We swung by Kimo’s barn and found him with his two daughters, Hi’ilawe and Ilihia, jamming to some Hawaiian tunes and cleaning his horse stalls.
Kimo, tell us how you got here.
Well, it starts with Steph (my wife). We met in Oahu at a polo match. She came to watch and we just started talking. One day we went riding and when she fell off and got back on, I knew she was the one. We got married, moved to the big island and had 2 girls, Hi’ilawe and Iliha. Steph became a nurse and wanted to move to San Diego to take care of her family. Playing polo in San Diego seemed like a great opportunity so she didn’t have to ask twice.
Kimo holding his youngest daughter Uakea and chatting with his eldest, Hi’ilawe.
How long have you played here and where else have you played?
I’ve been here for four years. My family is here, so we don’t move around (like most players). I’ve played in San Diego, Indio and Oregon.
This is my third season.
How did you get involved in the Polo School?
I started teaching private lessons in my spare time and it just developed from there. I started teaching intermediate lessons and just this past year, beginner lessons. I actually like the beginner lessons better because the players don’t know much and are better students. I go crazy when someone has taken 3 lessons and they think they know everything. I want to knock them around. I’ve been playing for 30 years and they think they know more than me. I love teaching and helping people who want to learn.
So, what do you do to relax?
I can’t. Well, maybe with a golf club.
What do you mean, golf?
Yea. I was going to come to San Diego to either play polo or golf. I won a $700 bet a few years ago on the Encinitas golf course. I guess the full sleeve of tattoos threw the guy off.
That’s pretty funny. Switching gears here, how do you find help?
Well, Hi’ilawe (his eldest daughter) helps me groom. She needed money and something to do over the summer. I figure I have to pay someone, it might as well be my kid.
What about finding a horse? What is the process involved?
Once you put out the word at the barn, they (horse breeders and trainers) come out of the woodwork. Everyone is different with how they choose horses. I look for one a good size and good tempermant. I don’t care if it’s ugly, it has to be good. And it’ll look good playing. Then you stick and ball with it a bit, try it out in practice chukkers, see how it handles and then make a deal.
Does that usually take a few weeks?
Yea. If it takes longer than that, you’re not going to buy it.
That makes sense. Do all of your horses have Hawaiian names?
Yep. Hula Girl, Shakalaka, Onolicious, Big Mama… I actually have a funny story about Big Mama. I was playing her in a game and this larger woman was on the opposing team. The woman came ripping right past me and Big Mama wanted to go fast too, but I said, “easy Big Mama, easy.” The heavier woman came up to me after the game and told me it wasn’t very nice that I commented on her weight. Everyone laughed and I explained the horse’s name was Big Momma.
Oh no. Big Momma sounds like a trouble-maker. Tell us Kimo, what does the future hold for you?
I was meant to play sports, so I’ll keep playing polo for as long as I can. Then retire and play golf!