Like his crewmate Haunani Kane, Jason Patterson attended Kamehameha Schools. The spring semester prior to meeting Nainoa Thompson, Jason was taking the required Hawaiian culture course all freshman have to take and had the opportunity to watch the film The Navigators: Pathfinders of the Pacific. “I remember watching this film thinking how cool it would be to be able to do something like that,” Jason tells us, “and how epic those guys were with what they were able to do, traversing the ocean the way they did. Never once did I think that I would be able to meet those individuals, much less be able to have an opportunity to do what they were doing.” Yet Jason did eventually meet Nainoa while still in high school, and under his mentorship, he was ready to depart on his first sail aboard Hōkūle‘a in 2006. It was a moment in time that changed Jason forever. “It wasnʻt until we were about to push off and I was going to sail in the wake of my ancestors for the first time, did I actually feel the change,” he explains. “It was an actual physical reaction to the transition between the life before Hōkūleʻa to the life with Hōkūleʻa. It was heavy, in the most positive way.”
Every experience since that sail been related in one way or other to the canoe. Along with the invaluable life lessons Jason has learned from the canoe, he can also thank Hōkūle‘a for his current job at ʻŌiwi TV -- a native Hawaiian television company co-founded by Hōkūle‘a crew member Nāʻālehu Anthony in 2008. When ʻŌiwi TV first set out to document the Worldwide Voyage as a Hawaiian story filmed by a Hawaiian film crew from a Hawaiian perspective, Jason was there to help keep them safe on the canoe, find the best opportunities for shooting, and teach them how to be crew members.
He was a natural fit to be a documentarian himself. Learning on the job -- trial by fire, as he puts it -- Jason quickly acquired the skills necessary to document the events and emotions on board the canoe. “I owe most of my experience to Nāʻālehu Anthony,” Jason tells us. “He taught me how to frame a shot, use a camera, understand shutter speed etc. Prior to the voyage I knew nothing about cameras! It has given me a skill and a trade to use in the land world.”
More than just camera skills, Jason has learnt that life on the canoe is not so different to life on land. Essentially, you face many of the same issues. “You are going to get along with people on the canoe who put the group or hui before themselves,” he explains, “And not get along with the people who have a more individualistic perspective.” When he gets asked what he finds hardest on the long sails, it’s this aspect of navigating the more self-centered personalities that challenges him most. Jason tells us, “As Nāʻālehu Anthony once said, “You can place crew members into 2 different groups. Those who put mana (spirit) into the canoe, or those who take mana from the canoe.” You never want to be on that side. Throughout your sails it’s very easy to see who is in which category.”
For Jason, the voyage is one of self-discovery as much as it is one of literal exploration. He explains how over the course of three to four weeks at sea you see many different situations play out, and you see how people handle themselves when challenged. It’s also a great test of how you, yourself, will react to certain situations. “After your second day at sea everyone is exhausted and the energy required to put up any shield you have on is depleted,” he says. “Eventually you see the unfiltered version of someone. You hope that the version that you put out is as close to what you want to put out daily!”