Stab Magazine | Priced Out Of Paradise: The Reality Of Gentrification On The North Shore

And The Winners Of The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Are... Watch The Pick-Up Episode 5, Presented by Vans, To Find Out


Priced Out Of Paradise: The Reality Of Gentrification On The North Shore

“Basically what Hawaii has become is a preferred place for the international one percent to buy property.”

news // Nov 15, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

They have a new nickname for Oahu’s Seven Mile Miracle. It’s called “Haolewood” in honour of the wealthy white demographic. In a lengthy interview, the Da Hui co-founder and longtime grass-roots community man on the North Shore of Oahu took aim at gentrification, the corrupt ruling class, their relationship with the World Surf League, and the eviction of native Hawaiians from the islands. 

“It just doesn’t happen. Not for the local people. ‘You move, we’re taking. You move we’re taking. Move over.’ Fuck you!” says Rothman into the camera. 

So prohibitive has the cost of housing and the rental market become throughout Oahu and much of Hawaii, many native Polynesian-Hawaiians have found themselves forced out of the islands and onto the American mainland.

(Editors note: Gentrification is a national and global issue, and has proven an unavoidable reality. The North Shore’s been able to maintain their area longer than the majority of the US’s desirable regions–from New York to San Francisco, Los Angeles to Portland, Atlanta to Austin the song remains the same.)

“Basically what Hawaii has become is a preferred place for the international one percent to buy property,” explains Lawrence Boyd, an economist and associate specialist with the University of Hawaii Center for Labor Education Research, in the series Priced Out Of Paradise, by Hawaii News Now.

As of September 2015, the median sales price of a home on Oahu hit a record-high $730,000, up 7.6 percent from the year before and 17 percent from 2010, according to the Honolulu Board of Realtors. Locals just can’t compete. In their place multi-million dollar mansions have sprung up, the cream of which line the famous strip between Sunset, Pipeline and Off The Wall, along with countless high-profile high-rise developments throughout the islands. Rothman, who is of Jewish descent and was born on the American mainland, relocated to Hawaii in the seventies. He has long fought for the rights of local people through the prism of surf culture by sponsoring local events, local surfers, and organising opposition to what he perceives as the corporate takeover of the North Shore of Oahu. 

Paraphrasing the government, he says, “‘We just take the land over there the way we do what we like over there.’”

“Let’s see you do that in the white neighbourhoods like Sunset Beach, let’s do it over here in Kahalo, or Diamond Head, yeah that’ll go over big wouldn’t it, where there are some lawyers and some rich people running around. No, we’ll pick on the local people it’s non-stop, take, take take take. That’s all our government does to the local people. Get em out, push em into the bushes, die,” he says. 

The changing demographic of the North Shore at the expense of grass root communities has, in Rothman’s opinion, led to locals increasingly losing their grip on the waves in the area and their access to them. He claims the World Surf League has made generous financial donations to local politicians to lock locals out of their waves for much of the Hawaiian winter so they can host high-profile surfing contests for international athletes.

“Who puts the more money gets the job…Why do we (the locals) have one contest (the Da Hui Backdoor Shootout)? We asked to have another one; we asked to have the Duke at Sunset for one day. ‘No you can’t have that.’… The WSL puts money. There’s no crime against that, they put it in the campaign fund, some for the mayor, some for the governor, you get what you like around here,” he says. 

It was a similar complaint that led to the creation of Da Hui and the Black Shorts in the seventies, and the fearsome Wolfpak crew that followed; two local surf tribes that made no secret of their goal to serve the interests of the local community before all others. Their presence on the North Shore has, for better or worse, melted away as the police presence and influx of wealth has increased. 

He also proposes wealthier locals, including himself, set-up a financial fund so local people can employ legal aid to help keep the government and developers honest.

“All those people that live in nice houses and drive nice cars, of white descent or Japanese descent or Chinese descent, hey, it’s time now that we have to do something here. We should get together and make a coalition where we put money that’s not controlled by me, you guys decide how. Let’s get some money from people who want to be in there to do something to check our government to make sure things are going right and people don’t get picked on and bullied all the time–like what’s happening in this state. It just doesn’t happen. Not for the local people,” he says. 

University Of Hawaii economist Lawrence Boyd’s suggests a solution whereby the local government attempts to stunt outside demand from investors looking to buy into Hawaii. 

“If you engineered the exemption properly, more of these places would be rented long-term rather than as vacation rentals and because there would be an increase in that, that would lower the prices for local rentals,” he told Hawaii News. 

One thing’s for sure: the heat’s going to be on this Hawaiian winter. At 68 you better believe Fast Eddie ain’t going down without a fight.


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

Stab Surfer of the Year: John John Florence, Italo Ferreira, Balaram Stack, Rolo Montes, and Shaun Manners

Day 9: "You can't do better than his year last year." - John John Florence

Jan 28, 2023

Full Moon Surfs, Impassable Puddles, And A Few Nights Spent Sleeping In A WSL Commentary Booth

A reader-submitted collection of nonconformist surf stories.

Jan 27, 2023

Carissa Moore And Finn McGill Are Your 2023 Vans Triple Crown Of Surfing Champions 

They both pocket $50k and tickets to this year’s Vans Pipe Masters.

Jan 27, 2023


The Pick-Up, Presented By Vans, Episode 5

Mason Ho helps us ring in our final week on the North Shore.

Jan 27, 2023

Goofyfoot Brazilian World Champion Stars In Stab’s Biggest Board-Testing Franchise

Can you guess who?

Jan 26, 2023

Surf Community Rallies To Raise Funds For Eddie Winner And On-Duty Hawaiian Lifeguard Luke Shepardson

Because it's the right thing to do, of course.

Jan 26, 2023

Interview: Caity Simmers On Machete Wars, Rihanna, Personal Project Problems, And The Rise Of Female Surf Content. 

A toast to ‘Toasted.’

Jan 25, 2023

Stab Surfer of the Year: Creed McTaggart, Albee Layer, Laura Enever, Dane Guduaskas, and Selema Masekela

Day 8: "65 years young and charging just as hard as ever at Pipe, Backdoor,…

Jan 25, 2023

“I’m Not A Big Wave Guy”

How Kai Paula accidentally made his mark at Jaws three weeks after surfing it for…

Jan 24, 2023

Everyone Went.

A toes in the sand, phone in the lagoon account of the 10th Eddie Aikau…

Jan 24, 2023

Breaking: Another CT Rookie Injured Before First Event

Sophie McCulloch pulls out of Pipeline due to Snapper Rocks snafu.

Jan 23, 2023


Watch: ‘Toasted,’ By Caity Simmers

Your favorite surfer directs, edits, and stars in her first feature film. 

Jan 23, 2023

On-Duty North Shore Lifeguard Luke Shepardson Wins The Eddie Aikau

Local man prevails over 39 big-wave heavyweights at 29ft @ 19 seconds Waimea.

Jan 23, 2023

The Eddie Aikau Invitational Is On

Grab a beverage and enjoy surfing's Super Bowl Sunday

Jan 22, 2023

The Women’s CT Is About To See A Generational Shift 

Only three women have won a Title in the past 15 years. Here's why that's…

Jan 22, 2023


“One For Marcio” – Albee Layer’s Tribute To Mad Dog

Imagine treating 30ft Jaws like Backdoor.

Jan 22, 2023

Stab Surfer of the Year: Noa Deane, Jamie O’Brien, Parker Coffin, Cliff Kapono, and Brendan Buckley

Day 7: "It's like he feels more comfortable when it’s as gnarly as it gets."…

Jan 21, 2023

Five Reasons Why The Eddie Still Matters

With better waves around the world and likely no prize money, why is The Eddie…

Jan 20, 2023