MEET MALU KINIMAKA: Hawaii-native, professional surfer, and scientist

Malu was chosen to participate in a special program with the U.S Department of State to connect with the people of Papa New Guinea, learn about their challenges and use her academic and athletic expertise to support their community.

“I was inspired to work with the U.S. Department of State in Papua New Guinea because I saw many similarities between their community and the community I grew up in”

Malu Kinimaka, REEF Ambassador, Engineer, Scientist, Activist

Malu Kinimaka Q&A
What inspires you to do the type of work you did in Papua New Guinea?

Malu: I was inspired to work with the US Embassy in Papua New Guinea because I saw many similarities between the community I met in Lido and the community I grew up in (Anahola) on Kauai. In the village of Lido, rapid influence of Western Culture is posing a huge threat to their traditional ways of life. The rising cost of living with poor education puts pressure on their customs, their families, and the natural resources that help to sustain their community. Alcoholism and gender based violence are frequent plagues as a result. Indigenous Hawaiian people have been working to solve these issues since the 1800s. Like Hawaiians, the people of Lido use surfing as a community building activity to strengthen the bonds of family, teach healthy habits, and to build confidence. When I learned their community needed help to inspire more women to surf, I felt it was a very natural and an easy choice for me to be a part of this movement. I love surfing, it is part of my heritage, and I love exchanging perspectives with other people who feel similarly.

How does the work and the outcomes make you feel?

Malu: Doing this kind of work has always felt extremely gratifying for me. I think what people often don’t realize is the success I have had in my life is not individual, but the result of many incredible and humble people supporting me when I needed it most. This type of work is one way I pay that received energy forward.

What’s next for your work helping others?

Malu: I do continual work with my community at home by trying to enable younger generations of Native Hawaiian girls to become passionate about surfing. I do this both through coaching and networking to give girls access to better surfboards. But my next big project is actually focusing on helping a different kind of life form. In my graduate research, I will be designing, 3D printing, and assembling underwater structure to build artificial reef. I hope to aid and accelerated the re-growth of coral polyps around the Pacific. I look forward to starting this in August.

If women want to make a difference in their community, where do they start? What tips can you share?

Malu: I believe the best way to make a difference in your community is to whole-heartedly embrace whatever it is that you are passionate about.

I believe the more you focus on developing your unique interests, the more you can use your skills and perspective to improve the lives of others.

My tip would be to simply be yourself, to be curious, and to show aloha (kindness and consideration) to yourself, as well as to the people and natural world around you.