Waikiki Surfers Are Nonetheless Ready For New Surfboard Racks

The favored amenity was torched by an arsonist in 2021 and dismantled by the town.

A beloved group amenity — the general public surfboard racks that had been a home-away-from-home for native surfers for many years — appeared positioned within the most secure place on Oahu, between the Pacific Ocean and busy Kalakaua Avenue, comfortable by the aspect of the Waikiki police station.

However it was all gone inside hours by the hands of a homeless man who picked up a lighter on the road and set it ablaze. Now 18 months later, the seasoned surfers who relied on the town owned racks to retailer their boards are annoyed and the town has but to give you a alternative plan.

About 300 individuals have signed a petition asking for the surf racks to be restored.

Linda Kea, who has surfed at Kuhio Seaside for greater than 30 years, is one in every of a bunch that’s attempting to convey again the surf racks. (Kirstin Downey/Civil Beat/2023)

The surf board rack operated as a concession by the town on land it owns. Its believed to have been there for greater than 60 years.

It was positioned at Kuhio Seaside, the place the place the Hawaii surf legend was born — the place Excessive Chief Kahekili of Maui plied the waves after he conquered Oahu, the place Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole and his brothers reveled on their conventional picket boards and the place Duke Kahanamoku shared the game with the world.

Final month, a 48-year-old man, Glenn A. Helton, was sentenced to 10 years in jail for beginning the hearth Oct. 17, 2021, which ignited the 575 surfboards saved there. Helton was captured on video choosing up a lighter, utilizing it to catch fireplace to a chunk of paper, and inserted the flaming object right into a row of the surf rack, in keeping with KHON TV.

Surfboards are extremely flammable, mentioned Jim Ferdinand, a surfer actively attempting to exchange the set up.

The storage space had been beforehand set on fireplace by an unknown arsonist in February 2020, with 525 surfboards destroyed, however the racks have been repaired and reinstalled.

This time, nonetheless, metropolis officers have determined that it isn’t possible to do it once more.

The brand new wing of the Moana Surfrider Resort was additionally scorched by the latest fireplace. A Moana Surfrider spokeswoman didn’t return a name for remark.

Waikiki group activist Tim Garry instructed the council in January that he had spoken to metropolis directors and been instructed that the lodge suffered $1 million in damages due to the hearth and that lodge managers have been “fairly adamant” that the town mustn’t substitute the surf racks.

Garry pleaded with metropolis officers to discover a alternative location.

“Our group wants a spot, notably for kupuna and the disabled to maintain our surfboards and entry the ocean,” he instructed them.

Smoke from the hearth that destroyed a Waikiki surf storage space and boards in October 2021. (Hawaii Information Now)

Substitute Will Be Pricey

In January, the Metropolis Council handed a decision in help of reestablishing the surf lockers.

Jerry Pupillo, director of the town’s Division of Enterprise Providers, instructed the council that the division is in search of an alternate location, probably to function in partnership with a non-public vendor.

“We need to search options,” he mentioned.

Council member Augie Tulba, who chairs the committee on parks, enterprise companies, tradition and the humanities, has met with the displaced surfers. He requested Pupillo if the mayor would put the alternative price of the surf racks within the then-upcoming draft metropolis price range.

Pupillo indicated that he believed that some funding could be discovered, however when the mayor’s new proposed price range for fiscal yr 2024 was launched earlier this month, it didn’t present for it. The one funding was $100,000 positioned within the price range final yr by Council Chair Tommy Waters, who instructed Civil Beat he put aside the funds “in response to the vandalism and destruction of the Waikiki Surf Racks.”

Each Tulba and Waters mentioned in emailed statements that they supported efforts to revive the racks and that they each hoped a brand new location may very well be discovered. Waters mentioned the town might be issuing a “request for data” to the group to determine how finest to go ahead.

At Helton’s sentencing, the courtroom positioned the price of the harm at $414,000, which the courtroom required as restitution, so it’s seemingly that rebuilding new racks might be costly.

That has left older surfers hanging and ready.

Surfer Tommy Copp
Tommy Copp, 76, who has been browsing at Waikiki for nearly 70 years, mentioned the lacking lockers make it arduous to get to out to the water. (Kirstin Downey/Civil Beat 2023)

A Gathering Place

Tommy Copp, 76, started browsing at Kuhio Seaside when he was 7 or 8 years previous, and has saved a surfboard there for many years. Coming to the seashore there was not only a pastime for him, however “a lifestyle,” in what he referred to as a “gathering place” for individuals who shared a standard love of browsing. The disappearance of the surf racks has had a nasty impact on him, he mentioned.

“It’s my religious, emotional, psychological well-being,” he mentioned. “It’s a lack of a way of place.”

Linda Kea, one other long-time surfer who additionally saved her boards there, mentioned that older individuals wanted the surf racks there as a result of boards are too heavy to hold from distant parking heaps over by the Honolulu Zoo or Kapiolani Park.

“It’s exhausting,” mentioned Kea, who has been browsing the Queens and Canoes surf spots for greater than 30 years.

She mentioned that when the rented racks have been there, individuals may unlock their boards and stroll 200 ft to the shore and paddle out on their very own.

Kea mentioned she and others have questioned why the town determined to tear the surf racks down solely, and why they couldn’t shield them after they have been positioned adjoining to the police station.

“They ripped the racks out and put them in a steel shredder,” she mentioned.

In an interview, Pupillo mentioned the hearth was too scorching and the racks have been too badly broken to salvage.

Nathan Serota, a spokesman for the town Division of Parks and Recreation, mentioned it’ll price the town $184,400 to restore the pavers that have been broken by the arson. That work will happen inside the month, he mentioned.

A firefighter on scene at a fireplace in Waikiki that destroyed a surf rack and tons of of boards in October, 2021. (Hawaii Information Now)

Copp mentioned he was shocked when he realized the town meant to eliminate the racks as a substitute of changing them.

“They notified us on a Friday they usually have been doing it on a Monday,” Copp mentioned.

“There was no dialog about some other options, interval,” Kea mentioned.

The town concession charged $300 a yr for Honolulu residents, in keeping with Kea and Copp, or $40 a month for non-residents. A close-by non-public surfboard rack operator, positioned between the Outrigger Waikiki Seaside Resort and the Cheesecake Manufacturing facility restaurant, against this, prices $460 a yr, in keeping with the corporate web site.

Kea mentioned it doesn’t appear honest that native surfers have been doubly victimized — first by the arsonist after which by metropolis officers who’ve been sluggish give you an alternate. She mentioned the state of affairs displays the persevering with breakdown of legislation enforcement in Honolulu and Waikiki’s deterioration.

“Earlier than, there weren’t so many homeless and now there are so few cops, and that’s what has contributed to this,” she mentioned, gesturing to the development tarp that covers the location that after held the surf rack, shaking her head sadly.

That view is shared by Ferdinand.

“The entire group is altering. They don’t care about something they usually stay by their very own guidelines,” he mentioned.

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