Born in Nairobi, Kenya, on an otherwise unremarkable day in late 1985, I spent my first five years living in East Africa before moving to Geneva, Switzerland. Overseas, I have also called Harare, Zimbabwe and Canberra, Australia my home. Stateside I tend to find myself in either small towns in the Rocky Mountains, or on tropical islands in the Pacific Ocean.
From a young age, my lifelong ambition had been to become a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Sadly, in spite of my best efforts, my life went in some different directions, outlined below.
By means of unknown celestial phenomena, or perhaps too much absinthe getting passed around the admissions office, I matriculated at Princeton University for my higher education. At Princeton, I spent many hours playing in sandboxes as an NCAA Div-I long & triple jumper on the track team. I graduated cum laude in 2008 with two receipts: one labeled "Sociology" and the other "Environmental Studies." I also received the 2007 Becky Colvin Memorial award for independent research, and the 2008 Myers award for maintaining the highest GPA on the varsity track and field team, although I suspect those selections were actually conducted by Ouija Board.
Growing up mostly in Africa inculcated a penchant for high octane athletic pursuits. When not teasing black mambas or riding bareback on wild cape buffalo, I enjoyed playing rugby, field hockey, track & field, and squash. In high school, at Canberra Grammar School in Canberra, Australia, I kept up with the rugby and track & field, but traded in riding buffalo for herding kangaroo and wombats.
At Langley High School in Northern Virginia, where I graduated, I was a three sport varsity athlete. I was a starting midfielder on our district champion lacrosse team, and captain on the district champion track & field team (indoors and outdoors). But I found the most success in the ungainly and masochistic event of the triple jump, where I won the state championship, placed 5th at the Penn Relays (and 3rd out of the Americans), and in my senior year would be briefly ranked as the top high school triple jumper in the country.
I passed up several scholarship opportunities to apply to Princeton University, where I was admitted and competed as a short sprinter & jumper all four years. Battling chronic injury that seems endemic to triple jumpers, I still managed to earn All-Ivy status, and graduate as the 3rd farthest triple jumper in university history.
After university, and without a track and field career to be concerned about, I moved to the Rocky Mountains and embraced my transformation into a big mountain powder hound, on both skis and snowboard.
Longing for competitive athletics again, I picked up skeleton, the sport where an athlete slides head first down a serpentine chute of ice at over 80mph. Combining my appreciation for winter sports with my athletic abilities in track & field and my nostalgia for riding cape buffalo, I joined the American team as an Olympic development athlete.
In the fall of 2014 I qualified for my first US National Team, ranked #5 in the country at the US National Team Trials. In the following year's team trials I finished ranked #2 in the country and qualified for the World Cup circuit for the first time. At the 2016 World Championships for skeleton, hosted in Igls, Austria, I finished as the top ranked American racer and #8 in the world. In the fall of 2016, I requalified for the the US National Team & World Cup team ranked as #2 in the country again.
After spending 8 years with Team USA and qualifying for 5 USA National Teams and 2 USA World Championship Teams, I decided to take advantage of my Polynesian heritage and join the American Samoan bobsled & skeleton team for the 2019-2020 season. As of now, I'm a team of 1. But I still qualified for my 3rd World Championships, where I finished #18 in the world. Along the way I managed to go 38 - 0 against my former American teammates, and won the first ever winter-sport gold medals for American Samoa. Suffice to say, it has been a wild ride thus far...
On two separate occasions while bemusedly perambulating through New York City, I was approached by talent scouts who tried to recruit me as a model. Unfortunately I was still in college at the time, and the bylaws of NCAA amateur athletics forbid modeling, among other things. My endeavors in vapid solipsism would have to be put on hold until after graduation. I was having too much fun playing in my sandbox anyway.
Sometime after graduating and trading in my sandbox for bowls of high-alpine snow, I signed non-exclusively with Sports+Lifestyle Unlimited, a talent agency geared specifically for athletes and lifestyle models. I later signed with the fine folks at Model Club Inc. for East Coast representation, and a better glimpse into the commercial side of modeling. I've since signed with McCarty Talent Agency in Salt Lake City, and Wilhelmina in Denver.
Most of my modeling is in the sports & fitness sector, since I entered the modeling world on my athletic chops. However, I also venture into the lifestyle and commercial sectors, as many clients find my ethnically ambiguous "look" an asset. I've never done fashion modeling, and know nothing about that segment of the market apart from what I learned watching the award winning documentary "Zoolander."
My career as a photographer started almost by accident. During my sophomore year at Princeton, my friend Marty Taylor was scheduled to photograph a baseball game, but had a last minute scheduling conflict. He offered me the opportunity to cover the game in his stead, and with it he lent me about $3,000 worth of professional Nikon equipment. I was hooked.
My junior year, I applied for a position in VIS 315, an advanced seminar in Digital Photography with Andrew L. Moore. Although I hadn’t taken the prerequisite courses, I was able to talk my way into the seminar by showing the interviewer my budding portfolio. It was under Andrew’s tutelage that I formally learned about color theory, composition, and many other nuances of photography.
That same year I configured Apache Web Server on a $400 Acer desktop PC and launched my own photography website from my dorm. Selling hardcopy prints, digital media, and free-lancing on the side, I turned my website into a successful business that I operated until graduation.
During my senior year, my photo “A Generation” was a winner of Princeton University’s “What Is Family?” photography competition.
Later in 2008, I was a finalist for the Smithsonian sponsored Windland Smith Rice “Nature’s Best Photography” competition, an international contest with over 25,000 entries.
Some of my work can be seen on display at the luxury ski club "Jackson's Hideaway" in Park City.
Most of my clients are individuals and families, but other clients include: The Discovery Channel, Half-Yard Productions, Windstar Productions, Adecco USA, The US Olympic Committee, The US Bobsled & Skeleton Federation, ArmoryTrack.com, HepsTrack.com, The College Squash Association, and Princeton Alumni Weekly.
Having grown up in six countries on four continents, I never had the traditional "home" that most people experience. In some respects, East Africa will always be the "original home" for me, as that's where my earliest memories were formed, and where I still feel a certain ethnic and linguistic connection. But in terms of family connection, the place that most feels like home is Hawai'i, where I have more known relatives than anywhere else in the world.
1997 family reunion on O'ahu with 250+ family members attending.
Periodically, I've returned to the Hawai'ian islands for reunions, vacations, and even for my 2014 offseason training, when I lived in Kane'ohe and trained at the local 24hr Fitness & the Bryan Clay track complex at Kane'ohe high school. On other trips, I've trained at the University of Hawai'i Manoa campus, including at the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics complex, named after my late distant uncle.
20 years later, in August 2017, training at University of Hawai'i, Manoa, after another family reunion.
The sunshine, warm weather, sandy beaches, and tropical vibe have always held a strong - perhaps innate - attractive quality for me, and I keep finding myself drawn back to the Pacific.
2001, hanging out at Uncle Waiau Ka'ulukukui's house with cousins.
So when I was looking to change skeleton teams in 2019, and I discovered that American Samoa welcomes those with Hawai'ian connections as part of the pan-Polynesian diaspora, I jumped at the opportunity. (And as I later found out, many of the American Samoan track & field records are actually held by those with Hawai'ian origins.)
Great uncle Tom Ka'ulukukui, in the Hawai'i Sports Hall of Fame.
And while I still continue to live the peripatetic athlete's life, where my "home" is usually wherever my laptop is set up, Hawai'i and the Polynesian islands will always be a home for my heart.
A taste of that Hawai'ian life from my 2014 offseason on O'ahu....
In January of 2017, I embarked on an exciting new journey with my debut in live TV sports announcing. Staying in the same hotel as the TV crew in Winterberg, Germany, I approached lead announcer Martin Haven and executive producer John Morgan at breakfast, and asked them if I could hop in the booth to call the women's skeleton race that day. I had completed my race the previous day, and thought I could lend some insider's color to the women's race. Martin and John looked at each other skeptically, knowing that speaking on live television for over an hour is a decidedly different skillset than sliding down an ice tube. John then looked at me and said, "We can give you a shot, but if you're not good, we won't hesitate to pull you at the first break." (There had been a history of athletes attempting to announce, with some disasterous recent results.) So with the threat of getting yanked on live tv infront of an international audience planted firmly in my head, I agreed to the terms.
My debut announcing live TV with Martin Haven, in Winterberg, Germany.
Luckily, the broadcast went swimmingly, and I was invited back to co-announce whenever I was available. And since that debut, I've since been hired to provide commentary for both men's and women's bobsled too. A sample:
2017, in St. Moritz, Switzerland, co-calling the women's skeleton race in my 2nd ever broadcast; still shaking the nerves.
2020, Innsbruck, Austria, making my announcing debut for women's bobsled, and feeling confident enough to sneak in a bunch of Daft Punk song references.