A rising south swell was the hot topic among surfers Thursday at Ala Moana, but perhaps a close second was a proposal to bar standup surfers from Magic Island to Kewalo Basin 18 hours per week.
"It basically comes down to different spots – beginner spots, medium spots (and) advanced spots,” said Gerald Aikau, a member of the surf club Hui O He’e Nalu, also known as Da Hui. “If you're not catching waves out at an advanced spot, maybe you should go somewhere that you can catch waves."
Local attorney Timothy Mac Master believes his one-year pilot project would allow traditional surfers to get their fair share of waves while reducing the risk of injury at some of the most popular surf breaks on Oahu’s South Shore. He’s asking the Department of Land and Natural Resources to ban SUP riders from Ala Moana on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. DLNR officials say they had no choice but to respond to Mac Master’s request.
"Part of our mandate is to make sure that we take that to the public and ensure that we get public comment and see what the public thinks,” Meghan Statts, Oahu district manager for DLNR's Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, said Thursday. “What do the surfers think? What do the standup paddlers think?"
DLNR has scheduled a public forum next Wednesday evening at Jefferson Elementary School from 5:30 to 7 p.m. where Mac Master will present his proposal before the floor is opened to discussion. Members of Da Hui plan to flood the school’s cafeteria with standup surfers who are already throwing cold water on Mac Master’s idea.
“I’m appalled that it’s even being considered,” said Rich Stevenson, a Hui member who has been standup surfing for the past eight years. “Where does it end? What are you going to do next? Nobody can surf out on the North Shore or the West Side?”
Other Hui members also object to any attempt by government to regulate surfing, a sport that has been part of the native Hawaiian culture for hundreds of years.
"First, as native Hawaiians we lost our land and now they're trying to regulate the time and hours in our waters,” said Aikau. “I know hundreds of people on this island that (their) minds are just flipping off on this."
In a news release, DLNR Chairman William Aila said there would need to be nearly “unanimous” support among all wave riders before the agency moves forward on Mac Master’s proposal. Mac Master has objected to Aila’s position, saying it’s an abomination of the democratic process. He’s also reaching out to Gov. Neil Abercrombie and gubernatorial candidates to get their take on what he calls his Safe Surf Pilot Project.
Mac Master created a website, SafeSurfHawaii.com, where wave riders can learn more about his proposal and forward any comments to DLNR. One of his main contentions is that SUP riders create a significant hazard to other wave riders because their boards are not as maneuverable as a conventional surfboard.
However, Stevenson notes at 9’8’’ tall, his standup board is shorter than many longboards and he can turn just as easily as traditional surfers.
"Don't be hiding behind the safety issue if you can't catch waves,” said Stevenson. “Get a better board (or) get in better shape, you know what I'm saying? Don't hide behind the safety issue because there's rarely any accidents out here (at Ala Moana)."