After moving to Honolulu eight years ago, David Chatsuthiphan learned a horrible truth. Even in Hawaii, the surf is not always up.
He resigned himself to hiking to pass the time. Upon reaching a particular summit on an otherwise average day, his mind was blown. It was one of those moments that doesn’t just register as “nice”— it alters your very perception of the world. The result was a new passion to explore and his photo log/adventure site/blog/travel guide called Unreal Hawaii. With his bouldering buddies and merry band of adventurers, Chatsuthiphan documents the islands of the Aloha State beyond the world class waves.
Which came first: the photography or the adventure?
Adventure is what kickstarted my interest in photography. But then photography got me deeper into adventure.
Before I moved to Hawaii, I had never been “outdoorsy,” nor had I ever been interested in photography. I first started hiking in Hawaii because I needed something to do when there was no surf. The first time I saw the view from the summit of the Koolau Mountains on Oahu I was hooked. Each peak on the mountain ranges in Hawaii give you a different view. Some even offer a full 360-degree view of the island.
Whenever I would reach a summit I would pull out my tiny camera and snap pictures to show my non-hiker friends what I was seeing. The more passionate I became about photography, the more willing I was to challenge myself to take on strenuous adventures. Without photography as motivation, I’m not sure I would have ever been able to get myself off the couch to go on a 10-hour hike or a multi-day backpacking trip. I think I would’ve stuck to the easy stuff.
Unreal Hawaii is different than other travel sites or guidebooks. How do you define it?
I’ve always considered Unreal Hawaii my personal art project. It’s sort of an exaggerated adventure journal. [Ed. note: No pun intended…?] My goal is to portray my experiences the way I remember them in my head, not how they objectively are. Unreal Hawaii is not a reference website. I want you to experience what I’ve seen and felt through my words and pictures. If I went on an adventure that left me awestruck and a reader on my site can feel some of that awe after reading one of my stories, I’ve achieved my goal.
You highlight lesser known beaches, hikes, climbing spots, and more. How do you share incredible places without stepping on the toes of people who…let’s say…would prefer that you didn’t share them?
This is a tricky one. There are guidebook writers and bloggers out there who believe it’s their responsibility to provide directions to every hike or reveal every “secret spot” in Hawaii. They are kind of ruining blogging for the rest of us here. I don’t share this mindset. In general I believe it’s okay to share experiences as long as you don’t post explicit instructions on how to get to that place or instructions on how do what you did. I’ll share directions for places that are legal to access but I don’t feel it’s my responsibility to do so. And there are a lot of places I keep off my website entirely. (I don’t post any information about surf breaks for example.) I just make a judgment call for each story I post. This is a tough issue, though, and something I’m constantly struggling with. One of my new goals is to figure out how I can become one of the most responsible adventure content providers in Hawaii.