Aloha From Shaka Guide! Meet the Shaka Guide Voice
Listen to the interview here:
If you’ve taken a Shaka Guide tour, this is the man behind the voice - the person guiding you through your day, taking you from stop-to-stop and sharing the stories of Hawaii. Perhaps you gave him a name on your journey? Called him Uncle Shaka, Dwayne, or Bob.
We wanted to share a little bit more about the Shaka Guide voice and his connection to the islands! Meet Gray, a former radio host who grew up on the islands. He began his career in the late 60’s at KUAI - a local radio station on the island of Kauai. Now, he helps bring our tours to life with his enthusiasm and passion for Hawaii.
“I’ve lived in a lot of places, California, Asia, but there’s something about growing up in Hawaii, being a part of that culture, understanding the intricate history of the islands -- it’s just, it gets into your blood,” he said. “Hawaii is very much a part of who I am.”
Meet Gray, the Shaka Guide voice!
Here are excerpts of our interview with Gray.
1. Tell me about your start in Hawaii radio?
Just out of high school I was a regular, total hippie, but I pretty much just, went to Maui where I walked through the crater [Haleakala] and spent the night in the only redwood forest in the United States outside of California which is on the slopes of Haleakala. I walked all around Maui. And then a friend of mine got hit by a car and was very badly injured and that just woke me up out of my stupor and I was like geese I have to do something with my life, I can’t just sit here and walk around the island all of my life.
So I decided to got to Kauai, and I went to Kauai having never been there and while I was there I met a gentleman named Rolland Gay. He was a friend of my fathers, and so he and I had a cup of coffee and it just so happened that he was the owner and builder of Kauai’s number two radio station - number two in terms of when it was built. He basically offered me a job and said I think you’d be really good as our midday guy, why don’t you do middays from 10-2? And so I did.
2. How is being the Shaka Guide voice different from radio or other voice work?
As a local who grew up in Hawaii we slip in and out of pidgin all the time - you just naturally slip into the local vernacular and I want to treat the people who are listening to me like they’re my friends so I try to give them the same treatment, talk to them the same way, as I would any one of my friends in Hawaii.
3. Why do you think it’s important to share the stories of Hawaii with visitors?
Well, you know, the stories of Hawaii and the culture - the unique culture of Hawaii - the only kingdom, the only place in the entire country that’s ever been an actual kingdom, is amazing and it’s unique. You know some people come to Hawaii because it’s fresh, and sunny, and the water and it’s beautiful, but the indiginous culture of Hawaii has a lot to offer even modern society in many ways.
Did you know that fish farming - the idea of building a fish pond so you can grow your own fish and have plenty to eat for your family or friends or your village or what have you - this was invented in Hawaii? This science was invented in Hawaii. Where they built a pond and they make the entrance to the pond, a very small entrance, and they open the entrance at the time of year when they know the fish are spawning, and so the fish go into the pond cause there's lot of food, and then they grow and they grow so big that they can’t get out. That’s an amazing part of the Hawaiian story.
And the myths that explain to the Hawaiians how their culture came about. The myth of Maui bringing up the islands, you know with his hook, and shaping the culture of Hawaii.
This kind of culture, this kind of ancient culture just isn’t available anywhere else in the United States and I think it’s important that we keep it alive and that we respect it.
An ancient Hawaiian fish pond in Kauai.
4. What is one of your best memories while living in Hawaii?
In terms of awesome memories, I actually have the awesome memory of walking through the Haleakala Crater on Maui, which I did, in the late 60’s - about 68’/69’. Walked from one end of the Haleakala Crater, near where people park and they watch the sunrise, and walked all the way out the other end, getting over towards Hana, Maui at the other end of the crater and that was totally awesome - I enjoyed that very much. It took about two and a half days.
Haleakala Crater, Maui
5. What is one of your funniest memories while working for Shaka guide as the voice?
I’m kind of a mystery character, nobody knows what my name is or who I am, so it was really a flash when I was told that this lady who had taken the tour contacted Shaka Guide, and related the fact that they had honeymooned in Hawaii and that her husband had really liked my voice.
So for their first year anniversary she asked if I would help her surprise him with a Hawaian-style tour of their new home. “Like eh, ok this is da new living room, look at this uh, it’s amazing, boy I tell you - I love this house!” So we did a totally good fun, Hawaii-style tour of their new home for their anniversary. It was great. She said he was floored, he loved it so much.
6. What’s it like being the Shaka Guide voice?
I learned more about Hawaii by being the voice Shaka Guide than I did growing up there and walking around most of the islands. You know I lived on Oahu, I lived on Maui, I lived on Kauai and I walked around the Big Island quite a lot. The research that goes into this - I probably knew about 50% of the legends and history - but I didn’t know everything, so that’s one thing that’s been really cool.
And the other thing is there’s a responsibility to be the Shaka Guide voice and that is that I have a responsibility to try to offer the respect - and offer the culture the respect it deserves. Like telling people, “don’t put your cigarette’s out on the road, don’t leave your trash,” but more than that, it’s just - I want to instill a certain feeling of responsibility and respect for the aina (land) - for Hawaii among the people who are listening, so it’s really cool.
7. What’s your favorite thing about being the voice of Shaka Guide?
My favorite thing about being the voice of Shaka Guide -- it gives me an opportunity to introduce my home. You know it’s just like you welcome friends into your home. When we invite people into our home, into Hawaii, and I think to be able to show them around my home and give them some of the background - it’s so satisfying, it’s so real. I just love it.
8. Do you like the names that people make for you along the tour? Have any favorites?
My personal favorite is Shaka Joe, and if I had my druthers, I’d probably change my name to Shaka Joe.
9. What are some of your Hawaii favorites:
Favorite Hawaiian food?
My favorites, and I’m sorry if it’s not very popular, my favorites are Hawaiian avocados. Hawaiian avocados are amazing - they’re totally different from the ones you get in California. They’re big and round and just so tasty. And of course there’s papaya, you get the solo papayas in Hawaii which are small but very tasty. Hawaii is such a melting pot of different cultures. I love musubi, I love sushi, and of course saimin noodle soup - how could you not love saimin.
Favorite beaches in Hawaii?
Rocky Point near Sunset Beach where my second daughter was born that’s definitely one of my favorites. It’s right there on the North Shore where I lived for a couple years. Makapu’u Beach, where you go body surfing, it’s one of the places where even the tourists can go body surfing. Lanikai Beach, Sandy Beach - another place that I love to go body surfing. And of course outside of Oahu places like Hanalei Bay, the Red Sand Beach on Maui, and also on Kauai - Poipu, I love Poipu Beach.
Makapuu Beach, Oahu
Favorite Hawaii hikes?
I’ve hiked all around Hanalei Valley and Manoa Valley, I’ve gone to a number of trails - there’s quite a few trails in Manoa Valley. I’ve hiked up Diamond Head and Tantalus trails. Tantalus has two or three really really neat trails, and a fantastic hidden, secret valley, up on Mount Tantalus that very few people know about.
I really like hiking in the mountains. If you're up on Mount Tantalus and Manoa Valley there is a sound of the bamboo clicking that you never hear anywhere else! Every once in a while you’ll come across a place where you can look down off the mountain and look over the whole island and it’s just phenomenal - just beautiful.
Favorite things to do?
Biking! I love to bike. I used to bike all over Oahu and all over Honolulu which is really kind of easy because Honolulu is really very flat. Of course hiking, as I mentioned. Kau kau, eh, eating huh. And singing, singing with my friends, we sing songs, talk story. I also like to smell the flowers - there is no place that has as many amazing smelling flowers as you have in Hawaii. Of course, swimming and body surfing.
Which island is your favorite?
I’ve lived on three of the main islands, I’ve been all over the Big Island and I’ve lived on Maui, I’ve lived on Oahu and I’ve lived on Kauai and for different reasons Maui and Kauai are my favorites. Kauai because it’s so laid back, family style, everybody knows what everybody else is doing, it’s just a small town kind of a feeling on Kauai. And yet, it’s primitive. You can take an inner tube down the irrigation system that is just phenomenal. And to look at things like the Sleeping Giant or go to Hanalei Bay - the first time I went to Hanalei Bay I practically fainted. It’s so beautiful and it’s so easy on Kauai to go to a place where there is nobody - I mean nobody around for miles in any direction.
Maui on the other hand is such a social island. You’ve got the beauty of Haleakala - the majesty of the mountain there, you’ve got the West Maui mountains and Iao Valley. I love Maui because it’s so different - Hana is a complete 180 from Lahaina and Haiku, these places all have their own unique feeling. Makena Beach - there’s just no place like it. Each one of these places is just a few miles from the other. They're just totally different. It’s like going from one city to another or one planet to another.
A beautiful Maui sunrise
10. If someone had one day in Hawaii - what would you recommend they do?
One day only? Well, there’s a lot of things they could do. They could grab a taxi and go out to Pearl Harbor, but, you know for myself, I think that in spite of the fact that Waikiki is not what we really think of as Hawaii in so many ways - it’s like the tourism Hawaii - I think you’ve got to get that out of your system.
That’s what I would do - I would take a walking tour of Waikiki and I would listen to some Hawaiian music at the Moana Hotel or the Royal Hawaiian. I would drink a mai tai and just be a tourist. Lay in the sun on Waikiki Beach. That’s a good introduction to Hawaii.
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki