Ian Akahi Masterson, The Surf Professor, is an Instructor and Workforce Development Coordinator for Windward Community College (WCC). Masterson received his Masters of Arts Degree in Pacific Islands Studies from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Hailing from Ko‘olaupoko, O‘ahu this lifelong learner has spent over twenty years as an educator, ocean recreation and safety specialist, archeologist, and Hawaiian cultural practitioner. Sign up for one of his “Mythology of the Hawaiian Landscape” classes at Wanderlust O’ahu, where you’ll learn how myths and legends are poetic visions encoded with environmental and cultural information.
WJ: How did you get involved with yoga?
IAM: As a long-time Aikido practitioner I learned the value of controlling breath to focus Ki energy within — energy that can heal and protect. My sensei also emphasizes the importance of disciplined stretching and training of the body, in order to transcend the physical realms of ability and harness the power of mind-body-spirit with the universal energy that flows in and around us at all times. In this regard I have always respected yoga and I feel that they are similar expressions of cultural pathways to enlightenment. Likewise, the application of these pathways while in the water has made me a better surfer, and I am grateful for that. Also, while at USC, I had a surfing friend named Rod with whom I travelled around the states chasing surf and the Grateful Dead, discussing Ramtha, Jesus, and other spiritual masters, meditating, and playing music. He has since become an active yoga practitioner as well as the author of a book called “The Last Surfer”. Coming full circle, his writings have inspired me to learn more about the practice of yoga.
My direct involvement with yoga comes out of Wanderlust’s roots here. Kate Baldwin contacted me about sharing the Hawaiian stories from the area at Turtle Bay. I am thankful for Kate’s insight, because through the telling of the tales and our sharing of positive energy with the ʻāina (land & sea), these important Hawaiian places will live on! I was also able to see the importance of being able to tap into the spirituality that resides in all places through the participants who came on that first walk—so much connectivity, all focusing on the breath in relation to the flow of space and time. Since my participation as a Wanderlust Teacher, my interest in yoga has greatly increased and I look forward to learning from the many excellent masters who will be joining us this year!
WJ: What aspects of yoga / meditation / spirituality do you bring into your work?
IAM: Growing up here in Hawaiʻi and surfing for most of my life, my Aikido practice naturally evolved and melded with my surfing, as well as with my belief in the mana (supernatural power) that is imbued into Hawaiian forms of spirituality—and that changed me as a surfer. Hawaiʻi is a powerful energy center on Earth. I feel that the indigenous practices of the Hawaiian people harnessed the power of the natural environment through their acute knowledge about their beloved places, so I sought out many Hawaiian kūpuna (elders) and healers who guided me into understanding the mana that resides in all aspects of nature. What emerged from my life experiences is an acute sense of place and a responsibility to know the Hawaiian names and stories about our places so that we may truly embrace the mana that resides within—a pathway to spiritually based on a love for nature and the importance of expressing our god-self with aloha for the land, sea, sky, space, and most importantly, for one another.
Oʻahu is steeped in culturally significant tales of deities and there are Hawaiian cultural sites to be seen all around the North Shore, many within walking distance of the hotel. We can sense the magic and power that exists there at Kawela Bay, and even at the point on which the Wanderlust stage is set, Ka Lae O Ka Manu, where there is a beautiful tale woven of love found and lost in the giant surf that runs offshore there. Thus, our Kawela Culture Walk is a journey meant to bring forth a sense-of-place, to recognize the intelligence of the people who mastered this landscape, and to experience our own connections to the ʻāina of Koʻolauloa.
WJ: What’s your favorite pose?
IAM: I am a surfer, thus truly, my favorite pose is a moving meditation—perhaps flying high across the face of a steep wave, or flowing through a barreling wave, focusing on that one point of exit and the beauty beyond. It is a flow more than a position, one that aligns with the universal flow of energy pulsing through the ocean, a body-centric response that requires a calm mind and a free spirit… it is as if my consciousness melts away, given unto that flow of energy—truly a here and now moment that is timeless and fleeting. As surfers, we ride the boundary of two fluid masses, air and water, thus we experience the push and pull of dual forces that make the universe whole. Indeed, we ride the boundary of culture and nature, with the board our vehicle of expression. Hawaiians look at the passing of time like a current running on the sea (au), we feel the flow of these currents in our center (nāʻau) as we swim (ʻauʻau) through them. Thus, to me, surfing is a moving meditation wherein we strive to master the flow of space and time through our bodily expressions on the wave—I strive to reach that flow in daily life, to shiver with excitement for life itself and every moment therein!!! Still yet, my favorite pose to hold is kneeling, preferably on the sand, focusing my breath and ki energy towards a point on the horizon where the billows on the sea mix with the billows of clouds peering up over the curve of the Earth. Honestly, because I am only beginning along this path to knowing yoga, I am only now exploring different styles and positions.
I think what is important as well, is where do I enjoy holding my favorite pose? In nature, at home, here in Hawaiʻi nei, within the special places I love—and I am very stoked to share this aloha with all of you.
WJ: What’s feeding your wanderlust today?
IAM: As the Surf Professor, my Windward Community College students really feed my Wanderlust these days, along with my beautiful family, the music I play, and the waves I ride! With Oahu being our classroom, the pages of Hawaiian mythology unfold in nature before us. I am amazed at the depth of relationship that Hawaiians had with their universe, intimately understanding the intricate workings of the stars and wandering celestial bodies, the healing properties of plants, the weather, the ocean, and all aspects of natural history. My students have challenged me to articulate my understanding of nature as seen through Hawaiian culture, and together we have discovered a world emanating with the love of our ancestors and our mother Earth, a world waiting for our embrace! What is so great is that my elders, my students, and my family encourages me to continue sharing my passion for, and knowledge about the sacred places that I know about, so I am inspired to do just that at Kawela Bay. Plus, whether a college student or a Wanderluster, I always learn so much from all everyone about the places they love, so I must thank all of you for the passion and aloha you have for your own special places—bravo!
Of course, the waves I ride at Waimea Bay and at my home breaks truly feed my Wanderlust. I get so excited after a good day of surfing, and I want to share that stoke with everyone I meet along the way! Surfing is body-centric, as is yoga, and thus it is extremely important to care for the body and strive for longevity so that we may continue to surf at an extreme level. Music is also body-centric in that we FEEL the tones in within our body; and when we sing, the breath must be strong and the posture good so that those tones may resonate within our body; and of course when dancing, the cathartic properties of the dance purges our worries and troubles and sets our spirits free! Indeed, we got the band back together, so we are on a mission from Jah to once again spread an iration vibration to all the nations! Music is healing, and since playing music regularly once again, I have noticed how it has strengthened my soul, mind, and body, feeding my Wanderlust all the while—and I am hungry for more! : )
WJ: If you could leave one legacy for your community what would it be?
IAM: When I was young I wanted to move the world in a positive way through music. Dread Ashanti formed and we were able to reach that goal in a small way, locally, but also internationally, and even across time through studio and live recordings, it’s all about sharing that Iration Vibration! Even now, my song remains the same: I would like to leave a legacy of love for my family and my community—a legacy of aloha that is deeply imbued with knowledge meant to inspire a passion for sustaining our Earth and celebrating our cultural diversity as a world people. Such a legacy takes a lifetime to create; it is truly expressed through all aspects of daily life and shared with everyone we meet. It is a legacy that is left in written form, in song, in story, in the echoes of an oli (chant) reverberating off the mountainside, and in the aloha we share with one another. I am stoked to share that aloha with the awesome participants of Wanderlust, and I look forward to seeing you all soon!