Photo: Chase Olivieri

Photo: Chase Olivieri

Noa James Kaleo’okekai Ginella translates roughly to ‘the voice of the sea.’ But this quietly confident 16-year-old Hawaiian doesn’t have to say much to prove his ability in the water. Between a demanding school schedule, he clocks hours in the ocean each day. He’s a self-confessed multi-discipline “fishing and ocean addict” who doesn’t mind the drag of a fishing lure during training runs. With wins at the Teva Mountain Games, Duke’s OceanFest, and Kahala Challenge, a eighth place finish at the 2010 Battle of the Paddle California, not to mention his solo crossing of the Molokai to Oahu channel on a 12-foot lay-down rudderless paddleboard, he’s proof positive that the water life should be lived in well-rounded fashion.
— Liam Wilmott

I was born and raised on the north shore of Oahu, Kawela bay. Kawela’s a very close-knit, supportive community. It has been a great place to learn to surf, fish, dive, hunt, and dirt bike. PlayStations never get much time around home.

I’ve been hooked on fishing since I was a little kid. My grandpa got me into it. It was kind of my first passion. I enjoy fishing with friends, just sharing a good time. But I also feed off the feeling of catching fish and hunting them. My hometown is full of expert fishermen and I’m fortunate to be able to learn from them. Lately, I kind of use fishing as an accessory to paddling by dragging lures when I train—I guess in a gym it’s called resistance training.

I started surfing SUP when I was 13. My uncle had a board and it just looked like a really fun thing to do when the surf was small. I realized quickly that it was also fun in “real” surf. It wasn’t ’til last year that I got into the racing aspect. I felt like SUP racing would be a good thing to help with my SUP surfing. It still gets me stoked now.

Last year my focus was on lay-down paddleboarding. The stock paddleboard is a cherished craft among the paddling community and I’ve dreamed of crossing the Molokai Channel solo on one since I can remember. It’s kind of a rite of passage. Now that I’ve done that I can focus on the competitive aspect of SUP.

I honestly could enjoy any race but I think the harder ones that pose a greater challenge, whether it’s the conditions or the competition, appeal to me more. No sense doing a race if you know you’ll win. Where’s the fun in that?

When I won at the Teva Mountain Games it was more of a surprise to me than anything. Given that it was at altitude, it was cold, it was my first time in whitewater, plus it’s a time trial so you don’t know how much faster the top guys are. I had confidence that I could do all right but I guess I did better than that.

For other teenagers I would say the sport is just a good way to change up your normal routine. If you surf or kayak all the time, maybe get on an SUP, it’ll make you better. If you’re a couch potato, it’s a good activity to get outside with your friends and back into shape. It’s also good for taking girls on dates. They dig it.