Finding the Comfort of Home, No Matter the Journey: Catching Up with Mariko Strickland Lum and Kainoa Lum

Never far from the water and always adventuring outdoors, Hawai‘i natives Mariko Strickland Lum and Kainoa Lum share a love for the land that goes beyond their inspiring active lifestyles and the places they've ventured to. We sat down to talk story about their travels and how they're setting an example to protect the land while enjoying every inch of it.

What keeps you active in and around the water?


Mariko: Depending on the ocean conditions there is always something fun to keep you active on the water! It seems like the arsenal just keeps growing. If it’s light or offshore winds with swell, I will probably be surfing. Small and mushy waves? I’ll be foiling. If the winds are whipping, I'll opt for a downwind paddle or downwind foil whip in session of the jet ski. During flat and light winds, I prefer a coastal paddle on a canoe, SUP, or prone paddle board, or even spearfishing with my husband. The possibilities are endless.


Kainoa: If the waves are good I’m riding them! If the water is clean and the ocean conditions are nice, you can usually find me spearfishing, and if the fish are biting - regardless of the conditions - I’ll be out fishing on my jet ski.


What have been some of your most freeing moments outdoors?


Mariko: Where do I start? I love when the open ocean swells connect one after another for you; there's just this effortless feeling of soaring downwind over the ocean. I also remember the first time I got up on a foil and was flying over the water for the first time. It was like everything stopped around me and I was one hundred percent focused on that singular moment in time. Another memory that comes to mind is stand-up paddling in the Grand Canyon through Horseshoe Bend in the middle of winter. I paddled along the mirror images of the towering red petroglyph cliffs with not a single soul around, except for one lone fly fisherman whose rhythmic casting seemed as if his fishing line was dancing with the winding valleys... that was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! A couple of other freeing moments that I've felt are skydiving and spearfishing. I don’t spearfish often, but when I am able to dive down and hang out for a bit underwater, time just seems to stop all around me.


Kanoa: I’d definitely say that skydiving was the most freeing moment that I’ve experienced while being outdoors!


How do you keep the feeling of home with you when you travel?


Mariko: I try to bring special belongings and make sure to travel with those people who exude the feeling of home for me. For long and far travels, I always bring pa‘akai (red Hawaiian sea salt) with me for cooking; it’s the most prominent flavor that, paired with anything, will always remind me of home. There are two other items that I always bring with me no matter what the weather is like where I'll be traveling to: a thin pareo and my favorite OluKai slippers. Also, if my husband is with me, I can be halfway across the world and it still feels like home.


Kainoa: We love to cook our own meals when we're abroad, so we usually travel with pa‘akai and make sure to take advantage of the fresh produce found in local farmer's markets.


How do you protect the land while enjoying your time outdoors?


Mariko: This is a question that has been surfacing a ton lately - and for good reason! I believe your efforts can be executed differently depending on the individual or the group. I'm a very vocal person, so I feel that educating people is the best way for me to make an impact. Sharing information with others, having and open mind to listen to your peers, and strategically connecting people together truly helps cultivate an environment for communication and change to thrive. I’m not afraid to have uncomfortable conversations or address people because I’m afraid they might take it the wrong way. For example, I recently attended a cleanup along the Nā Pali Coast with other local Kaua‘i resident volunteers, and I confronted a couple that was using sunscreen with ingredients that are unsafe for our reefs. They weren’t bad people or maliciously trying to compromise our island; they just didn’t know and I wanted to educate them about the matter and also offer an alternative to them. We are all responsible for the well-being of our land, so even if you’re not the one going out and actively doing something, we all have an innate kuleana (responsibility) to keep each other accountable in a respectful manner; to help educate and inspire one another. Sometimes, just the act of just doing something is enough to inspire change around you, but more often than not, a friendly conversation can spark a larger, more inspiring fire within others. In terms of daily actions and efforts we focus on to protect our land, one thing we always make sure to do when traveling is to say "no" to plastic bottles and single-use plastic utensils. We also avoid buying packaged items when we travel and purchase bulk items instead, and we take reusable cloth bags with us wherever we go. At home, we care for the land by harvesting our own food, hunting our own fish, and buying local meats.


Kainoa: Whether I'm out traveling or close to home, if I see any type of trash I always make the effort to pick it up so that I can leave the place looking a little better than I found it. No matter where you are in the world, you're always bound to see some type of trash in the wrong place. Don't ignore it; even if your efforts are small, they are still making a difference.


Where will your next adventure take you?


Mariko: I’ve been traveling a ton lately so I’m content with just being home for a bit! But then again... I just never really know where the wind might take me.


Kainoa: We’ll see what kind of deals pop up and we’ll plan from there. I'm definitely looking forward to it, wherever it may be!