REMINDER: Farewell to PVS Founder Event

Download event program.

A reminder to please join us tomorrow morning, March 3, 2018, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in celebrating the life and legacy of PVS Founder Ben Finney.

WHAT: Celebration of Ben Finney’s Life

WHEN: Saturday, March 3, 2018, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

WHERE: Marine Education Training Center (METC) at Sand Island

Ceremony Schedule

9:00 a.m.  Aloha, Ben Reception
Music by Coyne Street Trio
Catering by Pili Group

  9:45 a.m.  Aloha & Welcome
Gregory Finney

Blessing & Ceremony
Kahu Kordell Kekoa

Remembrances & Remarks
Sean Finney
Joseph Genz
Puakea Nogelmeier
Nainoa Thompson

10:45 a.m.  Ceremony Closing

11:00 a.m.  Ben’s Farewell Sail on Hōkūleʻa
Finney Ohana & Hōkūleʻa Crew

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The Life and Legacy of Ben Finney

Ben Finney was born on October 1, 1933 in San Diego. He began surfing in 1953, and earned a Bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley in history, economics, and anthropology in 1955. After college, he spent time surfing in Tahiti and learning French, and also worked in California’s aerospace industry. He then did a stint in the navy in 1957 and 1958.

After his service, Ben moved to Honolulu to begin an MA in anthropology. Ben’s teachers at UH Mānoa included Katherine Luomala, O.A. Bushnell, and Ken Emory. Ben wrote a masters thesis in 1959 on the history and practice of surfing, later published as Surfing: The Sport of Hawaiian Kings, a pioneering book that helped surfing gain respect and legitimacy.

After Mānoa, Ben went to Harvard to study for a Ph.D. in anthropology under Douglas Oliver, which he earned in 1964. Participating in Oliver’s research project in Tahiti — on the shift to a capitalist economy — depressed Ben and showed him the urgency of preserving traditional Polynesian culture.

At UC Santa Barbara, Ben began his research on Polynesian voyaging and his attempt to sink the “Kon-Tiki” drift theory that discredited traditional navigators. He built a double-hulled canoe, christened Nālehia by Mary Pukui. During this period He also traveled to Papua New Guinea, and wrote Big Men and Business, a book that painted a brighter picture, than the one in Tahiti, of adopting a cash economy. But from here on Ben would focus on traditional navigation and the lessons it held for the Pacific and the world.

In 1973 Ben took a job in the anthropology department at Mānoa, and founded the Polynesian Voyaging Society with Herb Kane and Tommy Holmes. Together, they and many others built the Hōkūleʻa and sailed it from Hawaiʻi to Tahiti in 1976. Ben, who was the society’s first president, wrote Hōkūleʻa: The Way to Tahiti to publicize the trip. Ben continued to write many related books, including Voyage of Rediscovery and Sailing in the Wake of the Ancestors.

In the 1980s, Ben looked over a new horizon. He took what he’d learned about ocean migrations and applied it to space. In books such as From Sea to Space and Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience he explored parallels between Polynesians setting off across the vast Pacific and humans leaving the small, blue planet Earth. He had a special focus on Russian theorizers of space exploration, researched in collaboration with his wife Mila.

But Ben’s focus on Polynesia remained. He sailed on Hōkūleʻa’s 1985 voyage to Aotearoa, and her 1992 voyage to Rarotonga, and also covered the 1995 voyage from the Marquesas to Hawaiʻi from an escort vessel. In 2008 Ben and his colleague Rick Feinberg spent three months at field research on Taumako Island in the Solomon Islands’  Temotu Province researching surviving practices from an earlier age of wayfaring. All the while he continued to research, publish, teach, and inspire.

Ben received the UH Regents Medal for Excellence in Research, the Royal Institute of Navigation Medal, and the French University of the Pacific Medal. In 2012 he was declared a living treasure by the Hongwanji Mission here in Hawai’i.

Ben is survived by his wife, Mila; sons Sean and Gregory; a stepdaughter, Anna Alepko; two grandchildren; and two step-grandchildren. His legacy is shared by the entire PVS ʻohana.

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