Malama was born in Pu'unene, Maui and raised in the plantation town of Haili'imaile on Maui. His mother was Hawaiian and his father Korean. He attended Kamehameha School on 'Oahu and then returned to Maui after graduation.
He worked briefly as a carpenter on some of the condos in Ka'anapali and Kihei but decided that it was not worth risking his life 100 ft in the air for the hourly wage they paid. Instead he decided to canoe-surf, paddle around each of the islands, race sail-canoes and so on....I guess he thought that was safer.
In 1973 he joined Na Kai 'Ewalu Canoe Club. During that time, paddles were not sold in stores so he started making paddles for himself and his friends. He paddled with Na Kai 'Ewalu up until the time he became Head Coach at Kihei Canoe Club in 2000. He returned to Na Kai 'Ewalu and spent two years as Head Coach there, bringing the club back to life after it had sunk to 8th place while he was away. When he stepped down as Head Coach, Na Kai was in 3rd place.
During this time, demand for his paddles increased and he made a full-time business of it. His paddles are prized by those who have experienced them. In particular, his steering blades are sought after by steersman in Hawai'i and the Mainland. His paddles have been used in winning Moloka'i Channel crews.
His paddles are not sold in stores because he cannot keep up with demand. Each paddle is a hand-made work from the heart and the entire process for a paddle takes about 2 weeks (if he isn't backed up with orders.)
Each paddle is hand-sanded by either Gabby Goveia or Malama.
Malama is respected as one of the top steersmen in Hawai'i. He steered the Moloka'i channel practically every year for 35 years until it became so expensive. His favorite races are Pailolo Channel and the Hana race around Alau. His quiet wisdom and experience are valued by all who know him.
Malama and his wife, Karen, now paddle for fun with their friends in the "unclub", North Shore Renegades. The Renegades compete in distance races and the Moloka'i Hoe. Both Malama and Karen steered open crews for the 2006 channel races. Now in their 60's, they both still race distance and canoe surf during the winter months when the North swell is up.
Even Malama's dog paddles: