In 1998, retired professional windsurfer Clare Seeger Albino founded Youth in Motion (YIM) on the island of Molokaʻi. Her vision was to “empower, equip, educate, challenge and motivate youth through activities that engage and develop their mental, emotional, creative and physical skills on the land and in the ocean.”
YIM welcomes keiki of all ages to participate in free activities such as swimming, windsurfing and kayaking. When it obtained nonprofit status in 2003, YIM launched A Celebration of Youth Opportunities/Na ʻŌpio Hana Paʻa. Within a month, plans for that snowballed to include a Maui-to-Molokaʻi ocean race for wind-powered craft; University of Hawaiʻi-sponsored sporting clinics around Molokaʻi; and a hoʻolauleʻa at Mālama Park in Kaunakakai. YIM held the festival there until 2007.
In subsequent years, YIM tried other venues, tweaked the event’s format and changed its name a few times, finally settling on Molokaʻi Holokai (Seafarer) Hoʻolauleʻa.
Molokaʻi Holokai was a stand-up paddleboard race that the Molokaʻi ʻOhana Surf Club hosted until 2013. Five years later, they allowed YIM to adopt the race as part of its annual youth celebration. Thus, the name Molokaʻi Holokai Hoʻolauleʻa came about, with YIM committed to fulfill the Molokaʻi Holokai’s mission to “embody our inherent Hawaiian cultural values — taking care of the land and sea, giving back to the community, honoring host culture/language, and respecting others.”
Born in Singapore and raised in Poole, England, from the age of 6, Albino excelled in many sports when she attended high school – even winning distinction as the youngest British marathon runner in 1981 when she was 15 years old. At 16, she became a professional windsurfer, traveling the world and ending up in Hawaiʻi in 1989. She finished her career as the state’s champion from 1990 to 1993, the year she also won national acclaim as the United States’ women’s slalom champion.
“It was hard being a young woman competing in male-dominated sports without a wealthy family or other financial resources,” said Albino, who has lived on Molokaʻi for 30 years. “I struggled to find sponsors; without them, I would never have made it as far as I did. I realized many talented youths would not reach their goals and full potential because they come from areas and backgrounds that make it difficult to obtain the necessary support. That inspired me to set up a foundation to help them make their dreams come true.”
After breaks in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, the Molokaʻi Holokai Hoʻolauleʻa is back this year.
The Maui to Molokaʻi Challenge on Friday, July 8, will begin at 9 a.m. at D.T. Fleming Beach. Visitors and kamaʻāina aged 14 and up will cross the 26-mile Pailolo Channel to Kaunakakai Harbor on one- and two-person canoes, stand-up foil and paddle boards, and some wind craft.
The Kamalō Run the next day is a 10-mile “downwinder” from Kamalō Harbor to the Molokaʻi Community Health Center starting between 11 a.m. and noon for participants riding stand-up paddle boards, and between noon and 1 p.m. for entrants using canoes and SUP foils. Other courses run 2-5 miles with varying start times – and there’s even a ¾-mile race for mākua and keiki.
The hoʻolauleʻa begins at noon at the health center with entertainment, a craft fair, food booths and a Keiki Fun Corner featuring bouncy castles, a water slide and other fun diversions for children.
New this year is the Gorilla Ogo and Mangrove Seed Contest. Prizes will be given to those who can collect the most of those non-native invasive species that plague Molokaʻi’s shores on July 8 and 9 from 8 a.m. to noon. Sign up online at molokaiholokai.com or in person at Kaunakakai Wharf at 8 a.m. on July 8.
Native Hawaiians comprise about 61% of Molokaʻi’s population — more than twice the percentage on any other island except Niʻihau.
“The kids in Youth in Motion are primarily Hawaiian, but we encourage all youth to participate in our programs and activities no matter their skin color,” Albino said. “I’m a social studies teacher at Molokaʻi High School, and I love trying to inspire them and sharing stories of how they’ve grown up to be responsible, contributing adults. I can also tell you stories about troubled kids; it’s heartbreaking to see them get into substance abuse, for example. When I see them on the street, I always tell them they can come back to Youth in Motion when they are ready.”
YIM operates primarily on donations and kōkua from volunteers. Life gets busy, but Albino believes it’s imperative to find time to mentor youngsters because they are our future.
“For the Molokaʻi Holokai Hoʻolauleʻa, adults can put everything else aside, celebrate our kids and motivate them to be the best they can be — not settle for less and not give up,” she said. “I believe doing something from your heart is the best way to give to them. Money helps, of course, but what’s more important is how much your heart can give.”
For more information about the Molokaʻi Holokai Hoʻolauleʻa, go to molokaiholokai.com or call Clare or Gordon Albino at (808) 336-0946 or (808) 658-6003.