For the month of February, the Difference Makers of Hawaii are honored to give you a glimpse into a dream that started to come to life in 2008. Lea Arce, founder of the community service club, Kamehameha Surfers Give Back Club invited us to hear her journey that would eventually inspire many and leave a lasting legacy.
Lea currently resides in Mililani and has been a high school Biology teacher at Kamehameha Schools for the past 12 years. She describes her family as being a close knit ohana with an array pets (2 dogs and a goat). Her hobbies include surfing, outdoor activities, traveling, and playing with her animals.
The Kamehameha Surfers Give Back Club was established in 2008 and the competitive Kamehameha Surf Team began in 2010. When we asked Lea about her vision for the club and surf team, she shared,
“The vision was to start making connections with Kamehameha students using surfing as a platform to help the community, and also allow students to compete in surfing. I wanted the students to be grounded in their culture, be able to give back to the community, and represent their school.”
Lea has combined her heart for the youth, her passion for surfing, and her skills in management to create a one of a kind community within her school. She teaches each member to be their best self and to emanate their love for Hawaii by giving back. They are frequent volunteers at the famous Duke Ocean Fest. The annual event is held each summer in Waikiki, in honor of Hawaiian legend Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, who is fondly remembered as the greatest waterman who ever lived, and Hawaii’s ambassador of Aloha. During the event, members help with set-up and clean-up, sorting and packaging prizes, selling shirts, giving water to participants, handling boards, and assist in giving awards to the competitors.
The Kamehameha Surfers Give Back Club participates in beach clean-ups with Da Hui, the Aikau Ohana, and the Surf Rider Foundation. Lea went on to describe,
“We did invasive algae removal at Pae Pae o He’eia, worked at Papahana Kuaola in the lo’i, and we’ve also helped at Access Surf. Our students have donated clothing and surfboards to Surfing the Nations to help with mission trips to Indonesia and Bangladesh. We’ve sorted recyclables during the Kokua Festival at Waikiki, collected items for Toys for Tots, hosted clothing drives for Waianae Shelter and the Next Step Shelter, where we also threw a birthday party for all the kids born in that month. We organized surf sample sales and a movie night where the proceeds went to the Live Like Sion Foundation and Shriner’s Hospitals.”
When the Surfers Give Back Club is not partaking in community service projects, the team competes at the high school surf challenge once a month starting in November until April.
“We’ve been undefeated since 2010 and have had the opportunity to travel to California in the summer to compete at NSSA Nationals. We have won back-to-back National Team Titles for NSSA High School in 2014 and 2015. In addition to the team titles, we have had individual Nationals winners Ezekiel Lau, Imaikalani DeVault, and Cayla Moore win individual National titles for their respective division.”
Aside from the long list of community service projects, Lea truly is a remarkable person. She has this ability to make people feel accepted and loved, simply because she sees the greatest potential in everyone she meets. Her work goes beyond “getting the job done,” it embodies community and teaches the next generation to respect the uniqueness of their culture. Outside of her full-time position at Kamehameha Schools, Lea volunteers and manages the Surfers give Back Club throughout the year, and coaches during the surf season, alongside Isaiah Walker, Ikaika Ito, and Travis Watanabe. Lea humbly mentioned her appreciation for her family, her boyfriend, Jeff Enoka, as well as parents who have helped her throughout the years with the ground-work for fundraisers and events.
“It’s been so helpful to have parents like Jason Kim, Carol Moore, David Yamada, and Tootsie Okada who have been consistent in helping the team these past years.”
Lea has always been natural leader and one to give. When we asked Lea, where her desire to give back stems from, she tells us,
“I was class President and I remember doing a bunch of community service when I was in high school via the Leo Club. I also spent many summers volunteering at Kaiser Hospital at Moanalua. During college, I also volunteered many hours at the University of Washington Pediatrics and the Zoology Lab.
She goes on to share that she truly feels god has commissioned her dreams of starting the Surf Team.
“I’ve always prayed about this team and God continues to make pathways to break boundaries and open doors so the team can move forward.”
With all great ideas, comes great work. One of the biggest challenges Lea faces is managing her time efficiently when preparing activities, trips, and fundraising, coaching, and getting help to run the team. Kamehameha Schools does not pay the coaches as surfing is only considered a club sport. Until, Surfing is a HHSAA sport, the coaching staff will not be compensated for their time and are responsible for the fees to run the team. They are a self-supportive club and with hard work they have been able to accomplish much.
Lea tells us the joys of volunteering her time is the greatest when she has opportunities to travel with the team, and just sharing the industry and knowledge of surfing with the students.
She especially loves seeing the growth of the students in aspects of character, leadership, confidence, and how they have learned to honor their teammates and coaches. She also shared, that being able to surf after school with the team keeps her in shape.
“Most importantly, the journey of this team and club reminds me that small seeds of dreams can grow and blossom into reality, and that resiliency and hard work does pay off.”
When the Difference Makers of Hawaii asked the infamous question, if money and all other factors weren’t of a concern, what would be her dream for this community, she described,
“ILH, KIF, OIA, and BIIF need to get more teams going in order to make surfing a high school sport. MIL- Maui Interscholastic League is the only league so far that has declared surfing a sport.”
Lea Arce continues to inspire many with the way she chooses to love others and her community. Let her dream come true encourage you to water your “dream seeds” with persistence and heart.
Lea’s Favorite Quote
I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.– Philippians 4:13
To see how you can get involved just as the Surfers Give Back Club and Surf Team did, see links below:
Dukes Ocean Fest celebrates Duke Kahanamoku’s life, his athletic contributions, and of course, his spirit that still lives on. The festival also includes a number of surfing events, including a Keiki Surf Competition, a Wahine Longboard Competion, a Kane Longboard Competition, and tandem events. There are also opportunities for the endurance athletes interested in a swim, paddle, and/or run event.
Paepae o He’eia relies heavily on dedicated and enthusiastic volunteer base to get much of the restoration and rehabilitation work completed. The work is physically rigorous, yet very rewarding.
Papahana Kuaola cannot be successful without dedicated and passionate volunteers. While the work that volunteers do can be physically challenging, the experience is invaluable. Volunteer Workdays are hosted every 3rd and 4th Saturday of the month.
Access Surf We have a range of areas that we need volunteers to help us keep our programs a success. Set up, surfing, assisted swim, water transfer, water safety, check in, equipment check out, food area, equipment maintenance and teardown. We have volunteers in the fields of therapeutic recreation, rehabilitative medicine, and ocean safety available to work with participants and volunteers. Our volunteer base consists of variety of people from our community.
Surfing The Nations impacts local and international communities through the sport of surfing and selfless service by meeting needs and changing lives.
Kokua Festival Hawaii has more school gardens because of Willie Nelson and Ben Harper. We have more field trips out into nature because of Eddie Vedder and Kawika Kahiapo. More recycling bins in the classrooms because of Ziggy Marley and Paula Fuga, less plastic on the beaches because of Jackson Browne and John Cruz, more healthy school snacks because of Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds; and now thanks to you, and everyone who purchases this album, The Kokua Hawaii Foundation will be able to continue inspiring Hawaii’s next generation of environmental stewards.
Toys for Tots The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.
Next Step Shelter is an emergency shelter for families, couples and individuals.
Live Like Sion: Sion was a family man and talented big wave surfer and Pipeline specialist. His unparalleled bravery, dedication and fearlessness in big waves and his first passion, charging Pipeline, made a lasting impact on the greater surf world and is still the stuff of legend. Sion passed away doing what he loved — surfing big waves — Steep and Deep celebrates the commitment that Sion embodied by rewarding the surfer and photographer who link up for the best photograph of the winter of Pipeline or Backdoor.
Shriners Hospitals: Through the generosity of donors like you, we’ve been able to help more than one million children reach their potential and lead more fulfilling lives, regardless of their families’ ability to pay. Make your gift today to help provide life-changing and even lifesaving care to our children who need your help.
To read more about the Surfers Give Back Club and the success of the Kamehameha Surf Team see links below:
Surfers Give Back Club
Kamehameha Surf Team
Second National Title
KHON2 News on Kamehameha Schools Surf Team Wins National Competition
As Always #BeInspired.
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