Becoming Kama'aina at Kapena Falls

by John Lopez
(Tampa, Florida)

I was very fortunate to be stationed at Sub Base Pearl in 1953 with my cousin Joe Rodriguez. As we are native Floridians, we both enjoyed the island of Oahu and its many beaches and sights.


While hanging ten on Kuhio Beach with some local friends, they asked us if we would like to become kamaaina, which meant we would have to do four things before we could be accepted as kamaainas.

Eat 3 finger poi, spear a fish with your homemade equipment, dive off Kapena Falls, and I believe the fourth one was hanging ten on the surf board which they saw us perform that day.

They took us to the pali, and we walked through this trail past the Japanese pagoda and tombstones to Kapena Falls. We literally climbed up the falls to the top.

I asked if this is where we jump from, and they said, "No. We jump from the ledge."

They took us to the ledge, and the lagoon now seemed a long way down. My cousin decided not to jump and got hurt descending down the waterfall.

I thought about it for a while and then decided to jump.

They gave me a large leaf to put in my mouth, and told me to jump feet first. The left would keep the water from going up my nose.

I jumped and the impact numbed my arms rendering them useless. I must have been about 12 feet from the surface before the locals pulled me out a kamaaina 58 years ago...

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