“People are just dying to get into that place.” That’s the line my dad would always use as we drove by a cemetery. But I can’t apply the same humor to this cemetery. None of those deaths were peaceful.
The grounds are filled with broken egos and lost loved ones. It’s a dichotomy, this place of beauty and death, beginnings and endings. Here, the passing of time and tide are all that pays attention to the hallowed ground. Nobody, it seems, pays much attention to the surfboard cemetery at Lipoa Point.
Unfortunately, development can dig the sanctity right out of the earth and replace it with condos. The surfboard cemeteries—and the surrounding area—are in danger from the potential development plans of the landowner, Maui Land & Pineapple Co. While their Honolua plans for forty luxury estates and an 18-hole golf course remain on hold—and they continue to insist that they have no intention to build anything at Lipoa Point—they also insist that the bay cannot remain as it is.
My discovery of the surfboard cemetery came after a crisp evening session with moderate Kona winds. The swell was macking out of the northwest and Windmills was going off. I sat on the side of the trail to watch one last set.
An unknown charger came flying out of the doggy-door barrel and landed directly on the ending slab of reef—unaffectionately known as “The Dinner Table.” Sure enough, the poor guy got served.
His board buckled on the thriving wana and he rode the remains to shore. Looking like a pallbearer, he carried his board’s corpse to the pile of mangled fiberglass and laid it to rest. His eulogy was short and sweet, consisting mainly of four-letter words.
I drove home with B.B. King’s mellow chords whispering through the car radio. The blues will bring out empathy. Any surfer knows that a good board, over time, becomes much more than a mere object. The perfect board is an extension of the body. It’s to the surfer as the rifle is the marine.
This is my surfboard. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My surfboard is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my own life. My surfboard, without me, is useless. Without my board, I am useless.
Later that month, I returned to pay my respects to the cemetery. Some of the remains looked 50 years old. I stared down into the pile of rotting polyurethane and tried to make out the epitaphs.
One said “K-Land” and another said “Al Merrick.” I side stepped back as a crab crawled across the pile. I noticed a board that read “Honolua Boyz” and thought about how the Boyz could one day lose these sacred grounds.
The Save Honolua Coalition, founded by local surfer Elle Cochran, was able to halt ML&P’s development plans through loud, sustained community opposition. But the future of Honolua Bay and Lipoa Point remains uncertain. Maui Land & Pine has said repeatedly that they will not leave the bay as it is now.
Organizations like the Lipoa Point Advisory Council are trying to preserve the future of Honolua Bay. Plans range from installing earth-friendly toilets to building parking lots and pavilions. The goal is to manage the land through conservation and education rather than mansions and fairways.
But as yet, neither ML&P nor the conservationists have addressed the surfboard cemetery. For the time being, they remain undisturbed. As the debate over the bay rages, the broken boards around Lipoa Point symbolize the lesson so many surfers already know.
Nature calls the shots. MTW