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Interview with Surfing Legend Peter Cole: Part 2

Guest Author - Gordana Liddell

Peter Cole: We (the Surfrider Foundation) also do water testing. We’re trying to get EPA funding through the department of health so that we can have a special surf site water monitoring program. Right now, the department of health and the city and county do a lot of water testing, but it’s near the shoreline, it’s not out in the surf sites.
Right now we are having a big tenth anniversary. In ’96 we formed the Oahu chapter and I was involved in that. I was the chair for the first 5 years or so and then I talked another person into being chair. Then they got me back into being chair! (laughs) We have general and executive meetings once a month, always on the 4th Tuesday of each month, and we try to have guest speakers every other month.
Surfrider Foundation was started in 1986 in Malibu and the mission is to protect the surf sites, to preserve them, make sure the water quality is good, make sure that there is public access. And that’s another issue that we are very much concerned with. If somebody wants to close off public access then we get right in there and lobby against that.

Me: I was reading about that. You want 1 access per mile of beachfront, right?

PC: No, per mile is too large a distance, we’d like to have it about every ¼ mile at the most. That way, the longest a person will have to walk is about 200- 220 yards or so. At Sunset Beach, we have a public right of way every 400 yards maximum….some of the public right of ways are less than 400 yards apart, some are only 200 yards apart.

Me: Is it hard to get permits to build around here?

PC: There aren’t a lot of empty lots, the lot next to us is one of the few empty lots on the whole north shore for the last 15 or 20 years. Most of the developments are where they take an existing dwelling and they kind of work around it. They really build a new dwelling, but if they take an existing dwelling they can grandfather in some clauses on their building permits. Yeah, it is kind of difficult to get building permits. You have 40 foot setbacks…

Me: Which is good.

PC: Which IS good.

Me: Do you think you’ll be able to keep the north shore like this?

PC: Well, the thing that keeps the north shore nice is that we don’t have any large land owners. Where you have Oaktree coming in on Turtle Bay, wherever you have problems is where you have large land owners.
Like Hiram Fong, who was senator, along with Inouye for the republican side, he owned property up on the top of Sunset Beach; you see it up on the bluff. He owned that property but it wasn’t developed, and then they sold it to a Japanese construction company called Obayashi and they planned to build. They came in with 4 different plans and we shot them down 3 times and then they finally came in with a plan…the council passed it 5 to 4. Then we formed a group, and I was a plaintiff, called Save Sunset Beach Coalition…

Me: I bought one of your stickers about 10-15 years ago!

PC: Ya! And we actually took them to court and that sat in court for 10 or 12 years. And now we actually have a chance to buy the property from Obayashi. We have the north shore Trust for Public Land and they are going to try to buy the property and get funding from the city, the state, the federal government, the army. We have all this money that we are trying to put together to buy the property, to reserve it for conservation.
So, I’d say, making sure that you have public access is really important. That’s my biggest primary issue. Plus littering! We have a beach clean up every month. We are trying to indoctrinate surfers into the idea that when they come out of the water that they pick up litter as they come up to their car. You see them passing litter right and left. They don’t drop the litter but they don’t pick it up. They could just bend down and pick it up!

In Part 3 of the interview, the focus shifts to surfing.
Please visit www.surfrider.

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Interview Part 1
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