“I’ve just grown a lot as a person over these past three years, I’ve learned a few things the hard way with regards to academics, making deadlines, and doing real things out in the real world.”
Growing up on Maui, Gyle McGurn felt most at home on the ocean. He swam, surfed, and paddled nearly every free moment; there was nothing like disconnecting and being in the open water. Although he always knew he wanted to do something on the ocean for a living, there was the question of what exactly that was.
Gyle continued to search for an answer through high school. He joined a voyaging program (Hālau Holomoana of the Kānehūnāmoku Voyaging Academy) and broadened his sailing experience. It was then that he first became truly interested in the maritime industry—as well as embrace the role of Hawaiian knowledge in the ocean: from canoe construction, to navigation, to cultural practice. The experience, he says, “gave me a bigger sense of appreciation of where I come from, and how lucky I am to have learned all of this about my culture.” Sights set for the ocean, and with the voyaging program’s encouragement, he applied to California State University Maritime Academy, or Cal Maritime.
When he was accepted, he made the life-changing decision to attend; however, a family with two other young students found it difficult to afford his attendance. Fortunately, his hard work up to this point paid off and Manaʻo Nui awarded him a scholarship. This helped him worry less about paying for school, and focus more on his future. Above and beyond financial assistance, Manaʻo Nui provided him with opportunities to see what the industry is like back home in Hawaiʻi nei. With their help, he connected with fellow Hawaiian youth aspiring to become captains, befriended industry leaders like Hawaiian harbor pilot Captain Ed Enos, and saw the job and career opportunities waiting for him. He gained a greater sense of security in his career choice, knowing that the possibilities in Hawaiʻi alone are endless.
At Cal Maritime, he learned the ins and outs of the maritime industry: from the engineering side, to the business aspects. He also learned some life lessons he didn’t expect. “I’ve just grown a lot as a person over these past three years [at Cal Maritime],” says Gyle. And as with most students going away for college, he found that being away from home isn’t always smooth sailing. But he was able to adjust well. “I’ve learned a few things the hard way with regards to academics, making deadlines, and doing real things out in the real world.” Manaʻo Nui’s scholarship enabled him to go beyond his high school education to become more independent. He gained a greater sense of responsibility for himself as well as others, and an ability to react and adapt in tricky situations both at sea and in life. “I’m just grateful,” he says, “and I’m also just happy that I’m here after all that.”
Gyle can’t wait to earn his degree and realize his dream. Of course, his mind always returns home to Hawaiʻi with the thought of making his family and mentors proud. He plans to share his knowledge as much as he can about the lucrative maritime industry, such as in the voyaging program he once was in, and help those in the same position that he was in not too long ago. “We need Hawaiians in the maritime industry. That has been a fact for a really, really long time,” he says. “I would say [to Hawaiian youth], whether you’re interested in the engineering side or captaining a ship…just go for it.” He believes that it only makes sense for Hawaiians to lead maritime activities connecting the Hawaiian islands with the rest of the world.
Without a doubt, he says he’s chosen the right path. “I don’t even see myself doing anything else with my life,” he says. “I’m happy.”