10 Hawaiian Athletes Who Made It Big

You might be surprised by how many top-tier athletes hail from the Hawaiian Islands. From Kolten Wong’s stellar plays in Major League Baseball to Carissa Moore’s unmatched surfing prowess, Hawaii has produced stars who shine on the global stage.

But there’s more to their stories than just their athletic achievements. What sets these athletes apart? How did their Hawaiian roots influence their paths to success? Delving into the experiences of Tua Tagovailoa, Marcus Mariota, and others reveals a unique blend of talent, culture, and determination that propels them.

Kolten Wong

second baseman for brewers

Kolten Wong’s exceptional defensive skills have earned him a respected place in professional baseball, particularly as a second baseman. His ability to field and react quickly has made him a standout on the field. In 2019, his outstanding performance was recognized with the prestigious Gold Glove award, given to players who exhibit superior fielding prowess.

Watching Wong play, his agility and precision are immediately apparent. His quick reflexes and strong arm make him a defensive powerhouse, capable of making plays that leave fans and opponents in awe. Wong’s contributions extend beyond routine plays; he’s known for making game-changing defensive stops that can shift the momentum in favor of his team.

His Gold Glove win in 2019 wasn’t just a personal achievement; it validated his hard work and dedication to perfecting his craft. Whether you’re a die-hard baseball fan or a casual observer, Wong’s defensive mastery is unmistakable. His skills haven’t only earned him individual accolades but have also solidified his reputation as one of baseball’s top defenders.

John John Florence

John John Florence’s surfing career is marked by remarkable achievements, including consecutive World Surf League titles in 2016 and 2017. His innovative techniques and competitive drive have distinguished him on the global stage.

Beyond his personal successes, Florence’s community initiatives have inspired many aspiring surfers in Hawaii and around the world.

Surfing Career Highlights

John John Florence’s illustrious surfing career is marked by his consecutive World Surf League titles in 2016 and 2017. As one of the most prominent professional surfers, Florence has enthralled audiences with his innovative style and breathtaking aerial maneuvers. These accomplishments have cemented his position as one of the top surfers globally, placing him in the elite ranks of professional surfing.

Florence’s journey to the apex of surfing is characterized by numerous significant milestones. His triumphs in competitive surfing events have garnered him not only titles but also widespread respect from peers and fans. To provide a clearer picture of his career highlights, consider the following table:

Year Achievement
2016 World Surf League Champion
2017 World Surf League Champion
2015 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Winner
2019 Pipeline Masters Finalist
2021 Margaret River Pro Winner

Florence’s consistent performance across various competitions underscores his dedication and talent. His ability to push the boundaries of what is possible on a surfboard has inspired countless aspiring surfers. By dominating the World Surf League and other major events, John John Florence has firmly established himself as a legend in the realm of professional surfing.

Competitive Edge Techniques

Building on his impressive career highlights, Florence’s competitive edge techniques have significantly contributed to his ongoing success. As a professional surfer, John John Florence excels in complex maneuvers that distinguish him from other competitors. His ability to read waves with precision allows him to make split-second decisions that elevate his performance. This proficiency results from countless hours of practice and a profound understanding of the ocean’s dynamics, rather than mere natural talent.

Florence’s strategic approach to surfing also plays a crucial role in his competitive edge. He meticulously studies each surf spot, analyzing wave patterns and conditions to optimize his performance. This detailed preparation ensures he’s always ready to face the ocean’s challenges.

His dedication to mastering these techniques underscores his commitment to the sport. Florence’s consecutive World Surf League titles in 2016 and 2017 validate his relentless pursuit of excellence. By concentrating on advanced techniques, he’s earned a reputation as one of the world’s top surfers, continuously pushing the boundaries of competitive surfing.

Community Impact Initiatives

Florence has launched the ‘Community Impact Initiatives’ program to give back to his local community, focusing on environmental conservation, youth mentorship, and community engagement. Through this program, Florence collaborates with local organizations to foster positive change, showcasing his deep ties to Hawai’i.

Participants can engage in beach clean-ups, preserving the pristine beauty of Hawai’i’s shores. The initiatives also include surf clinics, where young surfers can learn from Florence, gaining confidence, discipline, and a love for the ocean.

Another cornerstone of the program is educational workshops. These sessions teach sustainable practices and the importance of environmental stewardship, nurturing the next generation of environmentally conscious leaders.

Florence’s commitment extends beyond surfing; he’s dedicated to fostering a strong, engaged, and environmentally aware community in Hawai’i.

Tua Tagovailoa

quarterback from alabama

Tua Tagovailoa, a standout quarterback from Hawaii, has made a significant impact in both college and professional football. Known for his clutch performance, he led Alabama to a College Football Playoff National Championship in 2017. Tagovailoa was drafted by the Miami Dolphins as the 5th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. His left-handed throws and pinpoint accuracy have made him a rising star in the NFL.

During his collegiate career at the University of Alabama, Tagovailoa was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2018, solidifying his status as one of the top quarterbacks in college football. His leadership on the field has been evident since his college days and continues to be a hallmark of his professional career.

Key highlights of Tua Tagovailoa’s progression include:

  • College Football Playoff National Championship: Led Alabama to victory in 2017.
  • NFL Draft: Selected 5th overall by the Miami Dolphins in 2020.
  • Heisman Trophy Finalist: Recognized in 2018 for his outstanding performance.
  • Rising NFL Star: Known for his accuracy and leadership.

Tua Tagovailoa’s journey is an inspiring tale of talent and determination.

Carissa Moore

Carissa Moore, a four-time world surfing champion, has consistently demonstrated her dominance in the sport. Her remarkable performances have made her a household name in the surfing community and beyond. With a chance to win an Olympic gold medal, Moore’s list of achievements continues to expand. Her dedication and talent have earned her a prominent place not only in surfing but also as an inspiration for athletes worldwide.

Here’s a snapshot of her notable accomplishments:

Year Event Result
2011 ASP Women’s World Tour Champion
2019 WSL Women’s Championship Champion
2021 Olympics Gold Medalist

Moore’s competitive drive and skill make her a role model for aspiring surfers. Her success in surfing can be likened to the impact of a top player in women’s volleyball—both sports require immense dedication, agility, and mental toughness. Just as volleyball players train rigorously to perfect their spikes and serves, Moore hones her surfing techniques to ride the waves flawlessly.

In essence, Carissa Moore’s success story is a demonstration of what can be achieved with hard work and passion. Her journey inspires not just surfers but athletes across all sports to pursue greatness.

Marcus Mariota

talented quarterback from oregon

Just as Carissa Moore rides the waves to victory, Marcus Mariota has navigated the football field with unparalleled skill and determination. Hailing from Hawaii, Mariota made history by becoming the first Hawaiian-born athlete to win the Heisman Trophy in 2014. His college career at the University of Oregon was nothing short of spectacular, leading the Ducks to the College Football Playoff Championship Game in 2015.

Drafted as the 2nd pick by the Tennessee Titans in the 2015 NFL Draft, Mariota quickly proved his worth as a professional quarterback. Known for his dual-threat abilities, he excelled both in the pocket and on the run, earning the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2015.

Mariota’s journey isn’t just about personal accolades; it serves as a beacon of inspiration for many aspiring athletes from Hawaii. His success highlights the immense talent emerging from the islands.

  • Heisman Trophy Winner (2014)
  • Led Oregon to the College Football Playoff Championship Game (2015)
  • 2nd Overall Pick in the 2015 NFL Draft
  • NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (2015)

Marcus Mariota’s professional career continues to inspire and set a high standard for future generations.

Max Holloway

Max Holloway has carved out a legendary career in the UFC, becoming one of the most formidable featherweights in the sport’s history. He won the interim featherweight title in 2016, showcasing his impressive skills and determination. Holloway’s ability to land significant strikes is unmatched, holding the record for the most significant strikes landed in a UFC fight. His relentless pace and exceptional cardio make him a nightmare for opponents.

Holloway isn’t just about winning titles; he’s about defending them. He successfully defended his featherweight title multiple times, solidifying his place among the elite in the UFC. Known for his striking prowess, Holloway has earned ‘Fight of the Night’ honors in several bouts, proving his exciting fighting style and ability to entertain fans.

His accomplishments extend beyond the octagon, inspiring many aspiring professional athletes from Hawaii and around the world. Max Holloway’s path, marked by hard work, resilience, and a never-give-up attitude, makes him a true icon in the world of mixed martial arts. For those seeking a role model in professional sports, Holloway is an exemplary choice.

Manti Te’o

catfishing scandal in football

Manti Te’o, a former standout linebacker from Hawaii, gained national attention for his exceptional college football career at Notre Dame. In 2012, Te’o was a Heisman Trophy finalist and led Notre Dame to an undefeated regular season. Despite the controversy surrounding a hoax involving a fake girlfriend, he was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Te’o continued his NFL career with the San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, and briefly with the Chicago Bears. Although he hasn’t played in a Super Bowl, his impact on the field has been noteworthy. Te’o’s dedication and perseverance have inspired many, demonstrating that athletes from Hawaii can compete at the highest levels.

Here are some highlights of Te’o’s career:

  • College Achievements: At Notre Dame, Te’o earned numerous awards, including the Maxwell Award and the Lott Trophy.
  • NFL Draft: Selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers.
  • Professional Career: Played for the Chargers, Saints, and Bears.
  • Legacy: Te’o’s journey has paved the way for other Hawaiian athletes to pursue their dreams in collegiate and professional sports.

Shane Victorino

When you think of Hawaiian athletes who’ve made it big, Shane Victorino’s name stands out. Starting his career in Maui, he rose to prominence in Major League Baseball, earning multiple World Series titles and cementing his legacy in the sport.

Early Career Beginnings

Shane Victorino’s journey to becoming a celebrated MLB player began at St. Anthony High School in Wailuku, Maui, where he demonstrated exceptional talent on the baseball field. His impressive high school performance caught the attention of scouts, leading to his selection by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth round of the 1999 MLB draft—a pivotal moment that launched his professional career.

Victorino’s early career reflects his dedication and hard work. Known for his speed and defensive skills, he earned the nickname ‘The Flyin’ Hawaiian.’ His journey wasn’t without challenges, but his determination remained steadfast.

  • High School Achievements: At St. Anthony High School, Victorino stood out with his remarkable baseball abilities.
  • Drafted by the Dodgers: In 1999, the Dodgers recognized his potential and drafted him in the sixth round.
  • MLB Debut: Victorino made his Major League debut with the San Diego Padres in 2003, marking the official start of his professional career.
  • Nickname: His agility and speed on the field earned him the nickname ‘The Flyin’ Hawaiian,’ celebrating his Hawaiian heritage.

Victorino’s early career laid the foundation for his later success, demonstrating that perseverance and talent can lead to greatness.

Major League Breakthrough

Shane Victorino’s major league breakthrough came with the Philadelphia Phillies, where his talents truly began to shine. Known as the ‘Flyin’ Hawaiian,’ Victorino quickly became a fan favorite and a key player in the Phillies’ lineup. His speed, defensive prowess, and timely hitting made him a standout in Major League Baseball.

Victorino’s accolades underscore the significance of his breakthrough. He earned two All-Star selections, four Gold Glove Awards, and a Silver Slugger Award during his career, highlighting his all-around skill set and impact on the field. Notably, he became the first Hawaiian-born position player to win a World Series ring in 2008, a testament to his hard work and dedication.

Victorino’s success extended beyond personal achievements; he paved the way for other Hawaiian athletes to pursue careers in the major leagues. His journey from Wailuku, Hawaii, to major league stardom serves as an inspiration for many aspiring athletes. By breaking through with the Phillies, Victorino demonstrated that talent and determination could lead to success, regardless of one’s starting point.

World Series Triumphs

Shane Victorino’s major league breakthrough set the stage for his crowning achievements in the World Series, where he clinched championships in 2008 with the Phillies and 2013 with the Red Sox. Nicknamed the ‘Flyin’ Hawaiian,’ Victorino was instrumental in both victories, making clutch plays and contributing notably on offense. His outstanding performance in 2013 earned him the prestigious title of Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the series.

Victorino’s success wasn’t just about winning; it was about rising to the occasion when it mattered most. His ability to deliver under pressure solidified his reputation as a reliable and impactful player. With two World Series rings to his name, Victorino’s legacy in baseball is firmly etched.

Key Highlights:

  • 2008 World Series: Victorino played a key role in the Phillies’ victory, providing both offensive and defensive highlights.
  • 2013 World Series MVP: His pivotal performance with the Red Sox earned him the MVP award and contributed to the team’s triumph.
  • Clutch Hitter: Known for his timely hits, Victorino often changed the course of critical games.
  • Defensive Skills: His fielding prowess added an extra layer of reliability to his teams’ defenses.

Victorino’s achievements showcase his talent, determination, and ability to excel on baseball’s biggest stage.

Derrick Low

professional basketball player

Derrick Low, a standout basketball player from Honolulu, Hawaii, made a significant impact during his college career at Washington State University. Known for his sharpshooting and clutch performances, Low was instrumental in leading the Cougars to the Sweet 16 in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. His remarkable skills on the court not only made him a star at Washington State but also paved the way for his professional career.

Low became one of the pioneering foreign players to carve out a successful career abroad, playing in international leagues across the globe. His journey took him to countries like Australia, Lithuania, and the Philippines, where he earned various accolades. Derrick’s ability to adapt and excel in diverse basketball environments has solidified his reputation as a versatile and resilient athlete.

Low’s achievements have left an indelible mark on both college basketball and international competitions. He’s a testament to the talent that can emerge from Hawaii, proving that with dedication and skill, incredible heights can be reached.

Derrick Low’s legacy continues to inspire young athletes in Hawaii and beyond, showing them that big dreams are achievable.

Brian Viloria

Brian Viloria, born in Waipahu, is a legendary figure in Hawaiian athletics, particularly in boxing. From his early beginnings to winning multiple world titles, Viloria’s journey is truly inspiring.

His impact on Hawaiian boxing is profound, marked by victories over top opponents and a career filled with championship success.

Early Life and Beginnings

Born in Waipahu, Hawaii, Brian Viloria discovered his passion for boxing at an early age, quickly showcasing his innate talent in the sport. His upbringing in Hawaii deeply influenced his character, instilling a strong sense of community and determination. Viloria’s family and local mentors played pivotal roles in nurturing his boxing skills, providing unwavering support and motivation.

Viloria’s journey began with local competitions, where his speed, agility, and powerful punches quickly set him apart. Dubbed ‘The Hawaiian Punch,’ his nickname reflected both his fighting style and his pride in representing Hawaii.

  • Intense Early Training: Viloria’s training regimen was rigorous from the outset, focusing on developing a robust skill set.
  • Community Backing: The local community rallied behind him, offering essential encouragement and resources.
  • Amateur Accomplishments: He rapidly accumulated numerous amateur titles, showcasing his potential for a professional career.
  • Guidance from Mentors: Influential mentors and coaches in Hawaii were instrumental in shaping his early career, providing expert guidance and support.

Championship Titles Achieved

Brian Viloria’s dedication and hard work paid off as he clinched multiple championship titles, cementing his status as a formidable force in the boxing world. Born in Honolulu, Viloria’s impressive path saw him rise through the ranks to become a two-time light-flyweight world champion and a two-time flyweight world champion. His speed, power, and technical skills set him apart, allowing him to secure these coveted titles.

Viloria’s career is filled with numerous highlights, particularly his flyweight title victories. His ability to outmaneuver and outpunch top-tier opponents showcased his exceptional talent. Each of his flyweight title reigns was marked by decisive victories, earning the admiration of both fans and critics for his prowess. These fights demonstrated his relentless drive and tactical intelligence.

Viloria didn’t just win titles; he dominated the ring with a style that was both entertaining and effective. His championship titles weren’t merely accolades but a reflection of his skill and determination.

As you delve into his career, you’ll see how these titles solidified his legacy in the world of professional boxing, making him a true champion from Hawaii.

Impact on Hawaiian Boxing

Brian Viloria, a two-time light-flyweight and flyweight world champion, has significantly elevated the profile of Hawaiian boxing. With a professional record of 38 wins, 6 losses, and 24 knockouts, Viloria’s career exemplifies hard work and determination. His notable victories over top opponents like Ulises Solis and Hernan Marquez haven’t only solidified his legacy but also brought substantial attention to Hawaiian boxing.

Viloria’s influence extends beyond his achievements in the ring. He serves as a role model for aspiring boxers, demonstrating that greatness is achievable regardless of one’s origin. His success has sparked increased interest and participation in boxing across Hawaii.

Key aspects of Viloria’s impact on Hawaiian boxing include:

  • Inspiration: Viloria’s achievements motivate young athletes to pursue boxing.
  • Visibility: His success has brought national and international attention to Hawaiian boxing.
  • Role Model: Viloria embodies the values of discipline, perseverance, and resilience.
  • Growth: The increased interest in boxing has led to more training facilities and programs in Hawaii.

Brian Viloria’s legacy continues to shape the future of Hawaiian boxing, inspiring and empowering the next generation.


These 10 Hawaiian athletes have achieved remarkable success in their respective sports. From Kolten Wong’s stellar defense in baseball to Carissa Moore’s world-class surfing prowess, they all exemplify exceptional talent and determination.

Their accomplishments not only bring pride to Hawaii but also inspire future generations to pursue their dreams. Whether you’re riding waves or making plays, remember these icons who’ve demonstrated that anything is possible with hard work and passion.