All About Hawaii
See the beauty of nature through the eyes of videographer Kawika Singson in episodes of “Everything Hawai‘i.”
Running 20-mile hikes through Waimanu Valley or up and down Mauna Loa is just another ordinary outing for ultra-adventure personality, athletic prodigy and nature videographer Kawika Sing-son. That’s because every day is a new adventure for the 56-year-old ambassador of aloha whose passion is showcasing the natural beauty of the Big Island via social media and his OC-16 TV show Everything Hawai‘i.
But it didn’t start there. “I’ve been doing it all since long before the Internet,” says Singson, who grew up running the trails of Waipi‘o Valley, always toting his trusty Nikon.
Today, armed with only a GoPro camera, Singson goes to great lengths to capture the perfect shot or breathtaking footage. Although he likes still photography, his preference is video.
“I travel light, so everything has to be compact. No need for tanks or regulators when I dive. Just the GoPro. My ‘go-to’ is the GoPro,” he says with a laugh.
From lava flows, to the mountains, from the sea, the deserts and the valleys, there is no terrain Singson hasn’t traveled, camera in hand. One of his most iconic images showed his tripod with its legs on fire, positioned perhaps a little too closely to some smoking pāhoehoe flows. It received almost 50 million views on social media.
Singson would begin his lava shoots by hiking in the early morning. (This was before the 2018 eruption of Leilani Estates, which he did not shoot out of respect to residents who lost their homes.)
“I’ve been hiking and running lava fields for years. I’m like a billy goat out there, but it’s not something I can do with others since I have my own techniques and it’s too risky to expose anyone else to that danger. The gases are extremely unforgiving and deadly, and don’t give you any warning so you have to take precautions. You can be totally engulfed. So I always carry a respirator in my pocket.”
But his adventures didn’t stop there. He’s hiked, run and repelled from the ridges to the rugged windward valleys, as well as journeyed to the top of 13,678-foot Mauna Loa’s summit crater, Moku‘āweoweo Caldera.
“It’s pretty challenging to run to the summit and come home the same day,” he says, noting that most people stay overnight in the cabin.
In terms of difficulty, the Mauna Loa adventure out-ranks them all.
“It’s all uphill, and there’s the altitude,” he says. “But just for fun, I’ve filmed my 100-yard sprint dashes at the crater. No one else is up there. Yeah, I’m goofy like that and like to have fun. I’m not serious at all.”
Born and raised on O‘ahu, Singson moved to the Big Island at about age 10. As a young man, he joined the Army and was stationed in Germany for three years. Upon his return to Hawai‘i, he decided to make Kona his home and fell in love with it. For quite a few years, he competed in Ironman and other events. But he eventually decided racing was just not for him.
“I stopped doing races and became noncompetitive,” he says. “I found what I really loved doing was taking video. I learned the editing process and how to add music. It’s been very rewarding.”
Recently teaming with Mason Farish at Farish Media, they produce a show called Everything Hawai‘i: Adventures with Kawika, now going into its fourth season.
“I give (the footage) to Mason, and they basically leave it as true to Kawika as possible, so the authenticity is preserved.”
Airing on OC-16, Everything Hawai‘i is also available online. They’ve even been asked to make promo films for Hawai‘i Visitors & Convention Bureau.
Singson says it is important to put people in the shots for scale. If he’s by himself, which is most of the time, this means he will hike or run, stopping numerous times to set up the camera to film himself as he does, then repeat the process to get the full video. It can take a while to complete.
“You have to know the capacity of your camera,” he says. “Use that with the creativity of your eye in setting up shots. I’ll go to the top of all the mountains and sit and wait hours for the right shot. To get the rainbow in the waterfall at Waipi‘o, I will go when the tide is low and there is no surf, and just the right sunlight, at just the right angle, and the rainbow will appear.”
His work has garnered acclaim and a worldwide following. But Singson says his passion is a hobby and was never about the money.
“I like to give it away. If someone wants to use my shots, I say ‘Fine, go ahead, take it! I hope you make money off it!’
“Aloha is my philosophy. Greet everyone with a smile, and you will feel the reciprocal energy in return. Sharing my photos and videos is like giving you a hug and saying ‘I live here and I love Kona.'”
Follow Singson on Facebook or Instagram (@kveeks). For more information on “Everything Hawai‘i,” visit shows.oc16.tv/show/everything-hawaii.