Davia Kaopua was 8 years old the first time she felt her stomach drop—both from the physical 20-foot dive into the ocean and the exhilaration of doing it before a crowd of disapproving onlookers.
Since that day jumping off Coconut Tower in Hilo, Hawaii, Kaopua, a senior biology major who grew up in Hawaii and Washington, said she does not let fear affect her potential.
According to her older brother, Ammon Kaopua, naysayers, or those opposed to his sister’s actions, seem only to fuel her determination.
“If you tell her she can’t do something, she will be further inspired to accomplish it and do it well. Her whole life, she has always been determined to do everything as good as anyone else could, especially when people would underestimate her,” he said.
According to friend and BYU–Hawaii alumna Mimi Menendez, “[Davia is] definitely a daredevil and always looking for something to jump off of—cliff, tower, you name it.”
Davia Kuapua shared a promise she made with herself that if her “cousin jumped first and he survived that I would have to do it.” She said she remembers a time she didn’t do a jump and regretted it ever since. “I don’t want fear ever to hold me back.”
Others in her life have recognized Davia Kaopua’s tendency to face her fears and dive right in no matter the situation.
Colby Weeks, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Sciences who is also Davia Kaopua’s employer, said, “I just say here’s what we need to do, and then she just goes after it. Along the way, she’ll run into problems, so she’ll ask me for help. She’s pretty self-motivated and gets things done.
“There were a couple of times when I asked her to do something, and it was definitely outside of her wheelhouse, but that’s when she would come to me and ask questions.”
With her sometimes impulsive eagerness to jump right in, Davia Kaopua said she received her fair share of injuries, from concussions to broken limbs, as well as “Davia don’ts” from parents and friends, but she never let it stop her.
“It’s the adrenaline,” said Davia Kaopua. “I think at a point in my life, I was honestly addicted to adrenaline. Because all of a sudden a 30-foot cliff, there’s no drop– you know that feeling in your stomach when it drops? I couldn’t feel that jumping off a 30-foot cliff [or] a 40-foot cliff. It had to be a 60-foot cliff … It had to be more and more and more.”
Davia Kaopua said her mission for the Church challenged her ability to overcome fears, especially with talking to everyone. She said she struggled with feeling restricted when her companion refused to go out on P Days.
“[It] was really hard just being inside, doing nothing, talking to nobody. [It was] Isolation. I felt the most alone I have ever been,” she said. She explained that emails home and exchanges with other sisters helped her to get through the isolation, but more than anything, she just had to “wait it out.”
Despite her love for adrenaline, Davia Kaopua said she learned life is more about finding balance than trying to shake things up.
“The most important thing for me is to be happy. And I feel like that’s not a simple thing. I feel like that has a lot of factors,” said Davia Kaopua.
“I need to be spiritually worthy, have a good relationship with my family, and be able to manage my school expectations and my future … There are certain things I need to do to make my future a reality, so if I can balance those things, I feel like that’s when I’m happy.
“Life is like a tightrope, you know? If you’re off balance, at least for me, you feel a huge amount of stress.”