Duane DeSoto

St. Louis School - Class of 1995

Founder: Nā Kama Kai & Aloha Surf Academy

Professional surfer Duane DeSoto is driven by the powerful advice he received from his father: kulia i ka nu'u - there is only one way to compete in all things - with excellence at your highest level. 

Born and raised on the west side of Oahu at Makaha, DeSoto describes his teenage self as passionate and faithful - two attributes that would prove to shape his success in the sport of surfing as well as in his commitment to future public-spirited endeavors. He began traveling the world competing at the age of fifteen and in 2010, he was crowned the World Longboard Champion. On November 13, 2010 in Waimea, DeSoto was honored with the Professional Surfer Award at the 8th Annual John Kelly Environmental Awards for his work in enhancing the coastal community and environment through his organization, Nā Kama Kai.

A father of seven with a passion for education and giving back, DeSoto created Nā Kama Kai (Children of the Sea) - a non-profit organization that brings ocean-based safety and conservation programs directly to Hawaii’s youth. The mission of the program is to empower children to explore Hawaii values, culture, and environmental education. DeSoto is also the Founder of Aloha Surf Academy which extends the reach of ocean programming and education through camps, surf and SUP lessons, and ocean excursions. In addition to his work with Nā Kama Kai and Aloha Surf Academy, DeSoto first sailed on the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Hōkūleʻa in 2012 and continues sailing and engaging with maritime communities across the continents today.

Duane DeSoto graciously shares more with us below.

What makes you wake up in the morning and say, "I'm glad to be doing what I'm doing?

Nā Kama Kai is like an infant. Each morning, I wake up and instantly wonder how can I nurture it to grow and mature to be what community needs it to be.

Who from present day or history would you drop everything to have a conversation with right now?

I would drop everything I'm doing to meet and speak with Duke Paoa Kahanamoku. He graciously promoted surfing and Hawai'i establishing the roots for world wide ocean culture.

Best advice you’ve ever received? 

From my dad - he taught me kulia i ka nu'u - that there is only one way to compete [in surfing, but in all things] - with excellence and at your highest level. To perform at your highest level, you need to know that are the champion, you are the best, and you will win. I think about this when I paddle out when I'm free surfing, when I'm surfing in contest, and in other parts of my life when I face something challenging.

If you met your teenage self, what would you say to him regarding life and success?

Today's decisions affect your future. Do things that you can be proud of tomorrow.

What does Hawaii mean to you? 

Hawai'i is my piko. It is a resource - rich land for us to steward. It is our elder sibling. It is home, it is life.

You can follow Duane DeSoto’s on Instagram: @duanedesoto.