In summer of 2018, we teamed up with OluKai and water safety pioneer Archie Kalepa to identify the most promising up-and-coming ocean talent in Hawaii. The mission was to provide a gifted young athlete access to mentors and knowledge that enable him or her to reach his or her full potential. Not just as an athlete, but as an ambassador of Hawaii’s rich ocean culture.
After a fair amount of scouting, Kalepa, who has trained Navy Seals and helped develop and modernize water safety in the ocean’s most life-threatening conditions, found the perfect student: nine-year-old Bobo Gallagher.
Born Anderson Ellis Kainalu Gallagher, he goes by Bobo. Much simpler. And the phonetics are more fun, too. Bouncy. It fits his personality.
When we met Bobo and his dad, Andrew, Bobo was deftly circling his hydrofoil SUP back towards a small wave at Launiupoko Beach Park on Maui. The waves were small. It was summer, but in the eight minutes between parking the car and setting up the camera gear, he had caught six waves. Boundless energy. That’s to be expected for a kid his age. But he had confidence in his equipment and a strength that made him appear much older.
A few months later, Bobo and a friend completed the 26-mile Molokai paddle in four hours and 39 minutes. He’s nine. Only recently did he dive headfirst into foiling and paddling competition. Archie was right. Bobo is a phenom.
When talent is that raw and promising, it’s got limitless potential. It’s a moment where the benefit of strong mentors can make an outsize impact. Knowing that, Kalepa, a powerful mentor in his own right, connected Bobo with big wave pioneer Dave Kalama, foil surfing pioneer Austin Kalama, and performance paddle coach, Suzie Cooney, to share their knowledge of the ocean and respect for Hawaiian culture.
“As a Hawaiian, it’s my obligation to share and pass on those cultural beliefs and practices so that I can help someone become an ambassador to Hawaii and to surfing, said Archie Kalepa. “By instilling these values in him at this age, it only can help him blossom into the person he wants to become and more.”
Editor’s Note: This collaboration was shot and edited by our dear friend Gabe Reuben at The Rove Lab. A tremendous thanks to OluKai for their support and to Archie Kalepa, Melissa Ziegler, Kerry Konrady, and the Gallagher family for allowing us to share this story.