Do you call yourself a surfer? Have you ever given a shaka to someone or even watched a surf video? Maybe you’ve watched Life of Kai or the 100 Foot Wave? If you are anyone who has - in any way - benefited from being a part of the surfing community, you love the water, and are a person of substance, please listen up.
Maui needs you.
This past week has been one of the most horrific fire events ever to occur in modern US history and the most deadly natural disaster ever to happen on the Hawaiiian islands.
On Tuesday, August 08, 2023, the town of Lāhiainā on the West Coast of Maui was completely wiped out by a fire storm brought on by a wildfire and exacerbated by hurricane force winds that left little or no warning for the local citizens to reach safety. Hundreds of individuals are still missing, thousands of local residents have been displaced and most of them have completely lost homes, businesses and all their possessions. It is a human tragedy of epic proportions.
But, we know this.
If you have been tuned in to the news about the misfortune on Maui, and have a heartbeat left in your body, a soul who loves surfing and cares about humanity, we are talking to you.
If you are a surfer, stand up paddler, foiler, wind athlete of any kind and have gotten inspiration from the likes of Kai Lenny, Laird Hamilton, Zane Schweitzer, Annie Reickert and others, please listen in.
The town of Lāhainā where this fire storm happened is one of the historic gems of Hawaiian culture. More than just a seaside tourist town, Lāhainā was once the seat of the Hawaiian royal government and previously included within its town historical buildings demarking Hawaiian history as early as the 1800’s. Many who are familiar with Lāhainā town will tell you that walking down Front Street was like traveling through history.
A Bit of History:
“From 1837 to 1845, King Kamehameha III lived on the island of Moku’ula surrounded by a 17-acre pond at the heart of the area. Under his rule, Lāhainā became the official first capital of the constitutional monarchy that laid the foundation for judicial and executive branches of government.
Traditionally called Lele, the West Maui district was favored by all ali’i (royalty) for its abundance of food from ‘aīna (land) and kai (ocean), and balanced climate.Geographically, it also served as an integral lookout for intruders.
The 200-year-old Waiola Church is among hundreds of structures destroyed in the Lāhainā wildfires. Founded by Keōpuōlaini, the mother of King Kamehameha II and III, it’s the parish where Christianity began on Maui. Keōpuōlani rests at Waiola Church’s graveyard alongside such notable royalty as her daughter, Princess Nāhi’ena’ena and Kaumuali’i, the last reigning king of Kaua’i.”*
*Excerpted from: “Remains of Prominent ali’i, lost ‘royal island’ part of Lāhainā”, written by Moanike’ala Nabarro, and published in University of Hawaii News.
OK, that is the backstory. Maybe it can help you see that losing this sort of rich, cultural history is more than about the loss of physical structures, brick and mortar. It is a devastation to the history of the Hawaiian people who have fought for so many years to keep their culture alive as more and more development, tourism and big money threatens a revered way of life. Lāhainā’s destruction by wildfire puts to the test what will happen to Maui in the future. How will this tradition be saved now that businesses, land, and its people have been displaced? This is where the real danger lives.
Kai Lenny, who was in NYC just last week, is now home on Maui and deep in the supply efforts of getting aid in the form of food, toiletries, shelter, clothing and medicine to people in need on the island. He is speaking out on Instagram about the “fumble” made by the government to organize quickly and get help to the victims of this crisis. For several days now, Lāhainā residents who have survived, fled their homes with only their clothes on their backs, have been without any federal support. According to several people on the ground in Maui, there is NO government or military assistance helping to coordinate any relief efforts to the devastated region of West Maui. People like Kai Lenny, Zane & Matty Schweitzer and other leaders like them, are forced to step up into the void to take charge and organize relief efforts in order to get supplies to people who have just suffered the worst nightmare in Hawaiian history.
Kai explains that the National Guard (only 100 to date) are present, but they are blocking people from coming into the area (including resupply efforts) and keeping boats out of Lāhainā harbor, forcing Hawaiian efforts to get aid the locals to find alternative ways and locations in which to bring in help. The bureaucracy of the federal government is moving much too slowly where assistance is needed. There is much to be concerned about here.
Zane Schweitzer and his family are also transporting goods like water, food, gasoline and survival needs up and down the coast of West Maui. They are helping families who have lost their homes find housing, assisting individuals struggling with shock and medical conditions find the medicine and emergency help needed in this chaotic time where government leadership is so desperately lacking. It is the Hawiian people showing up for and taking care of one another that has been the saving grace of these past several days.
Listen to Zane's experience a few days after the fire in a recent episode of On Water: The Session Mag Podcast.
What You Can DO to Help:
If you’ve read this far, we thank you. This is where the rubber meets the road.
Maui is in desperate need of donations for immediate relief and a look at the long term rebuild… BUT, there are already so many fraudulent organizations popping up that we ALL need to be thoughtful and conscious of where we will put our resources.
PLEASE BE CAREFUL OF WHERE YOU SEND YOUR DONATIONS!
Locals on Maui strongly advise that donations go directly to families that have lost their homes and livelihoods. You won’t get a tax write off or a letter of thanks, but you can be assured that every dollar given will directly help the people who need it most. A few trusted organizations are accepting donations and matching them up to a certain dollar amount as well. We’ve created a list below.
Help Maui’s Community, Both Long & Short Term
Session Mag has compiled a list of researched, vetted and legitimate places where you can support the people and culture of Maui. This will be a long haul; it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Our intention is to help our family of waterlovers on the island of Maui, be focused on their needs in the coming months and years and to stand with them in order to protect the cultural history of this island.
GoFundMe: GoFundMe accounts are being set up for local Lāhainā families that have lost their homes. Here are a few known and vetted GoFundMe's that we are in direct relationship with and who will distribute monies to local families in need.
Slater Trout’s GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/aid-to-lahaina-families-affected-by-the-wildfire
Slater Trout is a world renowned local water athlete from Lāhainā who is on Maui to help his community. We have known Slater since he was a boy and trust his judgment implicitly for distributing funds fairly to local families. Go, Slater!
Schweitzer Family GoFundMe:
Shawneen Schweitzer, mother to athletes Zane, Matty and Shelby Schweitzer has been a pioneer in the watersports industry for over 3 decades, and is co- founder of Stand Up for the Cure, a non-profit that supports breast and skin cancer survivors. Shawneen has been a central part of the Lāhainā community for decades and is a completely trusted source to put aid in the hands of her local community where it is needed.
Claydon Family GoFundMe:
Lara Claydon is both a professional longboard and stand up paddle surfer who has competed regularly on the APP World Tour. Her family has lost their home and all their belongings in the fire. Please help if you can.
We know there are MANY more individuals with GoFundMe and Venmo accounts that need help. In the name of absolute transparency, we are only listing a few here whom we have direct contact with and can 100% verify as a legitimate family.
Non-Profit Organizations with Immediate Assistance Capabilities
Maui Rapid Response: www.mauirapidresponse.org
Grassroots monetary fund being distributed quickly to vulnerable residents in need.
Hawaiian Community Foundation: Maui Strong Fund: https://www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/maui-strong
The Maui Strong Fund was created to provide community resilience with resources for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. They will provide resources that can be deployed quickly, with a focus on relief and recovery.
Maui United Way:
All donations will provide direct relief to families and nonprofits directly affected by the Maui Fire Disaster.
For a complete list of people & organizations you can donate to: CLICK HERE
One More Way You Can Help: Give Lāhainā Time to Grieve
Maui is an island that is dependent on tourism for its local economy. So, by all means visit Maui. BUT, stay AWAY from Lāhainā. Recently tourists on the island have created additional havoc to rescue and remediation efforts with an unwanted presence in a town that has just been through complete devestation. With all due respect, stay away from Lāhainā if you are visiting Maui and let this community heal in the months to come. Food, lodging and additional resources are all needed for local community who live there. Don’t stress the already depleted west Maui infrastructure or the ongoing search and recover mission by attempting to view Lāhainā. The rest of Maui is open and will welcome you, as always.
LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT IS NEEDED: Your voice matters!
The surfing and water community is a special group of people as we all have an understanding that we are connected by the sea. What affects some of us, impacts all of us. As search & rescue efforts continue for human remains caught in the fire, as Lāhainā and other affected communities like Kula and Kihei are faced with incalculable loss and a need to rebuild, as the very history of the Hawiian culture is at stake when locals are (right now!) being offered cents on the dollar for their destroyed homes by hungry developers looking to buy up the land, we all need to stay connected. This is about more than just a a town that has been destroyed by a horrible event, it is about the preservation of a way of life, the impact on individuals within a culture that needs the world to hear them in a moment of real crisis.
Can you be a true waterman or waterwoman and step up to share the word of what is happening in Maui? Will you offer your support in the preservation of its legacy and culture? We ask you to join hands and hearts with us. Maui needs you.