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team

Honokea is the leading developer of lifestyle real estate development focused around surfing, sports, and community engagement. Founded in 2011, Honokea was the first US partner of industry leading wave technology, Wavegarden. Since its founding, Honokea has supported the pre-development of hundreds of conceptual “surf parks” around the country. From 2011-2014 Honokea did the site acquisition, financing, entitlements, and initial permits for what became NLand Surf Park in Austin, Texas. In 2015-2016 the team worked on Honokea Coachella, putting together an entitled 60 acre project with a 10 year municipal partnership using the Wavegarden Cove.

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Due to the new technology involved, the project was a little ahead of its time, as there are now 5 surfing-related real estate developments in Coachella Valley, using Wavegarden and other technologies. In 2015 Honokea identified the Kalaeloa location on Oahu, gaining site control in 2020 after a long public process through the State. In 2021, Honokea was able to help pass a legislative bill for $95M in Revenue Bond Authority, and got an Environmental Assessment approved in 2023 on the Kalaeloa property. Honokea develops and operates several other businesses locally on Oahu: Treehouse Co-working in Kailua & Kahala, The Boardroom, The Lawn by Boardroom, Solar Shack, Makai Festival, and Tap in Studios. Honokea looks to share its unique developments and authentic operations around the world. 

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Keno Knieriem, Founder & CEO

Keno cofounded Honokea as a way to inspire social impact at an attraction level utilizing the popularity of action sports, sustainability and wellness. 

 

Keno grew up in Hawai‘i, graduated from Punahou School and attended the US Naval Academy where he majored in naval architecture and hydrofoil engineering.  He served in the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander, where he managed multi-million dollar maintenance projects on nuclear submarines and served as a salvage diver & engineer.

 

In 2014, Keno led the conceptual planning, site acquisition, and design of the world’s largest surf village, NLAND, in Austin, Texas. In 2015, Keno founded Treehouse Co-Working Spaces, a coffee truck- Solar Shack, and a craft cocktail lounge- Boardroom, in 2020. Keno was named Pacific Business News’ Entrepreneur of the year for small business 2022 in Hawai‘i, one of four recipients in the state. Keno and his wife recently welcomed twin girls, Coral and Sky.

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Brian Keaulana, Co-Founder & President

Brian, son of legendary waterman and big-wave rider, Buffalo, has surfed some of the biggest waves on the planet. He is a Hawaiian cultural icon, a global pioneer of surf safety, founder of several surf-related businesses, and is a second unit producer/director for Hollywood film productions.

 

Brian has innovated new approaches and equipment for water safety in the world of big wave surfing by designing and implementing rescue techniques and equipment still used today. He was the first to use the jet ski in water rescue operations and invented the rescue sled that is now used worldwide. Brian founded the world’s first Standup Paddle Board company, C4 Waterman. Brian trains elite military units, lifeguards, and big wave surfers around the world in water safety and awareness and is the go-to-stuntman for Hollywood’s most dangerous water stunts. He was recently featured in two blockbuster documentaries: Waterman, about the life of Duke Kahanamoku; and Big Wave Guardians, about Brian’s contributions to big wave safety in the world’s deadliest waves. At home, Brian and his family are well known for sharing their love of the ocean to inspire kids and adults from all walks of life. Brian’s son, Chad, has followed his family lineage into water safety, and his daughter, Ha’a, is a professional water photographer.

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Steve Yuen, Planning and Design

Master architect Steve Yuen has served as the principal designer for Group 70 International, Hawai‘i’s premier design firm for more than two decades. Supervising more than three billion dollars in projects throughout the Pacific, his large-scale work includes master plans and design for 21 large resorts, nine large residential communities, 18 commercial projects and ten educational, cultural and interpretive projects that focused on balancing urban expansion and mixed-use development and redevelopment.

 

His approach is environmentally, culturally, and economically holistic and contextual, and is based deeply on values related to community and the importance of civilized social engagement in any context. He has also been involved in the planning and design of unique interpretive, community and visitor facilities in the natural and cultural landscape. He is currently a partner in the development of an integrated community resource, village center and surf park including health, recreation and sustainable agriculture in Palm Springs, CA, and more recently in Kalaeloa, Oahu

 

Recent work in Hawai‘i within a community context has focused on a guest-host relationship that establishes the primacy of place--the host culture and its enduring connection to the natural environment as a basis for hospitality.  Recent work has involved integrating agriculture and Hawaiian culture into a visitor destination within a rural community on the island of Hawai‘i.

 

Steve earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard. A Hawai‘i native and avid waterman, his style reflects values related to community and the importance of civilized social engagement.

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John Kojima, Chief Financial Officer

John has an extensive background for operations in accounting, television, development and amusement. As a CPA, he has been the Chief Financial Officer at Honokea since 2013, and previously served as CFO for Atlantis Submarines Hawai‘i, an operator of submarine tours, a dinner cruise yacht and ancillary recreational activities. He has served on the Hawai‘i Eco-Tourism board and Financial Executives International-Hawai‘i chapter board. John is a passionate advocate for social equity, an avid marathon runner, and proud grandfather of five.

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Katie Knieriem, Business Development

Katie’s background is in customer relations, marketing and hospitality management. Her degree from American University is in Business and Pre-Law and she received her MBA from the University of Hawai‘i in 2015.  Katie and her husband own and manage several hotel properties in the US and abroad. She supports the company’s business development from concept to reality.  Her executive management has resulted in compound growth over the past 3 years.  She also grew up in Hawai‘i, is a graduate from Punahou School, and mother of three.

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Janos K Palko, Marketing

Janos has a BA in Marketing from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and over 10 years of marketing experience in the surf industry. He ran the largest action sports blog, GrindTV, from 2009-2014. He also has extensive experience in graphic design, photography, writing, and videography. He also worked for the Hawai‘i State Legislature from 2017-2022 as a budget analyst for the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Janos develops all branding, media, and marketing collateral for Honokea, as well as being an expert on modern high performance wave pool technology. Janos grew up surfing and skateboarding on Oahu, and is a graduate of Punahou School. Janos is a proud godfather to Keno's twin girls.

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Kokee Ledesma, Hospitality

Kokee is a hospitality & restaurant management specialist from Kailua, Hawai‘i. She has over 13 years of experience in opening and managing various hotel properties and restaurants for the W Hotel Group, Snooze Eatery, and the Four Seasons. She graduated from Punahou School and received her bachelor’s degree in Business, Hotel, Restaurant & Tourism Management from the University of Denver. Kokee is a new mother, as well being godmother to Keno’s twin girls. Kokee speaks fluent ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian Language).

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