John R. Kukeakalani Clark is the author of ten books about Hawai‘i’s beaches, surf spots, and ocean lore, including North Shore Place Names: Kahuku to Ka‘ena and Hawaiian Surfing: Traditions from the Past. He is also a former lifeguard and a retired deputy fire chief of the Honolulu Fire Department. We decided to ask John what had inspired him to start writing about the islands.
From the author:
“In 1970 I completed a two-year tour of duty in the Army and returned home to Hawai‘i. A friend of mine was working as a City and County of Honolulu lifeguard and told me they were looking for more guards. I applied and was hired immediately by Captain Aloha Kaeo. He assigned me and another guard, Daryl Picadura, to Sandy Beach as its first full-time lifeguards.
“Daryl and I made a lot of rescues, and early in 1972 I decided we should be pro-active and try to reach people, especially our visitors, before they reached the beach. I thought we might be able to do it through a book, so I started writing, first about Sandy Beach, and then about all the other beaches on O‘ahu. I have a BA in Hawaiian Studies from UHM, so in addition to the water safety information, I included some Hawaiian history about the beaches with a focus on the mo‘olelo, the stories, behind their names.
“Later in 1972 I gave up my job as a lifeguard and joined the Honolulu Fire Department, but I continued to work on my manuscript. The UH Press published my first book, Beaches ofO‘ahu, in 1977. One book led to another and during my 33 years with HFD, I wrote six more books. I continued to write even after I retired at the end of 2005, and as of 2018, I have written 10 books on Hawai‘i’s beaches, surf spots and shoreline place names.”