Big-wave surfer Torsten Durkan cleans up the shoreline at Jaws


Torsten and his 50 foot drop for coral. Photo Giorra Koren

Back in February, GrindTV touched base with Maui big-wave surfer and environmentalist Torsten Durkan who was raising money for coral research by having people donate on a per foot basis for the biggest wave he caught over winter.

Using a panel of local experts it was determined that Durkan’s biggest wave was a 50 foot giant caught at Jaws (pictured above) back in February. “This led to around $2,500 being donated to the coral research program at the University of Hawaii,” Durkan told GrindTV.

However Durkan wasn’t quite finished with his environmental action.

“With the incredible El Nino winter, I’d never seen so many boards broken in such a short time, including a few of my own,” Durkan said.

“This prompted me to put together, with the help of Rodney Kilborn, an uncle of Pe’ahi, a shoreline and cliffside cleanup to pick up all the carnage from the last 20 years it’s been surfed.”

Torsten and 20 years of surfing carnage. Photo by Durstan

Torsten and 20 years of surfing carnage. Photo: Courtesy of Durstan

This however is not as easy as it sounds. The land is owned by the sugar and pineapple company Alexander and Baldwin, and permits were required.

“It’s kinda funny, because you don’t need permits to trash it up, but it’s a bureacratic nightmare to clean it,” laughs Durstan. With Kilborn’s help though the permits were granted and the clean up took place on May 14.

“There was a lot of surfboard debris, and a fair bit of history on the rocks,” says Durkan. “We found the thrusters from Garrett McNamara’s jet board, some of Big Wave award winner Aaron Gold’s surfboards and one of my own fins.”

It wasn’t just surfboards though, with cargo debris from Japan, abandoned cars and tonnes of plastic all recovered. With the coastline inaccessible due to huge boulders and sheer cliffs, volunteers were dropped off by jetski, and the huge piles of trash were collected in vast nets. Helicopters then came into pick up the piles for disposal and salvaging.

The chopper swoops in to pick up another pile. Photo by Durstan

The chopper swoops in to pick up another pile. Photo: Courtesy of Durstan

“This winter has been an incredible for waves at Jaws,” says Durkan, “but it comes with an impact. The key thing I’ve learned is that people do want to help and make a difference. You’ve just go to plant the seeds.”

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