Tim Guard owns McCabe, Hamilton & Renny Co., the last independent stevedore company in Hawaii, and, at 111, one of Hawaii’s oldest companies. He’s also president of the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation. So it shouldn’t be surprising that his eyes are turned to the sea. Some time ago, I spoke with him about watermen and the role the ocean has played in his life.
Q: As the president of the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation, you recently spearheaded the creation of the Hawaii Waterman Hall of Fame. How did that happen?
A: I don’t want to take personal credit for the Hall of Fame. There were a lot of people involved, especially Dr. Mali Kamisugi, the previous president. It was an idea that I conceptualized four or five years ago, at least. It wasn’t just my thoughts, but the thoughts of a number of people that I was talking to at the time. We felt there was a missing recognition for Hawaii’s premier aquatic athletes. There is a Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame and a Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame, but we wanted to create something that was unique to all the ocean sports, particularly the sports that were identified with Duke Kahanamoku’s legacy: swimming, surfing and canoe paddling. Fortunately, all the elements came together this year, and we inducted the inaugural class of nine watermen, including Duke, Rell Sunn, Buffalo Keaulana, Eddie Aikau, Fred Hemmings, Nappy Napolean, Wally Froiseth, Keo Nakama and Rabbit Kekai.
Q: It is odd that there hasn’t already been some sort of institutional recognition of all these people.
A: Yes, we felt it was really necessary to recognize these people and the role they play, not only here in Hawaii, but to the worlds of swimming, surfing and paddling. I mean, these people are institutional names throughout the world, and we wanted to pay them proper respect not only for their contribution to their sports, but to the larger community, particularly the youth of Hawaii, for whom they’re symbols and models of sportsmanship.
Q: That waterman sensibility has played an important role in representing Hawaii to the world.
A: Absolutely. The role these stellar people have played in representing Hawaii in the international community, in competing in world championship venues, and their accomplishments, are an example for young people to follow for generations to follow. Duke set the gold standard. Then there’s Freddy Hemmings, Keo Nakama, Nappy Napolean, Rell Sunn, Eddie. You know, “Eddie Would Go” is now an iconic statement all over the world.
Q: Your own history as a waterman goes back to Duke. How did that happen?
A: With my very first surfing experience. My Dad was elderly, he was in his sixties, and he knew Duke. So my Dad took me down to the old Outrigger Canoe Club when I was probably 10 or 11 – so this was in 1952 or 1953 – and Duke took me out surfing. He engaged me in that sport. I later became the Junior Surfing Champion of Hawaii in 1958, before we became a state, and it was all due to that first episode, when Duke took me out on a surfboard at Canoes in Waikiki.
Q: Did you go into other sports?
A: I’m exclusively a water person. My adventures on land are legendarily bad. But, in the ocean I turn into a different animal. I would say it was surfing when I was younger, and subsequently canoe paddling. I’ve competed in, I think, 21 Molokai canoe races. I’ve paddled overseas in Australia and on the West Coast. I would say canoe paddling ultimately became the sport that I most identified myself with.
Q: Are you still paddling the Molokai race?
A: I just paddle recreationally now. You know what, I don’t want to be one of those guys who drags themselves across the finish line after eight hours. I had a great run at it. I paddled with terrific people. We had great success with the sport. But it’s like John Elway said – not that I put myself in the same league with John Elway – but there’s a time to walk away from it. And there’s still a roll to play. You can coach, you can support the next generation through the Hawaii Canoe and Kayak team. There’s a lot of things you can do as a senior member of the sport that doesn’t involve directly competing. But it’s through our body of knowledge and experience that we can support the sport and help it grow.
Q: Do the things you learned as a waterman carry over into the rest of your life?
A: They carry over a lot of ways. You know, for me, I’ve got 325 or so employees, the majority of whom are stevedores. Many of them come from athletic backgrounds: surfing, canoe paddling, football, you name it. And I think one reason why I get along the way I do with the members of my workforce is they respect me for what I’ve accomplished as a surfer and as a canoe paddler.
Beyond that, the lessons I’ve learned as a canoe paddler definitely translate into applications in business, particularly as they relate to teamwork and selflessness, and striving for what sometimes you think are unreachable goals. Paddling teaches you that through good training, persistence, and the help and support of other people you can achieve those goals. I think for many people, not just myself, the lessons learned in sports spill over into what we do in business, what we do with our families, and what we do in so many other areas of our lives.
There’s another thing, too. Competitive sports are a great means of self-expression, a great way to blow off steam. It’s great to go out there and compete with your friends in a sport that you love. It energizes you and gives you an additional purpose in life. It helps make your life multidimensional. That’s one reason why I encourage my sons and my grandkids to get out and compete in whatever sport. It doesn’t have to be ocean sports.