My family recently stayed at Ke Iki beach on the North Shore and although the photo looks serene, I could feel the variability and energy in the water. The summer calm was gone. Yesterday North Shore lifeguards rescued 56 people from several spots nearby. In the last few years I have spent a lot of time speaking with some of Hawaii’s leading watermen and women to learn where the gaps in local ocean knowledge are and how to bridge them. The most profound lesson that I have learned is rooted in Hawaiian culture, that in addition to checking out the conditions, we should always ask permission from the ocean before entering the water. It’s about being humble in the face of a vast, powerful entity, whether it’s your home break or a new beach.

Kalani Vierra – a world class waterman and head of the Kauai Lifeguard Association – shared that humility is the #1 lesson that the ocean teaches, regardless of your skill level. In fact, he said, the more you advance, the more humble you become.

In this same spirit, a dear kupuna (elder) told me that every time she steps into the ocean, she says aloha, and when she leaves she says mahalo – and she has taught her children and grandchildren to do the same. These practices are treasures that can both keep us safe and deepen our relationship with the ocean. Mahalo to all those who generously shared this ‘ike (knowledge) with me. I pass it along with gratitude and appreciation.