JOHN CAVEMAN GRAY
If you are reading this rant, you are already blessed – with literacy, education, medical care, clean water, technology, affluence and awareness far beyond centuries past.
My life should be the norm, but thanks to an inspirational and egalitarian Mother who constantly lived “out of the Box” I am blessed with unusual spirit. Mother often gets me into trouble, but without her activist spirit there would be no story, no ethic to share.
There would be no “Natural History By Sea Kayak”. As you read, remember Mother’s ethic “We are all nothing but overgrown monkeys!” If we aren’t “Thinking out of the box”, “Flying outside the envelope”, “Questioning everything”, and just getting into “trouble” we are imprisoned with normality.
You are the “Fortunate Ones” – for every one of us “with means” there are dozens who sleep in the bush without dinner or clean water. They work in dangerous factories, forage barren grounds, do not own a computer, or experience an education. The only distinction between “them and us” is nothing more than “Accident of Birth”.
Be you Gandhi, Einstein, Mandela or “Other”, true human value is measured not by wealth or privilege, but by compassion, creativity, and caring. If you are well off, enjoy your lifestyle –but join with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. True Human value includes touching the unfortunate in innovative ways.
I’ve run with the rich and royalty – mingled with a double Nobel Laureate, Fortune 500 CEO’s, media stars, peasants, philanthropists, tycoons and trash (the rich who are not Philanthropists).
Through it all, the basic human value is “My Word Is My Bond” – mixed with compassion for those less blessed. If your word cannot be trusted, if you do not assist the less fortunate, no matter your fortune, you remain “Inconsequential”, merely taking up space on our overcrowded Planet.
We all remember Leonardo Da Vinci – but do you remember “Doge” Giovanni, the richest and most powerful man in Venice during Leonardo’s time? Or Leonardo Loredan the “governor of Venice in 1500? Apparently he was a pretty cool dude, Giovanni is now inconsequential, his wealth brought only fleeting fame – but Leonardo broke the mold. Da Vinci taught us how to think.
An all-time giant – Da Vinci was a bastard child spawned from a tryst between a prominent lawyer and a peasant girl (probably the real brains of the boom-boom). We all know the bastard child Leonardo. But who knows Giovanni or Loredan, the rich and powerful of Leonardo’s time?
In my own insignificant way, I am also here to bring you to the Laws of Nature. It is my destiny, my Mother’s legacy. My Palette is the sea kayak, the tool that places undeniable Nature before your eyes, ears and nose. The vehicle that reminds “We are all nothing but overgrown monkeys.
It is my privilege to “put you in your own documentary” – Natural History By Sea Kayak Since 1983.
I was born into an environmental family “Before The Bomb” in January 1945. In my Southern California childhood the grass was green, the sky was blue and a person’s word was their bond. The beach, the mountains, and the desert were pure and close enough for daily excursions. Plants, animals and harmony with Nature were everywhere.
But in the 50’s all that changed. I was SCUBA certified in 1957 – age 12. My family ventured not only onto the sea but beneath it. I watched the oceans change. We still ventured from the mountains to the sea, but the air became dirty, the forests were dying and by the time I graduated from High School – 1962 – the World had changed.
It isn’t rocket science. Mother Nature, the hostess of humanity, is sick – and we are the reason why. Most of my school mates became doctors, lawyers or executives. The easy, “normal” route was the pursuit of money. Even in elementary school I had a head for business. I sold YMCA peanuts door-to-door to pay for camp, cut lawns to buy my bicycle. In my teens, I became California’s Junior Achievement President of the Year, and National Annual Report Contest winner. New York Stock Exchange President Keith Funston, flew me to New York to receive my award at the NYSE.
Banks and brokers awaited my graduation, but Mother Earth was my focus. Even at 7 I realized Mother Earth was sick. My role was not the pursuit of money, but a far richer goal – stimulating your awareness of the marvels of Nature – before they are gone.
In 1964 a Native American Indian picked me up hitch-hiking to San Diego. He reminisced “My first trip to San Diego was in1900. My family walked and it took a week. The forests were thick, the valley was green, and the river ran pure.” I scanned the valley. Only six decades later, the valley was a desert, the riverbeds dry, the landscape barren. I remembered elementary school smog alerts. We couldn’t play at recess. Times were changing – fast!
In 1972 I did a month in the Trinity Alps wilderness, so remote I never saw a human. I talked with my neighbors – deer and bears. When I hitch-hiked across America and Mexico I slept in cornfields and met wonderful people. Hitch-hiking deep in Sinaloa with “Hippie” long hair and beard I shared Christmas with a village experiencing electric light for the first time, the first of five similar experiences. (Read “The Best Christmas I Ever Had.”).
And I still marvel in the miracle we call “Mother Earth.
After graduating from UCLA, I moved to Hawai’i and a successful career. My business heroes are “Willie” Cannon, CEO, Bank of Hawai’i, and Henry Clark, Chairman, Castle and Cooke. Both drove old basic cars, mingled with all levels of Hawai’i society, treated their entire corporations like family – and gave their money to those less fortunate. After my “Spirit of O’hana” media campaigns Willie told me “John, you are the best marketing ma I have ever known. At the end of this campaign I will set up your shop and feed you your clients. All I ask is you bank with the Bank of Hawai’i.”
A week later he suddenly died, but his smiles, philanthropy and inspiration guides my heart to this day.
Henry Clark was another genius – dead ringer for Warren Buffet and almost as rich. We collaborated to make a difference for thousands of people across the Pacific.
Bill Paty, VP of Henry’s corporation was a remarkable man – war hero, great executive, at home with sugar cane workers and CEO’s. I collaborated with Bill and other environmental heroes – Lucky and Peter Cole, Randy Moore, Audrey Sutherland (author “Paddling My Own Canoe”- my inspiration to kayak) Bob Nakata, Dede Letts, Creighton and Cathy Matoon. Together, we saved O’ahu’s backside natural wonderland from development. Our joint effort “Keep The Country COUNTRY” was my life’s most important work.
Inspired by Audrey and another Hawaiian hero, entertainer Don Ho, in 1983 I started tropical sea kayaking to share the Hawaiian harmony with Nature. I convinced news anchor Gary Sprinkle and producer Mike May to make a show on my Moloka’i sea kayak trip. We won an EMMY award and a TEDDY for Best Environmental Education Production of 1985. The Philippines then invited me to video the Underground River but continuous coups refocused me to Thailand, then the most stable democracy in SE Asia. (How Ironic.)
Moloka’i trips were five days down the virgin backside, the World’s tallest sea cliffs with one kilometer waterfalls and extremely rough “Moloka’i Express” seas. Five days in a kayak bouncing on the Pacific, but still great food. The theme was the Hawaiian culture’s harmony with Nature. My Taveuni, Fiji trip was just as good.
I could have stayed in Hawai’i living the comfortable life, but Asia is where we win or lose the Planet. By process of elimination, I selected Thailand for my environmental experiment. Little did I know I would lose my home, my society, my life – – – to fight Asia’s environmental wars. Giving up Hawai’i was the greatest sacrifice (No – tragedy) of my life.
Stranded when no money came from the Hawai’i home office, I started Asia’s “Sea Canoe” industry on $28 and backbreaking elbow grease, breathing Acetone fumes while hand scrubbing glue off grungy fabric and gluing inflatable kayaks back together in Phuket’s hot February sun – the Planet’s worst work.
Some Asian Tycoons ridicule me for my penniless effort but I only ask if they can retreat from their luxury and create an entire industry with the same iron-fisted resolve. Without that hot, dirty, thankless effort Thailand would have no Sea Canoe industry, no hope for “The Environmental Ethic”. Twenty-four years on, I still wonder if “Environment” even stands a chance.
For the Universal Gods, my character and value trumps the spoon-fed Tycoons. So does my word – and so can yours. In the face of inherited fortunes where a tycoon’s promise can never be trusted, my word is my bond. My promise to you is great experiences that inspire your imagination, advance your awareness, play with your passion – and embrace you with Mother Nature.
Lucky you, the fortunate one! Share some lifetime moments with our team – great experience, creativity, diversity, quality, learning and “The Best Meal of Your Entire Vacation”
We put you in your own documentary. Enjoy “Natural History By Sea Kayak Since 1983” and “The best meal of our entire vacation.” Its rated 5-star on Trip Advisor.
And remember – You are the fortunate one.
Never Give Up! Mother Nature cannot afford to lose the Battle for Planet Earth!