Article

KEEP OUT! Guns Drawn Boards Out: Surfers Halt Superferry

| posted on July 22, 2010

After four long hours of sitting idle outside of the mouth of the Nawiliwili Harbor on the outer island of Kauai, the infamous Superferry—an interisland oceangoing vessel equipped to carry 866 people and their respective cars between the islands of Oahu, Kauai, and Maui—sat essentially dead in the water, unable to unload its cargo of interisland passengers amidst the flotilla of surfers forming a human chain across the harbor entrance. Despite the efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard to clear the water, the boat was forced to turn around and head back to Honolulu Harbor; its mission failed.

“I couldn’t hear the crowd screaming for me,” says the buoy-hopping surfer, “but once I finally made my way to the top of the buoy and raised my board above my head in front of the ferry, I felt really proud, like I was doing something really good for my community.”

As the Superferry crawled back to Oahu with its rudder tucked between its hull, the crowd of hundreds of protesters erupted in a frenzy of wild cheers. The tension surrounding the Superferry had been simmering for months, but finally came to a rolling boil when during the protest, a local surfer climbed atop a massive buoy and triumphantly raised his board to the heavens. Emblazoned across the bottom of the board for all the passengers and crew on the boat to see were the words “F—k the Ferry.” As he raised his board, the congregation of protesters exploded in a sea of approval, clapping, whistling, and screaming.

“I couldn’t hear the crowd screaming for me,” says the buoy-hopping surfer, “but once I finally made my way to the top of the buoy and raised my board above my head in front of the ferry, I felt really proud, like I was doing something really good for my community.” When the surfer, who wishes to remain anonymous, returned to the harbor, he was greeted by hundreds of approving landlocked protesters.

“People were patting me on the back, shaking my hand, and telling me how proud they were of me. Then I saw the cops with all of their gear and bailed, full-on Navy SEAL style. I swam through the harbor in the dark and snuck in on the [nearby] beach, grabbed a hat and some dry clothes from my friend and got the hell out of there.” Indeed, getting the hell out of Dodge was a wise move. The police—equipped in full riot gear and attack dogs—arrested over a dozen protesters.

One of the arrested was Shane Valiere, a standout surfer and WQS warrior from Kauai’s North Shore. Valiere wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to the Superferry:

“No one ever asked us if we wanted this ferry. I’ve been opposed to it from the beginning for a lot of reasons. Most importantly, they haven’t done an EIS [Environmental Impact Study] to justify that having this massive boat coming in and out of here every day doesn’t have an environmental impact on our island and the ocean that surrounds it. Another huge thing is the cars, 200 cars coming in and out of here every day may not seem like a lot, but we only have two-lane roads going around the island. I could drive from the North Shore to the South Side and not see 200 cars. That kind of stuff adds up, it’s just gonna turn Kauai into a suburb of Oahu, and I don’t want that. That’s why I got in the water and protested.”

Valiere’s actions earned him an arrest, a soggy five hours in prison, and a $3,000 bail. It also put a stop to the ferry. Superferry operations from Oahu to Kauai have been postponed indefinitely. The surfers who blockaded the entrance are ecstatic. In the words of one protester: “By protesting, it shows that if you have a group of people who are passionate about something, you can accomplish anything you want.”

Stay tuned to Surfermag.com for further developments.