Now 77, Keaulana can boast about many accomplishments: body surfing and long board trophies at the earliest stages of these sports; being made Hawaii's first permanent lifeguard; running an annual winter big board surfing competition in Makaha that bears his name; and watching two of his sons, Rusty and Jimmy, ride to even greater competitive surfing heights.
The beloved grandfather is a local Hawaiian hero to one and all, including family friend Bunky Bakutis, who appears in the documentary and also more recently sang Buffalo's praises in a heartfelt essay:
Although the Keaulana family’s connection to the ocean is known from Japan to France, their fame had humble beginnings. Buffalo grew up a poor, homeless Nanakuli boy, whose father died a month after he was born. He was exiled from his mother’s home because of an abusive step-father. “If you had a father and mother, life would have been better. I never had that, so my life was really hard,” Keaulana says, adding that he would often trade fish he caught for vegetables, to round out his diet.
“I lived on the beach… My life of surviving was in the ocean,” Buffalo reminisces from a large dining table in his Hawaiian homestead, surrounded by surfing trophies and ocean-related memorabilia. “When I went to school, I never had lunch money. So I would hide my spear. (At) lunchtime, I would jump in the ocean, poke a few fish, bring them back to the cafeteria, give them to the lady there and trade the fish for lunch.
Adding to the charm of this weekend's screening is the fact that the Kona Surf Film Festival, as run by Chad Campbell, clears just a couple of grand each year. All of which is donated to designated charities. It's a surfing film festival with the surf spirit splashed all over it.
[2012 Kona Surf Film Festival]