What is this man on Maui looking for when he dives 80 feet in 60 seconds and makes a living for 40 years doing it?

Flip NIcklin giving a talk on a whale watch cruise
Flip NIcklin giving a talk on a whale watch cruise

Lahaina, first day of spring—Seeking out creatures that boast the biggest muscle in the animal kingdom—the tail—Flip Nicklin, world famous national geographic photographer journeys from Alaska where he lives along with humpback whales in late fall each year for another season depicting the life of whales.For more, read my Lahaina News column appearing this week below. SCROLL DOWN

Voices of Maui Talk Story, LLC photos except the whale.

Flip Nicklin: 60 seconds, click, click, click…

Voices of Maui • Beyond the Beach

BY NORM BEZANE , Lahaina News

LAHAINA – When Flip (nicknamed after a character in the 1940s comic strip “Terry and the Pirates”) left his father’s dive shop in San Diego for Maui decades back, he sought adventure and a way to make a living.

For Charles “Flip” Nicklin – today “widely regarded as the premier whale photographer in the world,” according to National Geographic – the connection with these massive giants of the sea goes way back.

His great, great grandfather arrived on the West Coast on a whaling ship.

Mother and calf humpback whales swim together off the coast of Maui. PHOTO BY FLIP NICKLIN/MINDEN PICTURES (NMFS Permit #753).

His father, who he has always called “Chuck” because that is his name, was not only a dive shop owner but a world-class cinema-photographer who came to Maui 39 years ago for a shoot.

Flip as a young man tagged along as a deckhand on a whale research ship and was mentored by National Geographic ace underwater photographers Bate Littlehales and Jonathan Blair, who taught him about lenses and light.

flip IMG_0284Flip took photos alongside them, and as a beginning photographer, got three of his photos published in the magazine. This was a follow-up to the $10 he received from a kid’s magazine for his first published photo.

Flip may flip over when he is on one of his 60-second dives, but he has never flipped careers. He has been photographing whales and dolphins since 1976 for fun and pay.

In free dives as deep as 100 feet, Flip takes several deep breaths and has just 60 seconds under water to click off his photos. One of 500 shots is a keeper, he told some 200 people at a recent Whale Trust Maui talk story session.

By free diving with only a small air tank for emergencies, the free-diving photographer generates no bubbles “that would change the whole human to whale dynamic,” he wrote in the handsomely illustrated book “Among Giants: A Life with Whales.”

Flip often partners with research pioneer Jim Darling in a three-boat armada of sorts. Darling has “the singing boat,” because he researches whale songs.

Megan Jones-Gray, one of the Whale Trust Maui founders with Nicklin, operates out of the “female boat” for research on female behavior. Flip and videographers work out of “the video boat.”

Flip met his wife, Linda, a naturalist, when both were lecturing on a whale cruise – trips they take when not doing research.

This month, the two departed for Alaska, their permanent home, so Linda can work studying bears and other animals as part of her work. When not in Alaska or Maui, Flip has traveled the world from the Arctic to Antarctica, Florida to Maui.

Along Kaanapali this year, the 10,000 whales that travel here each year seem to be getting better. There are more frequent shows than ever.

There is so much to report on what whale researchers now know that a series of columns do not scratch the surface. Talks at the whaling museum at Whalers Village can fill the gaps.

New fascinating fact: humpback males singing can reach up to 160 decibels, equivalent to the noise made by a jet engine.

Flip straps on his long lens camera and carries one every time he is on the water – even on a whale watch for visitors.

You never know when you are going to get the breach shot of a lifetime.

Columnist’s Notework: This profile is based on interviews and presentations involving Nicklin and others, his book, and an article by Stephen Frink in “Alert Diver” magazine. Next column: saving entangled whales.

– See more at: http://www.lahainanews.com/page/content.detail/id/531366/Flip-Nicklin–60-seconds–click–click–click—.html?nav=11#sthash.Yw1kZBi5.dpuf

At this Starbucks, what in the world are these people looking that they would never see outside 10,000 other coffee shops?t

March 20, Kaanapali Maui–No. It is not NCAA basketball.  No it is not the flying walendas.  At this Starbucks, perhaps at one of the best locations in the county famous for its view, these mesmerized visitors are looking at the ocean.  And  what they are looking for are breaching Humpback Whales, are annual visitors who now number 10,000 in the channel that separates Lahaina, Maui from Lanaii and Molokai in the distance.  FOR MORE CHECK OUT MY COLUMN BY GOOGLING LAHAINA NEWS to learn more about whales.  JOYS OF KAANAPALI..now approaching 10,000 views.


beach reachoutIMG_0756

It’s on the world’s greatest beach, Kaanapali Beach. voted the world’s best beach twice. by Conde Nast Traveler. Generally you cannot win the prize more than once, even if you are the best beach every year. See what if looks like in Part II Spring Break. Voices of Maui Talk Story, LLC photo

HAPPY ST. PATRICKS DAY: How we celebrate on Maui

Kaanapali, March 17–Actually, we celebrated it of few days early at the first annual St. Patricks Days shindig of the new Rotary Club of Lahaina Sunset fundraiser where we danced the night away.  For 49 photos, google Rotary Club of Lahaina Sunset.

Voices of Maui Talk Story, LLc photos

PROFILE: Ke’eaumoku Kapu Leads 193 mile march around Maui


Protecting the culture a quest for Keeaumoku Kapu

Voices of Maui • Beyond the Beach

May 29, 2014
LAHAINA – Keeaumoku Kapu, head of Na ‘Aikane o Maui, the increasingly important cultural group here, in early life got no respect. Today he is one of the leading practitioners of Hawaiian culture, last week honored by leading the Maui delegation that greeted the Hokule’a voyaging canoe headed around the world.

Kapu kneeling at ceremony at Kaanapali Beach Hotel  Norm Bezane photo, circa 2005
Kapu kneeling at ceremony at Kaanapali Beach Hotel Norm Bezane photo, circa 2005

As a Hawaiian man living in his ancestoral lands, where he was a minority, Kapu quit school at 17 to help with family finances. On the job one day, he was called lazy by a union foreman for returning five minutes late on a lunch hour.

Kapu had been working 18 hours a day. “I did not see my wife. I did not see my kids. I had to leave at 4:30 in the morning and didn’t come home until 1:30 at night. I used to work 18 to 20 hours a day.”


Keeaumoku Kapu (kneeling at right) participates in a cultural ceremony.

His immediate response to the foreman’s lazy comment: “I quit.”

“I was steaming,” he remembered years later. “I went to the office and talked to all the head bosses and said, ‘This is what you guys did to me after working six months straight?’ I slammed the door. Then, two weeks later, they offered me a contract for $190 a week, and they flew me back home once a month. So instead of not seeing my kids for six straight months, I could see them once a month.”

At 27, Kapu moved on, settled on Maui and began growing his own fruit, vegetables and taro (15 plots) above Launiupoko for subsistence. He also set out to learn as much about the Hawaiian culture as he could, so that his sons and daughters would not be culturally deprived.

In trips to Tahiti and even New Zealand, Kapu found elders who could teach him more about Polynesian and Hawaiian culture than almost anyone back home.

Each year, the family makes a cultural pilgrimage to Hawaii Island (“Big Island is not its Hawaiian name,” he said). After the first trip, he got rid of all the furniture in his house except the TV. He told his kids material things didn’t matter.

Kapu over the years has been involved in multiple groups. He has served on the Maui County Cultural Resources Commission, chaired the Maui/Lanai Burial Council and Native Hawaiian Historic Preservation Council and serves as a member of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. His service of various boards adds up to 30 years.

A few years back, he led a Torch March around the entire island, his Hawaiian brothers greeting them in the greatest numbers in Hana.

“The walk was magical,” he said. It enabled him to identify people in each ancient Hawaiian district who anyone, including developers, could consult to assure proper respect for the culture.

For several years, Kapu was known as the man who wanted to curtail the once raucous Lahaina Halloween celebration as being foreign to Hawaiian tradition. His input spurred the county and LahainaTown Action Committee to bring Halloween under better control.

To tap his deep knowledge, Lahaina Restoration Foundation has been working closely with Kapu on its new Imagine project to revitiliize of the harbor area while respecting Hawaiian values.

Sara Foley, who heads an initiative by the Maui Friends of the Library to transform the Lahaina Public Library front lawn into a Hawaiian garden with Polynesian and native plants, has brought Kapu in as member of the group’s lawn planning committee.

Kapu, his family and others have agreed to restore an ancient stonewall on part of the lawn and install a new “King’s Taro Patch.” The family has already planted a test plot and will take care of the new plantings once they are permanently installed.

Supporting the culture is a family affair. His wife, U’ilani, heads Aha Moku of Hawaii, a group with an emerging museum and education center near the Front Street tennis courts.

Kapu would have been a great candidate to sail on the Hokule’a voyaging canoe. But he won’t. He is too busy teaching, protecting and preserving the culture in Lahaina.

Columnist’s Notebook: The columnist’s quest to learn about and appreciate the Hawaiian culture continues. The long-needed Hawaiian cultural renaissance has been underway for some time now, and we all benefit by touching and embracing the culture in a place where most of us are guests.


HAWAIIANS END 193 MILE MARCH AROUND MAUI: 14 exclusive photos taken with the marchers

Native Hawaiians who believe a higher power watches over them completed a 193-mile trek around the island Saturday.  Kupuna  Ke’eaumoku Kapu In a powerful statement at journey’s end said “if we don’t practice our culture, we are going to lose it. The old ways link us together. It is that simple.” TOMORROW ON THIS SITE: Ending ceremonies in Moku’ula.   MARCH 19: my exclusive story in Lahaina News reporting on the march with a photo spread.  Produced by Norm Bezane, VOICES OF MAUI TALK STORY, LLC.