- Web extra: Ben Kiaʻāina in action
“ALOHA AHIAHI AND WELCOME TO THE STAN SHERIFF CENTER,” booms the distinctive voice over the arena speakers as the pre-game music fades in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s arena.
Public address announcer Ben Kiaʻāina continues, leaning inconspicuously forward in his customary seat at press row. He delivers his signature “Warrioooooooooors!” or “Rainboooooooooow Waaaahine!” introduction in a resounding baritone that is part of UH volleyball lore and a test of both human lung capacity and legal decibel limits.
“I actually started that during outside hitter Costas Theocharidis’s first year,” Kiaʻāina says. “I wanted to do something special for Coach Mike Wilton and the men’s volleyball team and fire up the crowd before games.
“The idea really came to be after watching boxing and seeing Michael (‘Let’s get ready to rumble’) Buffer do his thing,” he continues.
Kiaʻāina has been doing his thing behind the microphone for 15 years, often working more than 100 days a year as an announcer at UH Mānoa and various Oʻahu high school events.
A website developer for his alma mater, Farrington High School, he spent several years announcing sporting events at the school and working behind the scenes in local radio. He underwent many transformations, including an identity change of sorts when the KGU radio manager suggested he find an air name.
Kiaʻāina explains: “My legal name is Duldulao, and he had trouble saying it—said it had too many syllables. So I went away for a few moments to think about it. I wanted to pick a name that meant something to me and represented the local culture. I remembered our yearbook at Farrington, Ke Kiaʻāina, which I believe loosely translates to keeper of the land, and the name stuck.”
Kiaʻāina was announcing a boys state volleyball tournament hosted by Farrington when he caught the ear of Punahou coach and KFVE TV color commentator Chris McLauchlin.
“Chris told me he liked my delivery and my voice,” Kiaʻāina recalls. “He put a word in for me with former UH Athletics Director Hugh Yoshida.”
Kiaʻāina’s first UH gig was doing a Wahine volleyball game. “That whole first year when I stepped into the arena I was in awe of the place. I couldn’t believe I was here and doing this. It’s still a thrill.”
And sometimes a challenge.
Before her senior night, left-side hitter Lily Kahumoku asked Kiaʻāina to say her full middle name when introducing her for the last time. “It is the second longest middle name in the world according to the Guinness book, second to her younger sister. She gave it to me, and it looked like three compound sentences crammed into one.”
The name consists of more than 200 characters and speaks of geneology, relatives’ love, heavenly rainbows and being queen of the thunderbolts.
Kiaʻāina consulted with Ānuenue School’s Lapule Schultz, took a deep breath and intoned: Kapiʻolani mālamalama ʻo Hawaiʻi nei. Kuʻuipo ʻo kealiʻi inulama ʻo Kapaʻakea, he makua ʻo Kawika. Kealoha pumehana ʻo Kaila a Momi a Konia. Lapa uila nui mālamalama ʻo kou la hānau. ʻO ʻoe uʻilani kuʻu lei, kuʻu milimili e. Aloha nō ko makou ia ka pua Lilia ke kuini lapa uila.
“She was so happy. Her family was happy. That’s what it’s all about,” he says.
“Ben is very professional, he’s very enthusiastic and you can tell he’s a fan,” says Warrior Coach Wilton. “Most important, he is a genuinely good guy. He’s becoming a tradition here. We are big Ben Kiaʻāina fans, that’s for sure.”