Kinikimo wore pineapple tablecloth shirts as a teenager. That is, when he wasn’t on the beach skimboarding in his hometown of Laguna Beach.
Gene – Kinikimo in Hawaiian – participated in skimboard competitions in Oahu and Maui when he was growing up. Since I know nothing about surf culture, Gene gave me a quick primer. Skimboards are designed to surf shore breaks with steep slopes and giant waves that come in and break right on shore. Surfers run as fast as they can … step, step … mount a wave and then ride it back on shore to do it all again. Skimboarding originated in Laguna Beach, and Gene was a part of its culture.
Gene has always cultivated plants and collected items from Polynesian culture. In sixth grade, he’d go on garden raids with other kids on the way to school and make flower leis. He studied Pacific island culture in junior high school. He remembers beginning his first collection of tiki items at age thirteen. He bought exotic plants and started a garden as a teenager. His early memories include a place called Tippiecanoe’s, a thrift shop that specialized in island vintage items and was famous for Hawaiian shirts and dresses made from tablecloths.
Today, Gene’s home and his garden, located in a small canyon close to the beach in Oceanside, are a paradise retreat that honors island culture. His lifetime collection of art, sculpture, and ceramics in every room of the house are surrounded by his rescued exotic plants that form a dense tropical garden. His companions include a macaw, exotic birds, and his dachsund. As we walked the garden in the cool sea breezes, we were visited by lizards and a curious snake that took a nip at Gene as he pulled the dead leaves from the bromeliads.
Gene and I talked for hours. Feeling like I found a slice of paradise, I didn’t want to leave. Gene has many wonderful stories. He shared late night encounters involving raccoons and other predators, his cultural experiences living on Hawaii, and his vintage collections that now spill into other warehouses.
Ha‘ina ‘ia mai ana ka puana is Hawaiian for “let the story be told.” It’s a common phrase that is sung at the end of a song or said at the end of story.
I was honored to be present in this paradise. Let Kinikimo’s story be told.