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Darrick Doerner + Tom Stone speak out on PWC use in Hawaii
June 25, 2009
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The primary intent of the story PWC POWER STRUGGLE was to shine a light on the state laws restricting channel crossings between the Hawaiian Islands.
Tow surfing is but one PWC usage type in Hawaii, but because of its high visibility and explosive growth, it's the one that could have the most unfavorable influence on whether or not these laws can be revised to accommodate interisland travel. Hoards of uncertified users and a few well-publicized accidents could smear any effort to legitimize the craft for any other kind of purpose.
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"I would like to apologize if I have offended anyone in Hawaii for my presence on Molokai," Doerner said. "I am a long time Hawaii resident who loves Hawaiian culture and its people's ways of sharing and giving." Photo: DD Sea
Last year, Tom Stone and Darrick Doerner went to Molokai for an informal community meeting to exchange dialogue and ideas, and share whatever information they had on these pressing issues. Also present at the meeting were representatives from The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and residents of Molokai. In the wake of the initial "PWC POWER STRUGGLE" article and the backlash that ensued, both Surfline and I thought it appropriate to print a follow up. Tom and Darrik, however, were the only party willing to contribute to the piece; the DLNR did not return my calls, and out of respect for their community, my contacts on Molokai declined comment.

Nonetheless, it should be understood that in no way, shape, or form, are either Tom or Darrick advocating or promoting the wholesale invasion of Molokai by PWC's or tow surfers. They are proponents of proper training, national level certification, and common sense etiquette to ensure that PWC use of any kind isn't blackballed in the future because of a few very preventable incidents. In this follow up, Tom and Darrick clarify their positions and details on the situation in Hawaii.

What may have readers misunderstood about the article?
Tom Stone: That I'm not a "tow surfer" by definition, and the article made me appear to be one. If there ever was a ban on tow surfing in Hawaii, it wouldn't affect me much.
"Most of the misunderstanding was that we were trying to change the rules that were already there, so that we could promote commercialization of PWC's in their areas. This was not our intent and it never would be."
-- Darrick Doerner on what readers most commonly misunderstood about the initial "PWC POWER STRUGGLE" article

Have you ever tow surfed?
TS: Yes, but haven't in a long time. The only way PWC's relate to my surfing is that on occasion, I may get dropped off at a surf spot, where I ride my traditional Hawaiian wood boards.

So how would you describe your interest in PWC's at this point?
TS: I view my PWC as a type of boat and a tool that I use for work purposes and travel between islands. It's a Class A, four stroke boat.

You're a great believer in training and certification. How are you helping this movement?
TS: Some of the earliest PWC training courses in Hawaii provided classroom training only, and certification was easier to acquire. We're not just about PWC's for tow surfing, we include national level education and certification on boating regulations and etiquette in the classroom and field, in open ocean and surf zone environments.

What concerns you the most with the current situation?
TS: The issue for me was and still is the assumed restriction on PWC travel in Hawaiian waters. This is a state issue, not a county issue, and should be addressed accordingly. We're trying to help fix a problem that already existed. On a personal level, I have cultural rights (as a native Hawaiian) and should be able to exercise them.

Based on the ones you've spoken with, how have Molokai locals reacted to the issue?
TS: I have many friends and relatives there who don't have any problems with me landing on Molokai with my PWC. I've never been approached or harassed by anyone, and I should not be prohibited from stopping on or passing Molokai.


In general, what did readers misunderstand about the article?
Darrick Doerner: Most of the misunderstanding was that we were trying to change the rules that were already there, so that we could promote commercialization of PWC's in their areas. This was not our intent and it never would be. We made the journey to Molokai just to listen and to learn, no harm intended, no harm done to anyone. Our reputations are built on safety first, and it's an educational component built on 35 years of lifesaving skills learned from saving people's lives from all over the world.

Although not ethnically Hawaiian, you're a long time and respected Kamaaina who's very aware of the unspoken rules of Hawaiian culture and respect. What would you like people, especially those from Molokai, to know?
DD: Number one is that I would like to apologize if I have offended anyone in Hawaii for my presence on Molokai. I am a long time Hawaii resident who loves Hawaiian culture and its people's ways of sharing and giving. I was taught by all my Hawaiian friends and family that if you give respect, you receive respect.

The use of PWC's and tow surfing in Hawaii is accelerating rapidly. What should be done to provide some control and management, so that PWC use in Hawaii isn't legally compromised by overcrowding and improper use?
DD: When we first brought PWC's to Hawaii, they were for lifeguarding purposes only! What normally took us 30 minutes to accomplish, now took us only 30 seconds. It saved lives, and was accepted very well by the public when used by strictly trained rescue personnel and highly qualified lifeguards in surf areas.


Rules To Live By: Simple PWC Etiquette
- The number one rule is where and/or when there are (paddle) surfers, go someplace else!
- If you cannot paddle into large surf, you shouldn't go there because you could be endangering other experienced surfers' lives.
- Get boating education and learn the regulations.
Exercise etiquette with Mother Nature's resources and cultural areas.
- Get classroom and field training in both open ocean and surf zone conditions.
- Be able to run a mile and swim a mile within 20 minutes.
When in doubt, DO NOT go out!
- Do not disrespect Mother Nature.
- Know your equipment, understand your equipment, and don't disrespect it or people will start dropping like flies.

Any positive feedback can be sent direct to Dean Luke at
Comments: (8)    Add Your Comment
Tim 06/29/2009 03:35 PM
Of course no one has problems with Tom landing on Molokai cause it's his friends and it's just him (1). Wait until the "PWC" can of worms opens up. His friends will blame him. Selfish! Once you open the flood gates. It will be ir-reversable.
Joe 06/29/2009 03:26 PM
is the person that is filtering these comments fairly showing what the majority of the public is trying to write in or is he just posting the ones that he feels won't make DD and TS look bad. Let the people on Molokai and Lanai decide for themselves. They are saying no. Let them be.
John Donaldson 06/29/2009 08:51 AM
Every state in the country has grappled with boating safety issues and PWC regulations. There is a vast reservoir of experience and knowledge regarding management boating safety and boating user conflicts. Hawaii is a state surround by warm yet sometimes treacherous water - more so than most other places. Education, risk management, and a thorough awareness of the local expectations of residents and other watersports should be the foundation of Hawaiian boating education including PWC.
Mike M 06/29/2009 07:33 AM
To clarify my previous statement, I think regulation is futile because no one will effectively enforce any of the rules that are set up given the manpower and budget issues. As for education, yes, in a perfect world everyone using PWCs would take the course and act accordingly. Who thinks that this will actually happen? again, remember DD's own statement that Jaws is now a "circus" and that he no longer surfs there. As for the rights of the locals, let the Molokai folks have the final say.
Mike Scully 06/29/2009 05:03 AM
I didnt know Captain Cook used a pwc. That fact alone makes me glad the Hawaiians took him out. Always thought the pwc nightmare was Lairds fault.
David Pu'u 06/28/2009 01:23 PM
In response to the comment by Mike M. If education is required and more thorough then enforcement becomes irrelevant. In a time of shrinking access to the ocean and restricted rights of the individual I take great exception to anyone telling me via our environmental movement or government what I can or cannot do in the waters off the lands the US stole from my ancestors. The boat is what brought man to Hawaii and in turn what brought Cook (and you) there. Over regulating is a waste and travesty.
Shawn Alladio 06/28/2009 01:02 PM
Boating Education saves lives-property and government finances spent on SAR missions. It can reduce potential injuries and hosptial expenses. It solves problems, placing responsiblity on users. To expect law enforcement to take on all burdens boaters need to take responsiblity for their actions. Why be afraid of that? Power is knowledge. Kanalu K38 is 1 partner in a long list of boating educators. I stand by my brethren, boating education, enforcement & oppose ignorance at the expense of safety
Mike M 06/26/2009 07:50 AM
Sure, DD and TS are watermen and have lots of experience with PWCs but they won't be the problem if PWCs are allowed overall. The problem will be the 100s of others who just know that they are allowed in and don't follow any rules. Again, who is actually going to enforce the laws DD and TS mention and on what budget? Please note DD's "non answer" to the question above regarding the acceleration of PWCs and the associated problems. I know he is a lifeguard, but does that mean all PWC users are?
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