hawaiian community. I was able to learn how I can truly live aloha, a life giving love to all of those around me and what I can to help others find this as well. This is the first of many projects I’ll be involved with this year that does more than entertain, it educates and inspires others. I hope you enjoy the film and learn something new, please check out the film here:
A deeper look from Kauai born and raised Director Sam Potter:
Why Did you want to tell this story?
For me it was a way to explore my gratitude for surfing. It’s always played a vital role in my life, and I think that recognizing riding waves as an indigenous practice was a key in helping me to understand the connection surfing has given me to the natural world. Always aware of the wind and the waves, the reefs and the tides, the seasons and the swells...
I think this film does a pretty good job of expressing what I’ve always felt and maybe the way all of us surfers feel to one degree or another.
What was special about it to you?
I just love how close to home this project was, I loved lifting up one of the people in my community, especially a guy as solid as Uncle Bronson. And I loved being able to make a film that reminds people that surfing comes from the Kanaka Maoli, that we owe that connection to them.
Bronson Lovell is most definitely a pillar in the Anahola community, not only is he perpetuating the Hawaiian culture down in the village but he’s a big part of the Keala Foundation and a coach at Anahola Crossfit. As a collaboration of the two, they provide free fitness classes for the community and battle substance abuse which is a huge problem.
How can we support Bronson and the local community?
I personally am donating a percentage of my proceeds from this project to the Kanuikapono Public Charter, which is a Hawaiian-focused public school that focuses on native education and community renewal. So if you want to support Bronson and his community I see donations to them being the best way.
Kanuikapono is a Hawaiian-focused public charter school that serves more than 200 students in grades K-12. The schoolʻs vision guides a high-quality instructional program rooted in ʻĀina and Culture.
Behind the vision with Molokai born and raised cinematographer and editor Nainoa Langer:
Being born and raised in Hawaii, how did you want to approach telling this story with the camera being your third eye?
I feel like I’ve always just strived to create the most beautiful imagery out of any situation, and stories like these in particular just hold a special place in my heart because its our home. I see it really as just letting the beauty of the Hawaiian culture and its environment just shine through as naturally as it was created, and capturing Sam and Bronson navigating their story was really just about them being in their element. Having Connor in the water gave assurance that the water imagery would be amazing, and the direction for the rest of the film was just to capture the natural moments in the most intimate way.
Is there anything in the creative process that you did “special”, unique or focused on to elaborate specifics in the story?
I feel like the overarching “theme” for most of the scenes was connection. Bronson’s connection to shaping the boards, his culture, connection to nature, and Sam’s connection to Bronson. And so we tried our best to capture the moments that really showcased those connections, some examples being Bronson’s hands “feeling” the water in conjunction with a shot of him “feeling” the board, or his moments of reflection with the board against his forehead, to every stroke of the shaping tool, we really wanted to paint the picture of this connection.
How did you want people to feel after watching the film?
I’d really want people to be filled with a sense of wonder or curiosity at first, and then come to learn and be filled with some new respect for the culture of surf, its origins and the people who pioneered it, that would make the film a success in my eyes.
Closing Thoughts from Connor:
The connection between Hawaiian’s and the water is undeniable. My love for the water is what brought me to Hawaii, swimming D1 for the University of Hawaii at Manoa and it evolved in to something much deeper, the more time I spent in the ocean. There’s something special about this deep connection to not only the ocean, but the land that this story captures beautifully. Bronson spoke about how he loves that he’d get the wood for the board up in the mountain, bring it down to Anahola and shape it, then surf it in the ocean. The connection is full circle and undeniable. I think this is the sort of connection is something more people need to experience, to connect deeper with the planet on a spiritual level. To be aware of their decisions and then they will feel the mana and want to live aloha.
Link to Nainoa’s website: https://www.nainoalanger.com/purestformcorona