If you didn’t already know, May is Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month. So, what better time to highlight some phenomenal Asian American and Pacific Islanders making waves in boating and other related industries?
These AAPI individuals have quite the track record, so we wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve already heard of them. But if not, allow us to introduce you to the incredible Asian American and Pacific Islanders taking the boating, swimming, fishing, and watersports worlds by storm:
1. Kyle Lee
Kyle Lee is an Asian American fisherman from Cordova, Alaska, who also happens to be the owner of the Alaskan Salmon Company. As one of the best salmon fishermen around, Kyle is known for offering his customers a fresher option. Instead of the lackluster salmon found in many mainstream grocery stores, Alaskan Salmon Company aims to “provide the most exclusive wild-caught salmon from the Copper River” to their customers, from Michelin-starred restaurants to home cooks.
Follow Kyle Lee on Instagram.
2. Titus Kinimaka
Backed by six and a half decades of surfing, Titus Kinimaka is one of the best surfers to brace Kauai’s shores. He — and his 15 siblings — started surfing at a young age, and it didn’t take long for Titus to become a world-renowned big-wave surfer. He’s competed in many prestigious contests like the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational, the Quiksilver Eddie Aikau Invitational, and the first Jaws (Peahi) Tow-In Competition. In 1995, he won the Waterman of the Year Award for his service as a Hawaiian lifeguard.
In addition to his stellar surfing career, Titus has had multiple movie appearances and is featured in the award-winning documentary, Nihi. He’s also a talented Hawaiian slack-key musician and has been nominated as a Na Hoku Hanohano finalist. Nowadays, you can find Titus operating the Titus Kinimaka Hawaiian School of Surfing with his family.
Follow Titus Kinimaka and the Kinimaka Hawaiian School of Surfing on Instagram.
3. Jay Litherland
An Asian American swimmer of Japanese and New Zealand descent, Jay Litherland’s swimming career began when he was just eight years old. He was a knockout from the beginning, and as a versatile swimmer, he represents the DC Trident ISL team. He’s also a two-time Olympian representing Team USA, and he won Silver in the 400-meter Individual Medley at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Follow Jay Litherland on Instagram.
4. Christine Igisomar
In 2008, Christine Igisomar became the first Chamorro woman to graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. If you didn’t know, the Chamorros are indigenous Pacific Islanders from the Mariana Archipelago.
In 2019, she became the first Chamorro woman to become lieutenant commander. As one of the highest-ranking Chamorro women in Coast Guard history, Christina has made a name for herself, championing diversity within the institution.
Follow Christine Igisomar on Instagram.
5. Kanoa Igarashi
Kanoa Igarashi’s dad plopped him onto a surfboard when he was three years old. It was obvious that the Huntington Beach local was naturally talented, and Kanoa won his first surf competition just three years later. Since then, he’s taken the surfing world by storm.
At just 14 years old, Kanoa became the youngest surfer ever to win the U.S. National Championships for under-18s, and he went on to win the Governer’s Cup at the Surfing America Championships the same year. More recently, he was the first Asian-American surfer to qualify for the World Surf League’s Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour, and he won the championship title a few years later. And competing for Japan, Kanoa won a silver medal in the inaugural men’s surfing competition at the 2021 Olympic Games.
Follow Kanoa Igarashi on Instagram.
6. Mahina Maeda
Born and raised on the North Shore of Oahu, Japanese-American surfer Mahina Maeda is a force to be reckoned with. Her big-wave father taught her how to surf at their local beach, and she was a standout from the beginning. Mahina dominated the Hawaiian junior tour and won the World Junior Championships in 2014. After committing to surfing for Japan, Mahina qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games at the 2021 ISA Surfing Games.
Follow Mahina Maeda on Instagram.
7. Jin Woo Nam
Jin Woo Nam is a legendary Korean American sailor. Inspired by his Korean ancestors, he planned an impressive voyage of 75 days at sea – from Marina del Rey to Honolulu to Incheon. Essentially, his goal is to retrace (in reverse) the journey of the first Korean immigrants 120 years ago. Jin and his crew set sail in March 2023; upon publication of this article, he’s still sailing.
Learn more about Jin Woo Nam.
8. Command Master Chief Josephine Tauoa
Master Chief Josephine Tauoa is the very first Samoan Command Master Chief. Her first assignment as such was aboard USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), which is a guided missile destroyer named in honor of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Rear Admiral Gordon Pai’ea Chung-Hoon. And in 2021, Master Chief Josephine was awarded the 2021 Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Delbert D. Black Leadership Award for her efforts.
Learn more about Master Chief Josephine Tauoa.
Follow These Incredible AAPI Boaters, Surfers, and Fisherman
If you didn’t already know the phenomenal boaters, surfers, swimmers, and fishermen on this list, we hope you follow along with their exciting careers in the future!
During Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’re proud to introduce you to these inspiring names in boating, watersports, and other related industries. However, it’s important to remember that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders deserve to be celebrated year-round.
We encourage you to check out this epic group of water lovers and stay tuned for the incredible things they will do next.