There’s something about the ocean, something primal and universal. From water we come and to water we return. For laughter, play, and fun; for relief, solace, and peace; for energy, invigoration and hope. The science is pouring in to support what to so many on Maui is intuitive: the ocean, waves and beaches of Maui make all of our lives better, in some way.
Yet the quality of Maui’s coastline isn’t a given. Clean water, healthy beaches, litter-free zones, sustainable islandwide consumption habits, protected open spaces: all this requires citizen activism. The threats are many: cigarettes, plastic bags, short term profiteering, polystyrene, dirty consumption habits and vested interests incentivized by the bottom line.
Maui punches above its weight in hosting a number of these environmental organizations: Sierra Club, EarthJustice, Malama Maui Nui, Protect Kaho‘olawe, Malama Hamakua, West Maui Kumuwai, Hawaii Land Trust and the Surfrider Foundation, Maui Chapter, to name but a few.
On Oct. 14, Surfrider Maui will hold its second annual Ocean Guardians Pa‘ina, to honor and thank an inspiring group of role models. Hosted at the Sheraton Maui with the sponsorship support of Pacific Media Group, All Good Sunscreen, Castaway Construction, Honolulu Builders, Minit Medical, Maui Printing, MauiTime and the Severson Ohana, this event is the perfect chance to honor the leaders among us and to support the continued role of Surfrider on Maui.
The Surfrider Foundation is a special organization, as it advocates specifically for healthy beaches and clean water here and all over the planet. It’s a grassroots network of volunteers that’s been shaping laws, cleaning coastlines, improving water quality, and preserving healthy beaches for almost 40 years.
Everyone who helps on Maui has a day job. This is true for the more than 50,000 Surfrider members collected into over 80 Chapters across Hawaii, the U.S., Europe and Asia. Surfrider is an especially important and potent force in Hawaii, with the Kauai Chapter, Oahu Chapter and two Big Island Chapters all working to protect and improve their island coastlines.
Surfrider Maui continues to play a vital role in protecting our coastline. Its biggest victory was the decade-long coalition with Save our Surf that resisted a major Army Corps of Engineers development of Ma‘alaea Harbor that would have razed Freight Trains, the fastest surfing wave in the world. The Army Corps eventually abandoned the project.
In recent years, Surfrider has organized a hundred beach cleanups, removing tens of thousands of pounds of debris and trash from our beaches; advocated for a successful smoking ban at beaches and parks; advocated for the plastic bag ban; played an important role in the polystyrene ban; supported Save Honolua Coalition in its case for the state acquisition of Lipoa Point; supported the launch of an Ocean Friendly Restaurants program to minimize plastic consumption, and provided engagement with County Council members for the county’s acquisition of Pe‘ahi lands. Surfrider is also five months into a water quality testing program, measuring a number of key indicators at 18 beaches from Waiehu to Maliko gulch, to ensure our water is and will remain suitable for people and marine life.
And the 2017 Surfrider Maui Ocean Guardians are…
Les Potts is a legendary surfer and environmentalist. He arrived on Maui half century ago, a 20-year-old army veteran drawn to the sacred surfscape of Honolua Bay. He’s been a surfer, a musician, a local, a shaper, and a friend of so many people whose lives have passed through West Maui, from all the Westside surfers to Jimi Hendrix to Pulitzer prizewinning author William Finnegan. It was in his later years that Potts really became a keeper of the ‘aina. Running the coastline daily from Honolua Bay around Lipoa Point to Honokohau Valley, he’s personally removed or organized the removal of more trash, burned out vehicles, waste, and detritus from the northwest tip of Maui than anyone alive. He also became an engaged citizen advocate, assuming a key role with the Save Honolua Coalition in advocating for the State’s eventual purchase and preservation of the whole coastline.
John Severson is a larger than life figure whose impact on surfing can’t really be measured. Hailing from Southern California, Severson (who died this spring) was a thoughtful and creative soul who loved surfing, photography, art and moviemaking. He founded Surfer Magazine, which captured and defined the sport’s cultural evolution in America from the 1960s to today. He also made classic surf films, including Pacific Vibrations, and injected a spirit of naturalism, equality and purity into the sport. He relocated to Maui in the 1970s, partly to sustain a creative, sustainable, minimalist, and surf-infused life, which he shared with his wife Louise and his children and grandchildren.
Kai Lenny almost needs no introduction. In his recent biopic movie premiere Paradigm Lost (which required four years of travel, filming and production), he sold out the Maui Arts and Culture Center easily drawing an adoring hometown crowd of more than 1,000. He can windsurf, kite surf, surf, stand up paddle, hydrofoil and charge Pe‘ahi. He’s also a kind and accessible person who’s crossed all the channels of the Hawaiian Islands without motor power this year, cleaning up beaches and raising awareness on ocean trash all along the way.
Victor Lopez is a Maui legend. An Oahu native, he and his wife fell in love with Maui in the 1970s. Lopez was there when Laird Hamilton, Buzzy Kerbox and Mike Woltze pushed the big wave frontier at Pe‘ahi. Lopez has also paid his knowledge forward by training Kai Lenny. Lopez has supported civic engagement to maintain beach access and promote sustainable coastal growth on Maui, and he continues to be a respected presence at Ho‘okipa.
Flatbread Pizza is a vital business member of the Maui community. Flatbread has played host to countless nonprofits over the years, helping bird sanctuaries, reforestation projects, land conservations and ocean advocates by donating pizza, meeting space and sales proceeds. The food, ocean-friendly ethos (minimal single-use plastics consumed) and welcoming environment have made it an essential stop for hungry surfers.
The annual Surfrider Pa‘ina takes place at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa in Ka`anapali on Saturday, Oct. 14 from 5pm to 9:30pm. Tickets are $99 per person. There will be farm-to-table pupus, drinks, a silent auction and live music. Click here to purchase tickets.
Photo of Kai Lenny courtesy Surfrider Maui