We all have that friend on the mainland who thinks living and working in Hawaii must automatically mean we have a cool job, right? Because they assume that just beyond our cubicle, beyond the freezing cold air conditioner, and three layers of clothes, a tropical paradise awaits? While that’s partially true, there are definitely some jobs that are objectively cooler than others. We found a few people who aren't just living for the weekends -- and we’d be willing to trade places with them any day.
Nakoa Decoite, professional surfer
How he got the job: "I've been in the ocean my whole life, but I started surfing when I was 15, so it's been 12 years. Once you reach a skill level where you have a bit of influence, companies want to be attached to you."
What he does: "You're basically a billboard for companies' products. They pay you for using or advertising their product in competitions or creating content that's relevant to their brand. Anything that you do that creates brand awareness, like pictures in magazines, videos posted online, or a good social media following, but I just really enjoy the ocean. We're so blessed to live in such an amazing place that has warm water and waves all year round. I still have to pinch myself because I get paid to surf and capture my performances."
Darin Fujimori, stuntman
How he got the job: "When Windtalkers came to Hawaii, it was my first introduction to the business. I worked as an extra, but it was alongside a bunch of stunt people. I had a martial arts background, and I still teach [taekwondo] today."
What he does: "Every day is different. It just depends on what the scene calls for; if you have to drive a car, or if you have to get shot, act out fights, get shot, beat up. Sometimes I get to travel. I went to Iceland for Flags of Our Fathers and I traveled for The Last Samurai. I’m the guy that gets shot down when they’re riding on the horses. Some of the TV shows like 24 or CSI were in LA, but some are in Hawaii, sometimes Kauai. Generally we have to submit our stuff through a stunt coordinator, and they make the call. You send your headshot and resume, and either you get called or you keep looking for the next job."
Ana Joyce Advincula, professional Polynesian dancer/entertainer
How she got job: "Dancing was a part of my life before I even knew what it was. My older (and only) sister was dancing before me. At age 4, my mom threw me in the same hula dance studio as her. Since then, I haven't been able to stop. I began with hula, then ventured into Tahitian dance, and eventually found myself exploring dance stylings of Samoa, Tonga, and New Zealand. When I turned 15, I applied for a GE License and auditioned for a small group in Waikiki and eventually landed my first ever job at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, which was the beginning of a lasting passion."
What she does: "A professional Polynesian/hula dancer is more than memorizing dance moves and getting a tan. Of course those aspects are important, however it doesn't stop there. Becoming and remaining a 'good' professional hula/Polynesian dancer requires hours of training, conditioning, singing, chanting, acting, and especially ensuring the people who visit our islands (which can be 300-800 people in a single night) remember their experience. A lot of times, our job and the tourism entertainment industry are compared to Disneyland, we are one of the happiest places on Earth. A 'work' day for a professional hula/Polynesian dancer begins prior to stepping onto the stage. I use the word 'work' loosely as most (including myself) find it difficult to call our job, 'work.'"
Laura Mary Flynn, yoga instructor, health coach, scientist
How she got job: "As a senior in college, I enrolled in a mindfulness and meditation course; I loved it. Once I graduated from college, I began practicing yoga, soon enough, every day; I was hooked. Flash forward three years, I enrolled in a yoga teacher training. I was heading to graduate school to study the psychosocial and physical benefits of yoga. After completing graduate school in a year and half and working six months in another research desk job, I took the plunge -- I became a full-time yoga instructor. With student loans and the high cost of living in Hawaii, it was nerve wracking, but my heartstrings had already been pulled in that direction."
What she does: "I lead a yoga teacher training through Power Yoga Hawaii Kahala and it has been really rewarding. I teach six studio classes, two beach yoga classes, roughly eight privates per week, and usually a few events per month. Empowering individuals with the knowledge of history, alignment, philosophy, and anatomy of yoga and watching them matriculate and teach have been such a rewarding experience."
Zak Noyle, professional water photographer
How he got the job: "It came from a love for the ocean and growing up in Hawaii. My dad is a commercial photographer, but he shoots hotels, food, and fashion. Being a strong swimmer and comfortable in the ocean and in these large waves, I was able to go places that other people never dreamed of and am able to bring that moment to someone who could never do that. A lot of the time, I'm shooting over a very shallow reef -- I was able to carve a niche for myself [with my style]. It was noticed quickly by the surf industry to the point where they were sending me to travel. I’ve to Tahiti maybe 16 or 17 times, Fiji, Australia, Rapa Nui, Peru... We went to Okinawa, Japan this past year, and it’s my favorite trip I’ve ever done."
What he does: "I’m pretty free to operate. I work for Surfer Magazine, Red Bull, and RVCA, and I’ll find places I’ve always wanted to go, start doing research on it, etc. Weeks before I shoot, I start looking at the forecasts, so I kind of know what’s going to be happening, but again, it’s Mother Nature. The night before, if I know it’s going to be good, I’m waking up three times at night naturally, just being excited, and checking a weather buoy. And the buoy is telling me the wave height, how big it’s going to be, when it’s going to come in. So it’s like I’m a meteorologist, a weatherman. All I want to do is be in the water and be shooting. I’m pretty lucky."
Carl Schaper, president of Schaper Hawaii, surfboard shaper
How he got the job: "I kind of just fell into it. I was pretty young, only 17 at the time, and a guy that became a really good friend of mine would build boards when I was living in Coco Beach [Florida]. I couldn’t afford to buy surfboards, so we just started making some boards in the garage and just one thing led to another. It had only been about a year or so and these guys asked me if I wanted a job. I didn’t even know there were jobs like that -- it was 1973 or '74. I was like, ‘Are you kidding? Sign me up!’ So, I got a job working for those guys and pretty much haven’t done anything else since then."
What he does: "I’m not just a surfboard shaper; I’ve got a big old factory, a showroom, and people working for me. The favorite thing about my job is that I’m my own boss. If I want to stop and surf, I can surf. I have a lot of freedom, and when you’re shaping boards, it’s fun. After 40 years, I still enjoy making surfboards, so there’s actually a whole lot of fun stuff going on at the shop. We have a good time, we joke around all day long."
Roxayne Spruance, assistant brewer, Honolulu Beerworks
How she got the job: "Like many, before I was a professional brewer, I was an avid homebrewer. A mutual friend introduced me to the owner of Honolulu Beerworks during the construction phase of the brewery. He and his wife were doing most of the work themselves, so I started volunteering a few days a week. A few months later, when the brewhouse and tanks finally arrived, I was asked if I would like to come on as the assistant brewer -- I jumped at the opportunity. It’s been a steep but wonderful learning curve. The people in the craft beer world are amazingly close, and because most have also come from very basic beer roots, even the biggest icons are willing to share their knowledge with others following their path."
What she does: "The brewing process itself takes six to eight hours from start to finish. Intertwined with that, brewers spend most of their time moving beer around from fermenters to Brite tanks to serving tanks, and then cleaning each of those things… It's definitely a job for people who are a bit obsessive as proper sanitation and disinfection are absolutely key to making good beer! Being a 'brewer' is a very glamorous job title, but it actually involves a lot of physical work and even more non-glamorous tasks so it definitely more of a labor of love and passion for most of us."
Nakoa Prejean, founder/builder/captain of Hawaiian Ocean Adventures/Moana Nui Wa‘a
How he the job: "I created it! As a Hawaiian, I was raised by a family who put a huge emphasis on the importance of education and perpetuating our culture. After studying at Kent State and working for a short time at the United Nations in Geneva, I felt the calling to come home to Hawaii. My true love and passion has always been the ocean. In 1987, which was the year of the Hawaiian, my uncles founded the Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Association, and from there to today, my life has been centered around the Hawaiian sailing canoe."
What he does: "My days are spent multi-tasking. I can be in our shop building and designing a new sailing canoe in the morning, and in the afternoon I can be teaching kids the art of canoe sailing or sharing this part of our culture with our state's visitors. I feel a responsibility to perpetuate this part of our culture; it's how I was raised. For me, it's passing on my knowledge to kids, to teach them the skills it takes to build a Hawaiian sailing canoe in the traditional way. When we get to sail the canoes with our visitors, I take pride in knowing I am giving them a truly authentic experience. The Hawaiian sailing canoe is a part of my DNA, to be able to make my living, building, sharing, teaching, and perpetuating the sailing canoe is the ultimate way to live."