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West Maui Kumuwai profile: Ocean hero Andrew O’Riordan

By Staff | Jan 22, 2015

The Surfrider Foundation Maui Chapter is led by President Andrew O’Riordan. PHOTO BY ANANDA STONE, WEST MAUI KUMUWAI.

WEST MAUI – Andrew O’Riordan has been surfing since his memory begins. After attending Princeton University and founding the Ivy League Surf Association, he moved to the North Shore of Oahu to teach and surf, and to pay homage at surfing’s Mecca.

On the North Shore, he discovered his deepest connection with the Hawaiian power of a place and became inspired by the work of Peter Cole, the Johnson Family, Stuart Coleman, Mark Cunningham and the ocean defenders of the North Shore. That’s when he joined the Surfrider Foundation.

In 2010, he moved to Maui to teach at Maui Preparatory Academy, and he met wife Leigh Fitzgerald here. Soon after arriving on the island, he joined the board of Surfrider Maui as publicist and volunteer coordinator.

He has now been a member of Surfrider for a decade on Oahu, Hawaii Island and Maui, and O’Riordan was recently elected as the Maui Chapter’s president.

O’Riordan believes that since a beach or a coastline is a public place and used by so many, it can be easy to abdicate personal responsibility for it.

Volunteers recently installed a rain garden at Pohaku Beach Park (S-Turns) in Kahana. PHOTO BY TOVA CALLENDER, WEST MAUI RIDGE TO REEF INITIATIVE.

“It’s the tragedy of the commons. It’s not yours, because it’s everybody’s, and then nobody takes care of it,” he said.

However, doing any activity in the ocean is a game changer. “There’s something about being in the Hawaiian ocean,” O’Riordan said. “It is such a primal and a complete immersion in the environment that it’s hard to feel, after going for a session, like that wasn’t some place that was especially yours; that the place had mana, that it was sacred. Swimming in the Hawaiian ocean is a personal experience.”

O’Riordan believes that he, and all of us, are privileged to exist on Maui. “Whether someone has been here for five generations or is brand new, existing on Maui is a gift we must each treat with gratitude. Gratitude isn’t just paying lip service with a thank you; it’s proving your appreciation with action.”

O’Riordan feels like he must do something to earn the privilege of living here.

He originally got involved with Surfrider Foundation through positive peer pressure from Tim Lara, previous chair of SRF Maui.

Tim called up and said, “Do you care? If so, we could use your help.” O’Riordan believes that having peers who build you up, who let you know your work matters, and who persuade you that you are needed is essential to training activists.

Recently Surfrider Maui worked in close partnership with Malama Maui Nui, West Maui Kumuwai, One if by Land Landscaping and community volunteers to construct two rain gardens at Pohaku Beach Park (S-Turns) in Kahana.

When the gardens are fully blossoming, they will capture, filter and clean tens of thousands of gallons of dirty, oil-soaked runoff that would otherwise flow into the sea and damage the reef. Signage will soon be constructed to educate the public on the environmental utility of rain gardens.

Surfrider Maui is always seeking new membership and volunteer assistance on projects like beach cleanups (scheduled every third Saturday of the month) or ocean-friendly gardens, if you want to go out and get your hands dirty.

Surfrider Maui sponsors and advocates for laws and policies about cigarette bans, single-use plastic reduction, polystyrene reduction, water quality enforcement, beach access preservation and more. Surfrider also likes to party, and it sponsors book-signings, movie screenings and surf festivals.

On an international scale, Surfrider advocates for marine life, pristine beaches, water quality, public access and sustainable environmental practices.

The Surfrider Foundation is a global network of over 50,000 volunteer members who are fighting this battle in Japan, California, New Jersey and anywhere there’s a beach. Surfrider acts locally on a global mission.

To get involved, become a member of Surfrider Foundation on Surfrider Maui’s website (www.mauisurfrider.org). Join their page on Facebook (Surfrider Maui) to stay up to date and to sign up to receive e-mail updates.

Maui is an island of almost 150,000 people. Will you join the 68 Surfrider members – and many other conservation partners – currently working for the forces of good to care for this precious island?

One upcoming opportunity to join Surfrider Foundation and several partner organizations will be the build-out of a Rain-Shower Garden Demonstration Site in Kihei. The community volunteer event will allow participants to not only help install a rain garden, but to learn how it’s done and why it’s important from experts in the field.

The event will be held on Saturday, Jan. 24, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Kalepolepo Beach Park near 726 S. Kihei Road.

Rain gardens and greywater gardens can be used at individuals’ homes, as well as businesses’ or community groups’ locations, to collect stormwater runoff and/or reclaim greywater from showers and other sources.

W.I.S.E. (The Water Institute for Sustainability Education), Surfrider Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, Roth Ecological Designs International LLC, EcoSolutions and the Pono Project are coordinating this effort and invite all to participate.

Refreshments and lunch will be provided. Registration is required, and space is limited; visit www.ponoproject.org/#!kiheiraingarden/cogg to register, or contact Sarah McLane at sarah@ponoproject.org.