Mākaha, Hawaii, 2013

“Surfer Ha’a Keaulana, daughter of Brian Keaulana and granddaughter of legendary Buffalo Keaulana, trains by sprinting across the seafloor for a full minute with a 50-pound boulder in tow. I watched in awe as she demonstrated her power, grace, and natural ability underwater. Hawaiians like Ha’a have saltwater running through their veins – she epitomizes what it means to be connected to the sea.” – Paul Nicklen

For the islanders of Hawaii, surfing is a way of life. However, the intense currents can be very dangerous, knocking surfers from their boards and holding them underwater. It’s no wonder that the ancient Hawaiians looked to priests, or Kahunas, to bless them as they took to the water.

More contemporary Hawaiians, such as Ha’a Keaulana, are taking more hands-on approaches while still observing tradition. In order to build up strength and endurance, Ha’a and others train by running along the ocean floor while carrying heavy boulders, which Nicklen has captured in an almost effervescent way. The connection between Ha’a and the water around her is almost non-linear, as though they do not exist separately from one another.


Archival pigment print

  • Edition of 20: 24” x 36” (61 x 91.4 cm)
  • Edition of 15: 31” x 46.5” (78.7 x 118.1 cm)
  • Edition of 10: 40” x 60” (101.6 x 152.4 cm)

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