Born and raised on Kaua‘i, Leleo’s childhood was rich with Hawaiian tradition and storytelling. His adolescence included a short walk from Kaua‘i High down to Kalapakī Bay where his father ran the beach activities for Kaua‘i Surf Hotel from the 60’s to 80’s. Growing up a “beach boy” was a dream according to him.
After Leleo’s parents met on Waikīkī Beach, his father became close with the legendary Duke Kahanamoku who deeply ingrained how to live and spread aloha in the Kinimaka family. Through Duke, the Kinimaka family was connected with an opportunity at Kaua‘i Surf Hotel. Surf lessons, canoe rides, snorkel tours, and weaving coconut hats on the shore of Kalapakī became Leleo’s beloved childhood.
At 11 years old he had his first job working the torch lighting ceremony orchestrated by his father at the hotel. Guests enjoyed a reenactment of native Hawaiians exchanging messages via conch shell and the beating of a sharkskin drum. A 4-man canoe paddled to the middle of Kalapakī Bay near Donkey Point, lit the torches on the outriggers and paddled back with torches lit. Once on land, the remaining torches were lit ceremoniously as the “native Hawaiians” disappeared into the ocean via canoe.