Lights, camera, action! A Hollywood extravaganza graced the beaches of Waikiki this past Sunday, as the cast and crew of NBC’s TODAY Show broadcasted live from the sand. With an array of sets, from sitting poolside to standing alongside Tahitian dancers to overlooking Diamond Head and the West Side, the backdrop for stop number 1 of 5 on The Great American Adventure was spectacular. While hosts like Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Natalie Morales and Willie Geist awed over the scenery, fans awed over them, and I awed over the entirety of the event.
Staged with enough lights to power a neighborhood, the production behind this event was simply fantastic. Happening between 1:00am and 4:00am Hawaii time, the natural lighting was obviously pitch black, however judging by the amount of artificial luminosity, you would have thought it was broad day. Then there was the Hawaiiana décor. And I’ve got to say, NBC’s team did a terrific job representing the island in the best way possible. Really capturing the aspects of Hawaii that make it unique and enticing to visitors, TODAY Show viewers most likely got the feel that Hawaii had come right to their living rooms.
The famous Royal Hawaiian hotel partnered with NBC’s TODAY Show to highlight Oahu and Waikiki as a great travel destination. Part of the series, The Great American Adventure, Waikiki kicked things off with some culture and festivity. Over 75 people were flown to the island to aid in the production of this event, and it showed in the impressiveness of it all.
A huge mahalo to Associate Producer Megan Kopf and Social Media Coordinator Anthony Quintano, who shepherded us around to the various sets. Part of an intimate group of press only, I felt well taken care of and the night seemed to run very smooth. Everyone from NBC was so gracious and nice, which really helped make the experience that much more enjoyable. With full access to all the behind-the-scene happenings, this live broadcast was quite the creation. You can tell someone really did their homework because everything, down to the flower leis the hosts were all wearing, was very well thought out for the accurate representation of Hawaii.
At about 11:30pm, fans and guests arrived to witness the production. Standing behind metal bars, there were hundreds of people holding up signs, taking pictures, and yelling out to their favorite NBC host. The best part about it was the kindness Matt Lauer showed all these people. He took time to specifically reach out to the fans on the beach; chatting with them, posing for photos, and just enjoying the company of these Oahu residents.
Speaking of Matt Lauer, I nabbed a stand-up interview with him and Savannah Guthrie, which transpired effortlessly. Matt mentioned he was impressed by the aloha spirit so far on Oahu and that he really didn’t quite know what to expect. But when sitting down on the beach with a friend who lives onisland, he really understood the magic of the islands. “Is it like this here everyday?” He asked his friend, gesturing to the warm, blue skies and beautiful ocean. And his friend said laughing, “yes!” How lucky we are that we live here, on this island in Hawaii. Savannah made a comment about how everyone seems so happy here, and I guess no one can really complain. After all, Hawaii did get ranked as the happiest US State! But Hawaii is known for a certain hospitality that traces back to tradition, roots, and culture.
The one thing that Matt did anticipate while staying in Waikiki was calm, gentle waves. But when a fifteen-foot swell pushes through the south side, you can only describe the ocean conditions one way, gnarly. And this is exactly how Matt said they were. Doesn’t sound like he got much swimming done in Waikiki. His only “complaint” about Oahu was the traffic. “You guys have a serious traffic problem!” Matt laughed. It was so neat to see the true demeanor of this guy, despite all the negative hype he gets from the media. Matt was gracious, humble, good-natured and effortlessly polite.
Other highlights of the event included Clark Little (North Shore big wave photographer), CJ Kale and Nick Selway (the Big Island lava chasers), and activities like outrigger canoe rides and poi pounding. The collaborative efforts during this night really made for a fantastic press party. I’m so pleased with the interviews and the turnout, as I’m sure NBC is too. What better way to share Hawaii with the world than to present it in its best light; with aloha spirit, happy people, and beautiful backdrops. Well done NBC, now it’s off to your next great American adventure, Yellowstone National Park!