Story By: Kelly Owens
Photo By: Dana Edmunds
“I try to create balance
and ﬁnd quiet,” says George Kalilikane. You need the ﬁrst and you get the
second when you go stand up paddling, a sport that Uncle George, as he’s called
in Wai‘anae, knows intimately. “I was the little kid that tucked his board under
his arm, grabbed his bike and went off to the beach,” he says. “I knew that if
I just got on the water, I’d be all right.”
That turned out to be more
true than young George could have predicted. In 2009, at age 49, doctors told
Uncle George that his weight issues would eventually lead to diabetes. Worse,
his sleep apnea was so bad he might suffocate in his sleep. Just as he’d done
as a child, George headed for the ocean. He convalesced by paddling his SUP
around Poka‘i bay on leeward O‘ahu; paddling, he says, saved his life.
Inspired, Uncle George decided to share the medicine. He took some boards down
to the beach and welcomed anyone who wanted to learn, no charge. Thus was Bay
of Dreams born.
Now, four years and six
thousand visitors later, Uncle George transports a trailer full of boards for
his free weekly “Day of SUP” at Poka‘i. But before anyone paddles out, Uncle
George holds a talk story circle in which he emphasizes the importance of quiet
time in nature—one key to his own recovery. “People have to be shown the value
of quietness,” he says. “If you get that opportunity for ‘me’ time, that ‘me’
time will bring quality to the rest of the time.” Uncle George then teaches a
lesson on the sand after which participants are free to paddle out. Uncle George
also hosts movie nights at the bay and offers private SUP sessions, SUP yoga
classes, summer camp programs and SUP activities for military personnel.
Working with a nonproﬁt surﬁng organization, Uncle George recently helped
foster children from San Diego to ﬁnd quiet and balance out on the bay.
“My slogan is, ‘Building
dreams one stroke at a time,’” says Uncle George. “When you ﬁnally get that
ﬁrst stroke and are moving, you’ve built conﬁdence. Once you’ve achieved
success, it’s hard to deny success in the rest your life.”