(KHON) — James “Kimo” Akaka is an avid waterman who has overcome many obstacles.
But his latest challenge will require help from others.
Akaka had his boat stolen two weeks ago. It’s specially designed for him because he’s paralyzed on the left side of his body.
The boat was recovered Tuesday floating in the water, but it’s been stripped and is practically useless.
For Akaka, the boat is so much more than just a recreational vessel.
He says he has loved being in the ocean since he was a little kid. Having a disability has not stopped him from doing that, but not having the boat has.
Akaka suffered a stroke in 2011. He’s been partially paralyzed and not able to talk ever since.
It hasn’t stopped his from doing the things he loves, but seeing his boat in its current condition is heartbreaking.
He spoke with us by writing on his notepad. He says he left the boat locked up and in a trailer at a friend’s house, and it was stolen overnight. He still had hope that it would be recovered intact.
“Why me?” Akaka wrote while in tears.
Akaka competed in the 32-mile Molokai to Oahu paddleboard race twice. He’s also done the Waikiki Roughwater Swim.
On land, he’s proven to be quite an inspiration also, riding 100 miles on a recumbent bike from Kona to Hilo on Hawaii island.
But it’s the ocean where he is happiest, and the boat allows him to train so he can compete.
“It’s designed with a low freeboard, the rounded sides with the tubes that come back. He’s able to get help easily coming on board and off,” explained friend Bill Andrews.
“What does it feel like every time you’re in the water?” KHON2 asked.
“Water is the only place I feel at peace and safe,” Akaka replied.
Andrews says Akaka has inspired so many others especially those with disabilities.
So for him to not be able to go in the water, “it’s truly heartbreaking and it’s taken away a huge part of his hope,” Andrews said.