To talk about Hōkūle‘a and the vision of the Worldwide Voyage, one would have to mention those that came before us and who have showed us the way. Uncle Snake Ah Hee was born and raised in Lāhainā, Maui, where he graduated from Lāhaināluna High School. Uncle grew up in a fishing family that also surfed, dived and paddled canoe all the time. By the time he became a lifeguard at the hotels on Maui, uncle was known for his water skills and humble personality.
Snake Au Hee. Photo: Sam Low
In 1968, after joining the National Guard, uncle was called upon to go on tour in Vietnam. After serving for his country, he returned home with a stronger mind and an appreciation for life. He realized that he “wanted to see peace – all the time, all over the world.”
Introduced to Lāhainā in 1975 by Sam Ka’ai and George Paoa, uncle was asked to be on the return trip from Tahiti to Hawai’i in 1976. His training consisted of surfing ten hours at a time, just to be ready for the voyage home. “The ocean has taken hold of me spiritually and mentally. I think it’s because it’s tied in with my family, with being raised on the ocean.” Over the last thirty eight years, uncle has been on most of Hōkūle‘a’s deep sea voyages. Uncle still surfs, paddles, and dives regularly today; and was seen charging the last big swell at Honolua Bay on Maui, most recently.
Uncle has become a legend in his own right and the crew is always humbled to sail with him as he teaches us more than sailing but rather how to take action that will lead us all to a better tomorrow for our children. Uncle holds the respect of all due to his skills of being a waterman, but mostly because of his humility. “I’m here to teach the younger generation who are sailing with us – how to take care of themselves and each other – how to be humble. For me that’s the one key part. If you’re humble everything will be fine. Everyone will think the same, work the same, be closer together. Only if you are humble can you learn.”
Snake (center) talking story with Shorty Bertelmann and Ka‘iulani Muprhy