11 AAPI Boaters, Water Sports Pros, and Coast Guard Members Making Waves

May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a perfect opportunity to celebrate the remarkable contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in various sectors, including boating, swimming, fishing, and watersports.

If you aren't familiar with these trailblazers, we are excited to introduce you to the outstanding individuals from the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities making significant impacts in these aquatic industries.

AAPI Trailblazers Making Waves in Boating and Related Industries:

1. Kelia Moniz 


Kelia Moniz, a two-time world longboarding champion, exemplifies grace and athleticism in 

women's surfing. Her influence extends beyond competition; she actively promotes surf culture and lifestyle through brand partnerships and social media. 

Kelia's role as a Roxy ambassador allows her to inspire young surfers worldwide, emphasizing the importance of passion and perseverance.

2. David Shih 


David Shih, known for his sailing and liveaboard-focused YouTube channel, showcases his experiences and insights on life at sea. 

His channel offers a blend of sailing adventures, practical tips for living aboard a vessel, and personal stories that connect with a broader audience interested in maritime lifestyles. This content is especially valuable for those looking to explore or transition to a life of sailing.

Read Next: Beginners Guide for Liveaboards


3. Jin Woo Nam 

Jin Woo

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. His goal was to retrace (in reverse) the journey of the first Korean immigrants 120 years ago.

4. Command Master Chief Josephine Tauoa 

Josephine T

Master Chief Josephine Tauoa, the first Samoan Command Master Chief, initially served on the USS Chung-Hoon, named after Asian American and Pacific Islander Rear Admiral Gordon Pai'ea Chung-Hoon. 

For her leadership excellence, she was honored with the 2021 Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Delbert D. Black Leadership Award. 

5. Kyle Lee 

Kyle Lee

Kyle Lee, from Cordova, Alaska, isn't just an accomplished salmon fisherman; he's also the owner of the Alaskan Salmon Company, actively involved in revolutionizing the way Alaskan salmon is distributed. 

His company has adopted a direct approach by immediately catching, cleaning, and flash-freezing the fish, then shipping it straight to consumers and Michelin-star restaurants. 

6. Titus Kinimaka 

Titus K

With over six decades of surfing experience, Titus Kinimaka is an icon on the waves of Kauai. Raised alongside 15 siblings, Titus quickly rose to fame as a big-wave surfer, participating in renowned competitions and even winning the Waterman of the Year Award in 1995. 

Today, he shares his passion through the Titus Kinimaka Hawaiian School of Surfing. His commitment to the sport and his community makes him a respected figure in Hawaiian surfing culture.

7. Jay Litherland 

Jay L

An Asian American swimmer of Japanese and New Zealand heritage, Jay Litherland began swimming at eight and has grown into a formidable competitor. Representing Team USA, he clinched a silver medal in the 400-meter Individual Medley at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He's a strong contender to qualify for multiple events in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

8. Christine Igisomar 

Christine I

In 2008, Christine Igisomar made history as the first Chamorro woman to graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. She continued to break barriers, becoming the first Chamorro woman to reach the rank of lieutenant commander in 2019, and has been a vocal advocate for diversity within the Coast Guard. 

Her pioneering achievements in the U.S. Coast Guard have paved the way for future generations of Chamorro women. Her advocacy for diversity and inclusion within the armed forces showcases her dedication to creating a more inclusive environment.​

9. Kanoa Igarashi 


Introduced to surfing by his father at just three years old, Kanoa Igarashi quickly showed his prowess in the water. His early promise was realized when he became the youngest-ever U.S. National Champion at 14 and later a World Surf League Championship Tour winner. 

Kanoa also claimed a silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. His participation in various World Surf League events continues to highlight his dedication and skill in the sport​.

10. Mahina Maeda 

Mahina M

Mahina Maeda, a Japanese-American surfer from Oahu's North Shore, learned to surf under her father's guidance and rapidly excelled. Winning the World Junior Championships in 2014 and qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics are among her notable achievements.

Mahina Maeda's career is a testament to the influence of heritage and training in achieving sports excellence. Her victories in major championships and participation in the Olympics highlight her as a significant figure in women's surfing, with a promising future ahead.

11. Duke Kahanamoku 


Duke Kahanamoku, born in Honolulu, Hawaii, 1890, is celebrated as the "Father of Modern Surfing." 

He was a charismatic surfing ambassador who was crucial in introducing the sport to new shores, including Australia and the mainland United States. His surfing exhibitions during his international travels captivated audiences and inspired countless others to take up the sport.

Beyond his contributions to surfing, Duke was also an exceptional swimmer. He won five Olympic medals in swimming, including three golds between the 1912 and 1924 Olympic Games. 

Duke's influence is still felt today in the surfing world, and he is honored with various memorials and namesakes, including the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational Surfing Championships. His life and career continue to inspire documentaries and books that celebrate his contributions to sports and his cultural legacy.

Follow These Incredible AAPI Boaters, Surfers, and Fisherman

These trailblazers embody the spirit of AAPI Heritage Month 2024, showing us all how dedication to excellence and a strong connection to one's cultural heritage can make a real difference in the world.

As we celebrate their stories and successes, let's keep championing the rich diversity and unique talents that Asian American and Pacific Islander communities bring to every area of life. Doing so contributes to building a more inclusive and enriched community.