Twenty-three years is a long time to fight for a surf spot, but that’s exactly what surfers from Maui and around the world have done in Ma‘alaea. For decades the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources have been putting forth plans to remake the Ma‘alaea Harbor breakwater. Their reasoning was to allow for harbor expansion, but doing so would also damage huge sections of reef and destroy Freight Trains, literally one of the top surf breaks on the planet.
It doesn’t go off many days out of the year, but when it does, look out. Massive storms that occur from April to September off the eastern coast of New Zealand generate giant waves, which travel 4,000 miles north towards Hawaii. It’s a rare day when all that energy manages to shoot the tiny eight-mile gap between Kahoolawe and Maui’s southern tip, but when it does, you get a gorgeous, extremely fast wave barrelling right into Ma‘alaea Harbor, much like its namesake. Indeed, it’s considered the fastest rideable wave on Earth.
Since 1990, the Surfrider Foundation has been trying to get the fed and the state of Hawaii to abandon its Ma‘alaea Harbor expansion plans and preserve both the reef and the surf break. That finally happened on Friday, May 4, when officials terminated the project, saying that the “high cost” and considerable (and ever-growing) “community concerns” that they were facing became too much to overcome. Needless to say, Surfrider officials from Hawaii and the Mainland were celebrating
“Even before there was a Maui Chapter, Surfrider Foundation campaigned to save the world-class wave at Ma‘alaea,” Stuart Coleman, Surfrider’s Hawaii Coordinator, said in a May 7 email.
According to the email, Surfrider has “logged countless hours of community outreach, attended hearings, legal filings and even commissioned an independent review of the Army Corps of Engineers plans for the project.”
Normally, this blog is reserved for bad news: public officials behaving badly, land development projects going wrong. The victory by Surfrider–and the rest of myriad groups and individuals on Maui and the Mainland who spent so many years battling the harbor expansion plans–is very welcome good news.