A Jewish summer sleep-away camp in Malibu, CA by the name of Camp Hess Kramer holds hundreds of Jewish kids ranging from eight to seventeen for most of the summer. The camp, being near the beach, has a beach day once a week where the entire camp goes to Zuma beach to enjoy the day. The camp typically leaves after eating breakfast in the main dining hall, but there is an essential step the campers must go through before ensuring they will have a great, sun-filled, fun day at the beach. They must call out to Kahuna — the symbolic guarantor of a great day at the beach.
The counselors at the camp typically create a skit to detail the kids the necessity of getting Kahuna to show up at dining hall and talk to the kids. In order for Kahuna to come to the dining hall all of the kids must yell out “Kahuuunnnnnnaaaaa” at the top of their lungs in order for him to hear their calls. Typically after three or four loud calls out to Kahuna he shows up to the dining hall. Kahuna is dressed in beach attire with red swim trunks, visible sun block on his nose, sunglasses, and shirtless with a big red “K” on his chest.
After Kahuna’s arrival he begins to explain his role for the kids. Kahuna details all of the necessary things campers must do to ensure they have a great time at the beach — essentials such as putting on sunscreen, drinking a lot of water, and of course reapplying more sunscreen. Kahuna also organizes the campers in the dining hall into four different groups and gets them to chant individually in four parts — “Beach, Sand, Sun, Fun.” The campers must chant this multiple times loudly in order to ensure a sunny, fun day at the beach. After the chanting it fulfilled to Kahuna’s expectations he is free to dismiss the campers and he leaves as all the campers board the buses.
Kahuna has been a figure of Camp Hess Kramer beach days for over a decade and will continue to represent beach days for the camp in future years.
I think Kahuna serves a strong role at Camp Hess Kramer because he encourages campers to make sure that they have a safe, fun time at the beach. Kahuna’s emphasis on wearing sunscreen and drinking a lot of water is obviously a result of the counselors and staff members wanting children to remain hydrated and avoid sun burns. Also Kahuna’s emphasis on having a fun, good time at the beach is a result of counselors and staff members wanted the campers to get in a good mindset for the day and for the campers to have fun at the beach. It is also interesting to note that the word “kahuna” means in Hawaiian wise man or shaman. This relates to Kahuna as a figure at Camp Hess Kramer as a wise man of the beach.