It’s hard to believe sometimes that we’ve been around for two decades. Sure, we’ve changed a lot in that time (what hasn’t?). But in that time, we’ve brought you a lot of stories–some good, others not so much, but all with the goal of publishing interesting, readable and honest stories about what’s really going on in Maui County. That commitment remains the same today as it was back in Volume 1, Issue 1.
In the following retrospect, we recall 20 examples of what we consider great MauiTime journalism. The stories are all over the map in terms of subject matter–surf, crime, politics, music. But they’re also all unquestionably Maui stories, full of life and color that’s as vibrant as the island we call home.
We hope you’ve enjoyed the last two decades as much as we did, because we have every intention of sticking around for more.
Sept. 16, 1997
By Dave Sweedler
Dave Sweedler wrote a ton of surf stories for MauiTime in the early years. Few even today are as dialed into the local surf community as Sweedler. Many of his stories were profiles like this one of local surfer and board shaper Matt Kinoshita. Even back then, Kinoshita’s Kazuma Surfboards made some of Maui’s most recognized boards.
“The positive side of surfing today is that the level of surfing has risen amongst the new generation, and it’s very exciting to see the change,” Kinoshita told Sweedler. “I think there will be a whole new push towards professionalism and a clean image for surfers in the future. I’m coaching kids with 4.0 grade point averages who totally rip in the water. There should be nothing holding back a future world champ from Maui. My life would be totally complete if a kid I coach becomes a world champion.”
That hasn’t happened yet, but given that some of Kinoshita’s students were Matt Meola, Dusty Payne and Ian Walsh, we’re thinking Kinoshita is still happy with how things turned out.
July 21, 1998
By Dave Sweedler
Drive by Ho`okipa or the North Kihei shoreline (depending on how the wind is blowing) and you’ll probably see a flock of giant kites in the sky. Kite surfing seems to have exploded in popularity in the last few years, but of course Sweedler told us all about it nearly two decades ago, when it was still so novel that many residents didn’t know what to make of it–so much so that sometimes hilarity ensued.
“A bizarre incident happened to professional windsurfer Sierra Emory while kite surfing at Baldwin reef,” Sweedler reported. “‘I went down and my strings became tangled. It took me half an hour to roll in my kite. As I was paddling in, I noticed police cars and fire trucks pulling in and heading in my direction. As I got out of the water they came running down to me. Apparently someone driving by thought that a parachutist had crashed in the ocean.’”
Sept. 12, 2000
By Olivia Techoueyres
It’s hard to think of a more iconic image of Hawaii than a coconut tree, its fronds swaying in a gentle tradewind breeze. So when we discovered coconut heart rot was killing the trees on Maui, and throughout Hawaii, we set out to learn why.
“The disease, known as ‘coconut heart rot,’ is caused by the fungus Phytophthora katsurae,” wrote reporter Olivia Techoueyres. “On Maui, approximately 20 percent of the coconut trees have died… Although no one really knows how this fungus got to Hawaii, most scientists believe that it is spread by strong windblown rains, through insects, birds, and mice, or by pruning and planting infected trees.”
While we still have coconut trees on Maui today, the fungus that can kill them is also still here.
Sept. 26, 2000
By Cynthia Matzke
In hindsight, it’s hard to imagine that a dolphin park was nearly built on Maui. But 17 years ago, the for-profit arm of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation wanted to build a “Maui Nui theme park” in South Maui that would include four captive dolphins.
“As a community we must question the wisdom of draining our precious wild resources to build an artificial rainforest in Kihei,” author Cynthia Matzke wrote. “Now is the time to either speak up, or be sure to stop by the gift shop on your way out. Maui’s soul may be for sale.”
Needless to say, residents howled in protest and the plan eventually died down. In 2002, then-County Councilmember Joanne Johnson sponsored a bill, which later became law, banning dolphin captivity in Maui County.
Nov. 21, 2000
By Nicole Chipman
One of the great things about the State of Hawaii is that all coastline here–all of it–is open to the public. In a place where so much of the culture and economy is based on the ocean, it’s important to ensure proper, unfettered beach access. So when gates suddenly went up at the Puamana neighborhood–one of West Maui’s prime surf spots–we spoke out.
“They try to claim the beach is their private property, but it is not. There is supposed to be a beach access road, but there is not,” says Spike, a long-time surfer of the Maui seas. “A few people blew it for everybody by playing their radios too loud or leaving empty cans around, but it is not fair that everyone should suffer for it,” he says.
The story made a big impact on readers, but even today, the gates at Puamana are still up. So it goes.
Mar. 27, 2001
By Dave Sweedler
Kai Lenny is getting a lot of attention these days for foil boarding (he even does so on a television commercial for First Hawaiian Bank), but the sport is old news for MauiTime readers. Way back in 2001, Sweedler was writing in these pages about the then-revolutionary sport being developed by such surf legends as Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama and Rush Randle.
“It has the same feeling as when we first started towing into Pe‘ahi, the infancy stage is a very exciting period,” Kalama told Sweedler. “We call ourselves the Pelican Surf Club, because you’re riding the air current above the water, flowing in the crest of the wave like a bird. The lines you can draw are much different from surfing, you can truly ride in the crest of the wave or you can drop down, go way out in front and carve a big snowboard-like turn. You can really get the momentum going through a flat section–it’s amazing how fast you can go.”
Sept. 25, 2001
By Travis Henderson
Learning about the four airline hijackings and subsequent attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 while living on Maui was a surreal experience. Here we were, in the days before social media, trying to comprehend the damage and horror in an environment far removed from the East Coast. And then came the Bush Administration’s order to shut down all airline flights in the United States–for three days, no one could fly in or out of Maui (or anywhere else in the U.S. for that matter.) And when flights started up again, security procedures were up and tourism was down, which hit Hawaii hard.
As it was, an issue of MauiTime hit the streets on Sept. 11. Because of the then-biweekly nature of the paper back then, that meant that we wouldn’t be able to address the attacks until two weeks later.
“On the Saturday after the tragedy, local residents Joel Navarro, Paul Brown, and Adam Quinn organized a showing of aloha of Launiupoko Beach Park,” Travis Henderson wrote. “Sending out a message to Maui residents to bring any kind of watercraft they had along with flowers or leis, they paddled out to show unity with America as well as the rest of the world. Over 250 people, including members of the fire department, visitors, residents and children came out to show that, since we live in paradise, maybe we can send a little bit of sunshine and aloha towards the dark cloud hanging over NYC and Washington, D.C.”
Aug. 8, 2002
By Don Gronning
Today Mike Molina is an aide to Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa–one in a series of out-of-work politicians/former County Councilmembers who today resides in the mayor’s office. But back in 2002, he was a member of the Maui County Council representing Makawao, Haiku and Paia. And he did something we thought was rather naughty: vote to approve a big Makena development project that was quite close to land he owned.
At first, the county Ethics Board voted to prohibit Molina from voting on the project. But then a lawyer and appraiser appealed to the board, and suddenly they reversed themselves.
“Molina’s attorney, Dennis Nakamura, and an Oahu land appraisal company, said the value of the 12.9 acre parcel Molina owns a part of would not be affected if the Makena Resort rezone is approved, even though the land is located about a mile from the proposed rezone,” Don Gronning reported. But even after the reversal, one member of the Ethics Board still thought Molina should recuse himself. “If the value is so worthless, why insist on retaining interest?” Michael Inouye told Gronning. “I voted mainly for his protection. Why not have a clean slate so he can vote either way, and not have it come back to haunt him?”
Feb. 26, 2004
By Anthony Pignataro
It was while doing interviews for a story on Mana‘o Radio that Anthony Pignataro discovered that Betsy Duncombe, the wife of one of the DJs there, taught yoga classes to inmates at Maui Community Correctional Center as part of an experimental program called Free Inside that sought to lower the incredibly high recidivism rates for inmates that remain high to his day. This was too good a story to pass up, so after interviewing Duncombe, Pignataro and photographer Bron Hollingshead made an appointment to observe her at work.
“All the time I forget these are criminals,” Duncombe said in the story. “Then the guys will talk about having bullets in them. I see a lot of tears and remorse in their eyes. And a lot of wisdom. I hope they start a daily practice that they don’t forget when they’re back on the street and tempted in different ways. They put up a lot of resistance at first. There are a lot of tough guys, but also a lot of jokesters. I don’t take them very seriously. To be honest, I haven’t been concerned about my safety.”
Apr. 15, 2004
By Anthony Pignataro
This was one of the most depressing stories we ever published. A guy, Rick Gregory, shows up where a local band is practicing. At first everything’s cool but then he starts acting weird. The band members call the cops. Things go bad, the guy ends up on the floor with three MPD cops on top of him, and then he’s dead. The only way we were able to report this with any detail is because the County of Maui botched their redaction when they responded to our public records request for police Internal Affairs reports on the death (which were only available because Gregory’s family was suing them for wrongful death).
“Statements made by the three officers after the death said Gregory continued to rant and rave after they cuffed him, but also that he complained he couldn’t breathe as they attempted to restrain him,” Pignataro reported. “All three officers said they ignored Gregory’s plea, telling him that if he could talk, he could breathe.”
As often happens in these cases, a judge later threw out the Gregory family’s lawsuit.
May 20, 2004
By Anthony Pignataro
There was a lot of reporting around the county about Maui’s Drug Court in the spring of 2004, so we decided to take a look at some of the people actually in the program. Specifically, what led two mothers named Cheryl and Tania to prison, and what they were doing in anticipation of their eventual release. Part of the story involved observing them during a special Mother’s Day event at the Cameron Center, during which they got to spend two hours with their kids. It was a profoundly emotional event–especially at the end.
“Across the room, Drug Court Administrator Barbara-Ann Keller was watching one mother and daughter,” Pignataro wrote. “‘Look at that poor girl,’ she said, referring to one crying girl being comforted by her mother. ‘She’s been crying the whole time.’
“It was around five in the afternoon, shortly after the children busted open a couple pinatas, that the event came to a close. As the guitarists played ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow,’ the inmates began collecting their souvenir photos, roses and cards in preparation for getting back on the bus to MCCC. One woman cradled her baby–there were half a dozen there that day–for a few moments, then handed the child to a staffer before taking her things and leaving. In the confusion, one over-worked staffer handed Keller a crying infant.”
July 14, 2005
By Samantha Campos
Most famous for being MauiTime’s Holoholo Girl clubs columnist, Samantha Campos was also a thoughtful writer and conscientious reporter. Here, she decided to look at Maui’s jazz scene, much of which is confined to the lobbies of luxurious resorts. The result was delightful and informative, full of great quotes and history. It was exactly the kind of elevated stories MauiTime tries to bring our readers.
“The secret to playing hotel lobby jazz is to be real,” said Mark Johnstone, a keyboardist, in the story. “You just can’t be real loud. You have to find what you groove on and you have to play the room. If people are eating, you don’t wanna play some crazy Sun Ra stuff. But it’s up to the individual to offer their vision. You can use innovation when playing ‘Girl from Ipanema.’ But [in hotels and restaurants] you don’t wanna change it too much to be esoteric.
“I’ve seen how musicians justify navigating through the difficult territory of lobby jazz,” Johnstone continued. “And I’ve seen them sit there and very quietly, wail their asses off. Hotel lobby jazz tends to be creamier. But for the most part, I like chunks in my peanut butter.”
May 25, 2006
By Samantha Campos
Of course Samantha Campos was the natural choice to profile Willie K, Maui’s most talented and famous contemporary musician, who also has a reputation for being prickly, difficult to approach. No one else here could have written this. Drawing on her years spent making contacts in Maui’s music scene, Campos was able to get Willie K to open up like he hadn’t before. The resulting story was exemplary, delving into both the musician’s incredible musical abilities and the choices he made to maintain his personal life.
“You gotta take all the bad shit with the good,” Willie K told Campos. “I knew I was gonna have to face that when I got into it. Most local musicians aren’t prepared for that… If you take this move to being a public figure, you better be prepared for the outcome of both sides. Otherwise, it’s gonna slap you hard. Look at Tiger Woods–he can’t even go into a public bathroom. The reason I’m an ‘asshole’ is so I can go to a public restroom. People say, ‘Oh, there’s Willie K, no bother him.’”
June 14, 2007
By Greg Mebel
This was, without a doubt, the weirdest story we ever ran. It concerned Bob Awana, who at the time was Governor Linda Lingle’s chief of staff–one of the most powerful officials in state government then–and a weird blackmail scheme that involved him, an Indian national and, apparently, a woman in the Philippines. Spurred on by a clipping from an Indian newspaper someone sent us anonymously, reporter Greg Mebel dug in (the old Honolulu Star-Bulletin even credited his work in an editorial).
“I was blackmailed by email,” Awana told Mebel. “I went to [then U.S. Attorney Edward] Kubo, he notified the FBI, and I cooperated with their investigation.”
What exactly happened, we’ll never know. What details did emerge were salacious. Though he insisted that he was innocent, Awana resigned as chief of staff a couple weeks after our story came out.
Aug. 2, 2007
By Greg Mebel and Anthony Pignataro
A decade before news headlines screamed about “Muslim bans” and other pernicious, racist government crackdowns, we went in search of Maui’s Japanese camp that was set up in Haiku during the first months of World War II. It was a dark time for anyone who believes in civil rights–government imprisoned people merely for being Japanese.
“Tetsuji Hanzawa–owner of Hanzawa’s Store, which is still in Haiku–was one of the prisoners held at the Haiku camp,” Mebel and Pignataro wrote. “According to [granddaughter Sandra] Daniells, authorities took her grandfather first to the Haiku camp, and then to a more permanent facility in New Mexico. When ordered into the camp, Hanzawa’s wife and other relatives were left behind to run the business without him. In this regard, Hanzawa was lucky–after the war, he had a still-functioning business to return to.”
It’s both infuriating and pathetic that stories like this don’t lose their relevancy with the passage of time.
Oct. 18, 2007
By Paul Wood
The great Hawaiian musician and filmmaker Eddie Kamae died in January of this year at the age of 89. Talented, influential, humorous, Kamae was a living treasure when Paul Wood profiled him for us a decade ago. The hook for the story was the debut of Kamae’s wonderful documentary Lahaina: Waves of Change, about the close of the Pioneer Mill in 1999. The resulting work was a joy to read.
“Pilahi [Paki] helped Eddie write the words to the song ‘Kela Mea Whiffa,’ which became a big island hit song in 1975,” Wood wrote. “Eddie told me the story, how in the early ’70s he came over to visit friends in Lahaina. His pal Louie Kalahui had picked them up at the airport. ‘So we come over and we gotta pass Launiupoko, right? So my friend [Louie], he says stop the car.’ They parked right in the center of the stench. ‘He had all the wives waiting in the car, screaming at him.’ But Louie got out of the car and took a deep breath. ‘And he salutes the area. And he calls out: ‘Aloha, kela mea whiffa!’ I say, ‘What you say, kela mea whiffa? What is it?’ He said, ‘It’s the breath of love!’”
Apr. 9, 2009
By Kate Bradshaw
Through the years, MauiTime has reported a great deal on the infuriating injustices that seem endemic to the Maui County Department of the Liquor Control. By far the wildest and most ridiculous LC insult is their stubborn, patriarchal need to regulate dancing. Dancing! By 2009, reporter Kate Bradshaw was fed up with it, and wrote about the longtime efforts of two Maui residents–Ramoda Anand and Anthony Simmons, who formed Maui Dance Advocates–to get the LC to lighten up.
“If you dance naked for an audience in a bar or club you’re protected by the First Amendment,” Bradshaw wrote. “But in Maui County, you don’t have the right to dance in a liquor-selling establishment even when fully clothed–unless you’re in an area specifically designated for dancing, and only dancing.
“For Maui Dance Advocates and others who care about this issue, it goes beyond a brief, ambiguous rule in the LC’s books. Underlying this fight is a belief that without public vigilance, governments can make policies that erode the liberties we take for granted.
“‘I want people to think about their freedom,’ says Simmons.”
Oct. 15, 2009
By Ynez Tongson
Born in Lahaina, Florence Hasegawa spent 70 years–70!–as a Maui County marriage license agent (one of the many, many couples she married was MauiTime’s own Tommy and Jen Russo). In retirement, at the age of 101, having outlived just about everyone she grew up with, she turned to Twitter and became something of a local social media star. To not have written about her would been a crime against journalism
“Florence Hasegawa sits in her chair like a life-wizened general, barking orders to family and friends,” Tongson wrote. “Like any good general, she has a lot of loyal followers–811 to be exact, as of this writing, from all corners of the globe. Those followers have found her on Twitter, the ubiquitous micro-blogging site that allows users to post short messages (140 characters or less) about whatever’s on their mind. For Grandma Florence, as she is known on Twitter, that means ruminations on everything from family to food to whether she fears death (she doesn’t).”
Hasegawa died in Lahaina in 2014, just two months shy of her 106th birthday. Maui hasn’t been the same since.
Oct. 13, 2016
By Anthony Pignataro
The death of former Hawaii House Speaker and Maui Mayor Elmer Cravalho in June 2016, and the weak, shallow obituaries that followed spurred Editor Anthony Pignataro to spend a few months digging deep into Cravalho’s legacy. Using extensive newspaper archive research, oral histories and documents obtained from the FBI and U.S. Army through the Freedom of Information Act, he was able to produce a monster of a story–one of the longest this paper has ever run–that shows why Cravalho was Maui’s most powerful political figure in the last century.
Our research even uncovered a previously unknown fact: that U.S. Army Intelligence had kept a confidential file on Cravalho during the 1950s, because of his close ties to organized labor. Using previously unpublished oral histories on file at the University of Hawaii library, we were also able to finally provide a compelling reason as to why Cravalho suddenly resigned the mayorship in 1979 at the apparent height of his popularity.
“[H]e became kind of disgruntled,” Hannibal Tavares, who eventually became Maui Mayor in the 1980s, recalled in his 1991 oral history. “And when he told me that he was planning to resign, I didn’t believe it. I said, ‘No, you can’t do that. You have to finish your term, Elmer.’
“‘No, I’m sick and tired of taking all this crap,’ Cravalho said, according to Tavares. ‘These people simply will not follow what I’m trying to do. I’m going to resign.’”
Feb. 9, 2017
By Lantana Hoke
MauiTime started off as a largely surf-oriented publication, and it’s fitting that we end our retrospective by highlighting a relatively recent profile Lantana Hoke did on Maui surfer Paige Alms, who became the first big-wave women’s world champion at the 2016 Peahi Challenge.
Surfing doesn’t make it into the paper much these days, but when Hoke offered to profile Alms, we jumped at it. The result was a solid portrait of a young athlete who’s somehow both famous and unknown.
“At the Women’s March on Maui on Saturday, Jan. 21, Paige Alms was moving through the crowd of thousands gathered to speak up for women’s rights and equality and against the authoritarianism of Donald Trump when she saw herself,” Hoke wrote. “It was a large photo of her surfing Jaws, posted on a sign with the words ‘Action is Power.’ Alms went up to the woman holding the sign and asked if she could take picture with her.
“‘Suuuuure…’ the woman told her, clearly not recognizing her.
“‘You have me on your sign,’ Alms responded. ‘No big deal.’”
Cover design (apologies to The Stranger): Darris Hurst