Self-portrait of the photographer (at right) "in studio" with a Monterey local.
About Kawika Chetron
Kawika Chetron was born in San Anselmo, California. His family changed residences often when he was a child. In fact, the first of these moves, to the town of Larkspur, came when Kawika was only 10 days old. Kawika and family eventually made their way to the rustic west Marin town of Inverness, adjacent to Tomales Bay. This was followed by a more dramatic move, a relocation to the Madre Grande monastery near the border town of Dulzura, CA. The high mountain desert of Madre Grande is hardly a place one would expect to promote a love or an admiration of the sea. However this didn't stop Kawika from eschewing a toddler's usual facinations and instead, adopting a scheme to obtain a pet whale. After all, somebody had already kept a gray whale and named it GG -- how hard could it be? Upon reaching school age, Kawika returned to Marin county where he would reside until secondary school. It was here, under the expert guidance of the staff at Marin Skin Diving, that Kawika got his first introduction to SCUBA. Despite some initial difficulty with the rigors of cold water diving he'd clearly found something that would hold his fascination for years to come. High school was spent boarding at the Robert Louis Stevenson School, almost within sight of Carmel bay's panoply of exquisite dive sites. However, boarding school life doesn't lend itself to frequent dive excursions -- nor did young Kawika's budget while at Stevenson -- so these years passed with very few visits to the reefs. After Stevenson, Kawika studied engineering at Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Stanford School of Engineering in Palo Alto, California. If nothing else, the time at these institutions fostered some intuition for debugging finicky electronics, housed cameras included. With the completion of graduate school, Kawika found that for the first time in his life, he had time to dive often. So, dive often he did. First off the beach, then off a 3.8 meter inflatable. The unfortunate demise of the inflatable at the hands of one or more ne'er-do-wells quite likely turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The replacement vessel, a 17 ft Boston Whaler Montauk represented a serious commitment to diving and provided a means to reach -- and of course photograph -- rarely visited and pristine portions of the California coast. In the fall of 2004, Kawika acquired his first camera, a hand-me-down rig from new parent -- and thus, former diver -- Sami Laine. Kawika's history from this point forward is, of course, what the rest of the pages here are all about. Ever since those first dives in 1986, he has always remained exceptionally fond of the diving off the central coast of California. This, despite travels to travels to exotic dive meccas like Papua New Guinea, Isla del Coco, and British Columbia. Perhaps this is because there's no place like home. More likely, however, it's because central California has reefs that are something special.
Even the most dedicated underwater photographer is forced to endure a surface interval once in a while.