It was, roughly, seven months ago when I decided that the world’s greatest surfer, Kelly Slater, has likely done more damage to its environment than any living non-politician. A harsh assessment, one I am neither qualified nor in any position to make, but I had a feeling, you know, a gut instinct and today my prescience was certified by ProPublica in a devastating piece titled How Famous Surfers and Wealthy Homeowners Are Endangering Hawaii’s Beaches.
ProPublica, whose tagline is “keep them honest,” spilled roughly 15,000 words describing how oceanfront homeowners have been erecting illegal sandbag structures over the years that have not been regulated by the state and have, in turn, led to massive beach erosion. The homeowners argue without protection that their beautiful homes will crash into the sea.
The news outlet talked to many on both sides of the debate including our Kelly Slater and let us hurry to that section without delay.
In 2018, Kelly Slater, an 11-time world surfing champion who lives on Ehukai Beach by the world-famous Banzai Pipeline surf break, illegally installed a burrito. He, as well as his neighbors, were fined just $2,000.
Slater paid the fine and wrote to the Department of Land and Natural Resources last year asking it to approve his illegal structure so his home would be protected from future hurricane surf, as well as unexpected and seasonal weather. Lemmo, in response, rejected the request and underscored the seriousness of the situation.
“Unfortunately, we have reached a tipping point in which near complete loss of beach resources is a realistic future due to sea level rise and the prevalence of [densely] urbanized shoreline development,” he wrote to Slater, noting that the situation on the North Shore is particularly precarious.
Lemmo added that if the state doesn’t enforce strict policies controlling shoreline armoring “it could set in motion a [domino] effect leading to chronic beach loss.”
Still, he left the door open to a future approval, inviting Slater to submit additional information about the structure that was installed and why it was needed. Lemmo said his office is still waiting on the surfer to provide the details about his emergency barrier, which has been in place for more than two years.
In a brief phone interview, Slater, known for his environmental activism, said that without the sandbags people “would have lost properties outright.” He did not respond to a request for a follow-up interview.
So ouch that even I feel bad for the 11x World Champion and would like to help him extract himself from the “known for his environmental activism” bed of hypocrisy in which he is uncomfortably tossing and turning. It is something I am both qualified and in a position to do.
You have two ways out.
1) Double down on being a plutocrat. Your many fans accept your superiority and would accept that you and your pals Dirk Ziff, Jeff Bezos, Gavy Newsom etc. know best and are actually acting in The People’s™ interest.
2) Follow me down the primrose path of “hyper-irony” where the only thing that matters is thinking you, yourself, are funny. Then you can actively continue to satirize both “environmentalist” and “wealthy homeowner, wetland bulldozer to build Surf Ranches, etc.” and call the whole thing a morality play.
I recommend number 2 but it’s totally up to you.