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September 21, 2005


Paul Pillbox

Boo hoo. You expect us to cry over a spot that 99.9% of the surfing community has never surfed? Funny how the first time the public was made aware of Harry's was when Sempra started dumping rocks there. I remember a couple of years ago when Harry's made the cover of Surfer (the one with BC pulled in). In the caption it was made plainly clear that this was a "ultra-secret" spot south of the border and that the regular crew were not inclined to divulge any details about the spot - opting instead to keep it a jealously guarded secret for them to keep to themselves.

Guess what Jim, people react only to those things they identify or empathize with. The reason no one is talking about Harry's is simply that nobody cares. Let's stay focused on the waves we all surf - Ponto, Trestles, Strands...


The SurfRider Foundation Resorts, Inc.
by Momo

After reading the piece on Harry's, it got me to thinking about my summer exploits in Bora Bora, Tahiti. Through my university in Hawaii, I had established a management internship at the most prestigious resort in Bora, the Sheraton managed Bora Nora Nui. It sits on a tiny Motu (island) off the shore from the main island of Vaitape. Bora is spectacular— lagoons that reflect such a magnificent blue that there really is no way to properly articulate the experience. Sunsets beyond what you thought was amazing in Hawaii; coral reefs and exotic water life that shame anything else I have ever seen in the South Pacific. Although Bora is not known for its surf, I managed to see about two spots that were workable and I was told that the pass through the reef can become classic.

When I arrived at the resort, via motorboat because there are no roads to the hotel, the manager in a lobby that stood over the lagoon greeted me. The lobby was quite spectacular, with glass floors designed in a way that visitors could see the fish and reef below. You can imagine the initial excitement. A sunny tropical paradise with friendly natives. What an illusion that was. The next month would be nothing short of a nightmare.

It began almost immediately with the hotel design. Robert Wan, the billionaire pearl merchant of the South Pacific, had spared no expense in building the resort. Wan and his construction crew began by cutting into the cliffs on the island, completely decimating the coral reefs that once surrounded the small motu; he had sand pumped in to cover what was left of the reefs in order to make an artificial beach. Furthermore, he shipped in all the building materials and in doing so, disregarded the effect it would have on the environment. Consequently, the famous rays that migrate to Bora in order to mate, stopped coming because of all the boat traffic. The locals petitioned and protested, but who is going to really stop money? Not to mention totally interrupting the lives of the people that shared the tiny island.

Inside the hotel things were just as bad. The local Tahitians worked 10-12 hour days for peanuts and were persistently being told, in so many ways, to act Anglo. In the hotel restaurant, which aspired to be a 5 star restaurant, local people were under constant criticism for acting too local. In so many words they were told that not only do they have to cater to the wealthy white people for a small salary, but that wealthy white people are offended when they see local people acting ‘natural.’ I say white because in the month I was there we had about three couples that weren’t white. The mere act of operating a high class restaurant is neurotic and completely the anti-thesis to the ways and lives of the local Tahitians—from proper ways to stand, to folding napkins, to opening wine, to menu display, to knowing exactly how each dish is prepared all the way down to the ingredients in the sauce—the behind the doors operations are off the wall and intensely stressful.

The front desk was equally as painful. The front desk manager was going grey at 28, the hours are long and stressful (try finding activities for guests that hate sun and water in a place like Tahiti, and there are more of these people then you know), and they pay is average at best. What really put me over the edge was that the managers, all of whom were white and foreign except one person that I can remember, were working at this resort simply to promote their own careers (nobody wants a job like the ones offered at these hotels because it is too stressful, so the hotel companies give special perks to their employees that do take these job) and are not really interested in the people and place that much. None of the managers were really bad people—the manager was a surfer himself—actually they were generally decent people, just people caught up in a system that was overwhelming.

All so that rich white people can dine properly, sit in bungalows that look at destroyed coral reef, and sip cognac. Honestly, most visitors realized they don’t really want to do this at all, they just think this is what they want to do that’s how it is advertised—a little piece of home in the jungle. Granted most visitors were friendly in nature, but the whole operation was about as close to everything done wrong in the name of profit that can be imagined. I relaized that the worst thing that ever happened to the local people living in Bora Bora were the hotels.

The point I am trying to make is that we see places like Harry’s disappear, or small islands fall to the Profit God, and little is really done about it. We write blogs and protest and get signatures, but the truth is we are generally suckers. I am easily the biggest sucker in the world when it comes to this, gathering signatures or writing my congressperson to have maybe 10% of what I set out to do actually ever become accomplished. Not that these routes are useless, I mean the Surfrider Foundation is exactly what we need to unite people that are loosely connected, but I feel like if we ever want to see things materialize the way we want, we have to become more active in different ways. We need to get these places like Harry’s or other threatened places and do something with them, not protest and become angry when someone else gets to it and does something with it we don’t like (well, I get angry when this happens too, but I know there is not that much I can do about once the wheels start turning. And I feel it is that thought process, that I can’t do anything against the corporate machine, that makes me as guilty as the industries for not even trying to do anything).

For example, the surfer is probably the most unique tourist there ever was. Somewhere between a bank robber, cowboy, businessperson, adventurer, family man/woman, biker, activist, lunatic, saint/sinner, wanderer and an all around unique individual. A Surfer can stay in a 5 star resort one week and be camping somewhere in the deepest depths of Indo the next week—and be mostly indifferent to the living conditions as long as there is a breaking peak nearby. I once knew this surfer from Hawaii who was an Oracle database engineer for a dot com company in Solana Beach about 5 years ago. He retired at 40 and wanders around surfing. You don’t just quit a job like that unless something is going on—Oracle people are genius in nature and the job is one of the highest paying in the IT field.

If we could take something like The SurfRider Foundation and turn it into a brand name destination company, like Hilton or Sheraton has done, we could develop a machine that will generate the needed revenue to protect places that provide our way of life. Develop destination areas that cater to our lifestyle, surf resorts that are located right next to breaks that may one day be threatened by other interests. Such as building destination resorts at places like Harry’s or J-Bay or other surf localities that may be threatened by industry or harbours, etc. We need to become proactive and not reactive. What we need are people in our community that have experience with large projects like this, people that have the ability to come up with the needed money to begin an operation like this.

Right now I’m doing my best to learn the IT side of the tourist industry in the hopes I can find other like-minded people that want to tackle a venture, like what I have proposed above, with me. Don’t misinterpret me—I agreed with everything Serge Dedina said and we need people like Serge to report these things—I’m just trying to take it to the next level. The mere act of trying to keep our secret spots 'secret' is actually doing nothing but shooting us in the foot. Because then non-surfers come in and do what they want with them because they face no opposition. If we could ever get something like this off the ground, to create socially/environmentally responsible resort hotels that cater to regular visitors and surfers alike, we could protect our destinations and turn the world into our playground.

Serge Dedina

I want to thank Paul and Momo for their comments on my account of the destruction of Harry's. As someone who has spent my life attempting to stop coastal destruction this is actually a great time to preview why we save our coast.

First--I could care less if a pristine part of the coast has good waves or not. Undeveloped coastline is disappearing wordwide and if having great surf helps us protect our coast--that is great. But I spent most of my time working with fishermen to protect the coast, since most surfers are pretty unconcerned about the loss of their natural resources.

But remember next time the water is polluted--that it is the result of the non-stop development that has paved over ever natural nook and cranny of every watershed that flows into the coast.

I spent the afternoon of December 5th documenting the additional destruction of Harry's and the coastline around it. I am sad and upset not just because we lost a surf spot, but because one of the most pristine and last undeveloped streteches of coastline in northern Baja is gone. And guess what--we are all paying for it. Literally. Sempra will charge you in your gas/electric bill to destroy Baja. Felicidades.

I was sad not just because of the loss of waves. But because of the wildlife that no longer has a home. Because of the poor Mexican fishermen who have already lost income and in a few months will no longer have jobs. I am sad that because when it rains all the runoff from the rock mountain built by Sempra will pollute a once pristine part of the ocean (and flow down into Salsipuedes-which by the way is going to be destroyed too).

So next time you complain about how screwed up "Mexico" is--just remember, Americans are doing much of the screwing up there. And those "illegals" people in the OC love to complain about--lots of them have been displaced by American corporations.

And let's define ultra-secret. Having started surfing Baja when there were no maps to surf spots and way pre-Surfline, I spent a lot of time exploring the coast before any of us had fancy SUVs (remember that--when we explored the coast in our crappy Datsun B210s or 2 wheel drive Ford pickups--back when surfers were more Dogtown than THE OC).

The only reason that anyone surfed Harry's by themselves is because they happened to find it while checking out the coast. It's not like this part of Baja is PV where a bunch of trustafarian jerks throw rocks at outsiders so they can continue to pretend they surf big waves. In fact unlike California locals-the fishermen at Harry's are very nice (unlike the guards at the new destroyed Harry's).

There were no gates at Harry's--lots of people surfed it. You just have to have the time and energy to surf somewhere besides San Miguel, Baja Malibu and K-38s (which by the way are all filthy as hell because of uncontrolled development).

So boo-hoo. Guess what. Another surf spot and wild coastline lost to a corrupt American corporation. Just another reason for more people to crowd Trestles or Ponto or La Jolla Shores.

But I happen to like surfing areas where there are gates, no f-ing tourist palazzios that charge me $300 a day to surf mediocre waves, and no goofy "locals" who pretend that their polluted, overdeveloped coastline in California is the next best thing to Disneyland.

And if you think I don't put my money where my mouth is: I just helped to broker a deal to preserve 140,000-acres of coastline in deep Baja where the locals are friendly and the surf is guarded by gray whales and sea lions.
Mahalo, Serge Dedina/WiLDCOAST

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This is really upset, I can not understand the act of the people that waste all the losses to the ocean and all our resources can be affected because of that. We must to fights this.

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Creditors 4 have better memories than debtors . haaa

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