I didn't find out about this side of Heaukulani from him; he was too modest to bring it up. Another volunteer ratted him out.
Heaukulani ran this year as a nonpartisan candidate for Hawaii House District 20. He had no money to fund his campaign, so he walked door to door in his district, asking his would-be constituents about the issues that mattered most.
"I think I got 12 votes," he told me.
But, as I wrote on the "Change the List" Tumblr, that's not the point.
He joined the democratic process. He helped close the loop.
He proved, to me if no one else, that one person could make a considerable difference.
The 'silent majority'
Portraits of the Maui County Council members hang on the wall in the county office building in Wailuku, on the northwest part of the island. The nine photographs are presented in a grid, like "Hollywood Squares." Elle Cochran is in the center square, wearing a pink blazer. She's the only one in the bunch not wearing black or blue.
She's different. She knows that. She's the surfer politician.
It's how she won: by mobilizing that "silent majority," as she calls it.
That, of course, included herself. She cast her first ballot in the 2010 primary election and her second in the general, both by mail. She's never been to a polling place.
Cochran and her husband had put their lives on the line for the election by tossing in $40,000 to fund her campaign. Now they want to see it pay off.
But being in office doesn't mean Cochran can accomplish anything she wants. The council she sits on recently voted against putting preservation status on a tract of land along Honolua Bay, the body of water that inspired her to run for office.
"Many times, I am on the losing end of the votes," she said. "Yeah, it's frustrating, yeah, it's heartbreaking, but, you know, you move on." The positive outcome, even when she loses a vote, she said, is that the community becomes aware of the issues.
Maui Land & Pineapple Co., which owns that piece of land, declined to comment for this sstory. Angus McKelvey, the state representative from the area, said giving the bay conservation status would have the unintended consequence of lowering its market value, and therefore devaluing pensions for people from Maui Land & Pineapple.
The smarter move would be for the state or federal government to purchase the land with cash, so that the pensions would be protected, he said. Despite his disagreements with Cochran on these issues, he praised her ability to interest new people in politics.
Turnout will likely be higher because of it, he said. "Hopefully the surf won't be breaking" on Election Day, McKelvey said, otherwise people might not show up at the polls in West Maui.
Another reason Save Honolua has been so effective: Facebook.
Online campaigns have been so successful that Wayno Cochran, Elle's headband-and-ponytail-wearing surfer husband, says online or text-message-based elections would revive the political system in West Maui. Fewer than a third of young voters in Hawaii, ages 18 to 29, cast ballots in the 2008 election, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. That's compared with 51% for young voters in the country as a whole. Digital tools would change that, he said.
"Texting would work. Everybody would vote. It would change everything. You would have young politicians. You wouldn't have 88-year-old senators."
I asked Wayno Cochran what West Maui would be like if everybody voted, not just the older people and those with money. He had a John Lennon sort of moment. "One hundred percent different world," he said. "We wouldn't have wars; we would be self-sustaining. ... If everybody voted, you'd have great candidates. You'd have great choices."
The subtext: More people like Elle Cochran might care, and they might discover that they do sooner.
'We're just very one-sided in Hawaii'
After hearing Heaukulani's transformation from non-voter to political candidate, I was convinced that asking a person to vote -- just putting out the invitation -- was the key to increasing voter participation in Hawaii and maybe in the rest of the country, too.
But then I encountered another roadblock: people who register to vote but then, for a variety of reasons, stop participating after a certain number of years.