The Moepono family has lived on the North Shore of Oahu since the 1800s. Alika’s father is pure Hawaiian and his mother, who’s from Maui, is German and Irish. He has five brothers and two sisters. Being born and raised on Oahu’s North Shore, all the brothers got into surfing at a young age. Fishing has been a way of life for the Moepono family for generations. They are well-rounded and respected watermen.
Alika has happy memories when remembering surfing with his brothers at Velzyland. “There would pretty much be one of us on every wave, he says.” Now 34, he reflects on how the North Shore was more of a family oriented environment. He is unsettled when talking about the negative progress that virtually destroyed the North Shores quiet community.
“Progress happens, it just turned into a circus overnight,” he says. “It created pressure with the locals.” This led to an explosion of violence and drugs, which has plagued the area. There was an era when a dark cloud hovered over the shore. “People who used to surf all the time were hiding in their closets doing drugs,” he says. “I didn’t want any part of that negativity.” Then he pauses, takes a deep breath, and speaks of his brother Junior, who passed away just last year. “Junior pretty much fell victim to the whole scene and we’ve all had to deal with the loss in our own way, but it’s ok now,” he says.
An original member of the North Shore Hui, he feels a strong brotherhood among the locals. “Somebody needs to patrol the surf and beaches, to protect these sacred islands,” he says. His involvement includes water safety and a strong commitment to giving back to the earth and sea.
Three years ago, he left his home on Oahu, and made the move to Maui. He lives in Kailua with wife Darlene and two sons, Anthony and Joe. “I got tired of the pressures over there, and decided Maui more fit my lifestyle,” he says. Alika brought with him a proud commitment to making people aware of how important it is to give to the Aina.
“Ho`okipa is where I spend most of my time during the day,” he says. Alika, Gerald Ponce, the Paleku family, and the Magalianes family started cleaning the park up, planting trees, grass, plants and trying to make it a better place to be. The people around Ho`okipa began seeing the positive effects of Alika’s contribution, and everyone began getting involved. “We’re here everyday,” he says. “Everything is here, the ocean, the beach, the land, and it takes care of us, so we take of it by giving back.”
Surfing, diving, fishing, and picking Opihi are some of Alika’s daily adventures. The sea pumps through his veins, as speaks positively about nature’s aquatic supermarket. “The ocean is a big icebox, there is so much you can get from the sea,” he says. “Anytime you’re hungry you can find something to eat. It never closes–it’s open 24 hours a day.”
Alika hopes people all over the island will start taking better care of the places they frequent. His message is one of concern for the future generations that live on Maui, as well as the visitors that are observing our island lifestyle. Taking pride in his surroundings makes him a positive role model in the community, and it’s definitely rubbing off on the people around Ho`okipa park.
The Justin Roberson Contest holds special meaning for him. Alika remembers picking up Justin and Eric Totah at the Honolulu Airport for their debut on the North Shore of Oahu. “Justin was a good kid, and his surfing was way ahead of his time,” he says. “This is a very special contest”. Alika took second in the open men’s division amongst Maui’s best surfers, and personally found it hard to believe that he did so well.
Brother, father, grandfather and Hawaiian waterman, Alika Moepono is filled with life and pride. He’s someone making a difference in an upside-down world, where actions speak louder than words. His voice is heard through his hard work, and the beautification of the land he calls home.
This story originally ran in MauiTime’s January 20, 1998 issue.
Photos: Rick Leeks