North Shore Photo: Steve Wilkings

Vans Triple Crown Kuleana

It’s a humid morning. The winds are calm, yet the excitement in the air creates an opposite atmosphere. The buzz runs up and down Kamehameha Highway, along the sand and throughout the beach park, like a current of electricity. A clean NW swell filled in over night and the waves are overhead. The contest has been called on. Pipeline is living up to its machine-like reputation and everyone – competitors, media, organizers, tourists, fans and locals the island over – are all congregated at Ehukai Beach Park. This is the day, one of four at Pipeline, that the entire surf industry has been waiting for.

The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing hosts thousands of visitors to the North Shore each winter for its trifecta of prestigious events, and with ground-shaking waves and career-making performances it’s no wonder so many gather to witness it live. While the Billabong Pipe Masters sees approximately 17,500 total beachgoers when the contest is on, the North Shore itself averages around 56,000 people every week of the year. According to the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, roughly 52 percent of visitors that come to Oahu come to the North Shore.

Over the course of its 33-year history, the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing (VTCS) has recognized the impact of visitors to the 7 Mile Miracle and strives to malama (take care of) the community in many different ways.

“We actually haven’t tried to grow our spectators,” says WSL Hawaii General Manager and Vans Triple Crown Executive Director, Jodi Wilmott. “That’s why we’ve invested so much over the years in broadcasting Live to millions around the globe and in Hawai‘i via the web, Apps, and Oceanic Time Warner Cable.” Majority of the working team of the VTCS live on the North Shore and are aware of the impact, including Wilmott.

We understand the number of visitors the North Shore experiences on any given day of the year and the last thing we want to do is exacerbate that.”

After decades of distinction, VTCS is committed to an extensive sustainability program that spans beyond the 39 days of the series. Beginning at the first day of build out in Haleiwa for the Hawaiian Pro and lasting until the final day of tear down for the Billabong Pipe Masters, the Vans Triple Crown has sincerely stepped up its stewardship of the North Shore for future generations.

Like most local residents, VTCS recognizes its kuleana (responsibility) to be environmentally and socially aware and works in line with non-profits, local businesses and organizations. “We don’t rely on volunteerism,” says Wilmott. “We choose to employ nonprofits and organizations to work with us – being sustainable means being able to afford to keep your lights on and we want to help our partners do that.”

Not only has the VTCS maintained a watchful eye on its environmental impact, but they’ve also transitioned into becoming a global model for sustainability within the surf industry. Led by the World Surf League (WSL) and Vans, the VTCS has developed into a progressive surfing series that not only celebrates the sport, but aims to partner with the community on fundamental levels as well.

For example, 35,894 single use water bottles were saved last year by providing athletes and crew members with reusable bottles and FloWater dispensaries. 7,500 organic meals were served to athletes, officials and sponsors by Ke Nui Kitchen, which sources local, organic ingredients that are 100 percent GMO-free. All plates and utensils from these 7,500 meals were of compostable materials and shredded to speed up the composting process. 60 percent of trash collected during the events was diverted from the landfills and HPower by Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and turned into reusable resources.
80 percent of power needs were met with renewable biodiesel fuel. Alternative transportation was provided for athletes, staff and spectators via bikes and shuttles from Turtle Bay resort.

Beyond these sustainability initiatives, there is also a community integration that continues to grow each year. In 2014, 16 different organizations were financial beneficiaries of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing coming into town, including The Surfrider Foundation, North Shore Community Land Trust, Department of Parks & Recreation, Mauli Ola Foundation, North Shore Chamber of Commerce, local public schools and more. This year, organizers of the prestigious surfing series are looking to build on these initiatives to further involve and enrich the community.

But before the sustainability and community output can be established, the partnerships must be developed. The building blocks of any good business, VTCS’ partnerships are an integral part of being an environmentally and socially conscious surfing series. Aligning with the North Shore on similar goals of sustainability and conservational awareness, the VTCS provides partnerships, community support and social benefits for the betterment of the North Shore.

To better understand the ways in which the VTCS has applied these initiatives, the overall program is best broken down into three core values: COMMUNITY, SUSTAINABILITY and PARTNERSHIP.

This trifecta is the reason why VTCS is becoming a standard, by which all other surfing series are measured, a model for the industry to develop and improve. The VTCS provides the opportunity for scores of community organizations, schools, non-profits and local businesses to benefit and flourish, and is working hard to incorporate meaningful partnerships and goals into their progressive program.

Let’s take a closer look at what exactly has been implemented in the past and what this means for 2015 and the future.

Collected bottle caps from beaches around Hawaii Photo: Keoki
Collected bottle caps from beaches around Hawaii Photo: Keoki


It’s not hard to see the vast community support VTCS has provided throughout its 33-year history. From cleaning the shorelines and protecting open spaces to maintaining public facilities and supporting the digital media lab at Waialua Intermediate High School, VTCS has dedicated time, money and hard work to ensure that the North Shore community is well taken care of.

Take a look at the restrooms at Ali‘i Beach Park or Ehukai. Renovations include new paint, interior tile, flooring, sink and toilet upgrades, which provide visitors clean accommodations and ultimately offer lasting benefits for residents. In 2014 Vans Triple Crown spent close to $35,000 on similar Haleiwa/Ali‘i restroom restorations and this year close to $40,000 at Ehukai.

Another great example of community support is the relationship the VTCS has with the North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT). Every year, the NSCLT hosts a Benefit for the Country event, which raises money to help protect and preserve the open spaces and natural areas throughout the North Shore, from Kahuku to Kaena Point. The cornerstone of this year’s Vans Triple Crown events, the NSCLT Benefit for the Country aims to raise money through the fundraiser’s dinner and silent auction.

Doug Cole, Executive Director of the NSCLT, says the benefit is an “Annual opportunity for us to come together as a community and celebrate how wonderful the North Shore is.” If you live in Oahu’s countryside and enjoy the open spaces of Pupukea-Paumalu, the 1,100-acre coastal bluff system of hiking trails that overlooks Pipeline, you have NSCLT to thank. And after last year’s Benefit for the Country fundraiser and this year’s dedication, the non-profit was also able to successfully conserve 630 acres of land from development at Kawela Bay and Kahuku Point, with the support of VTCS.

“Our mantra as an organization is ‘if we dream big, big things will happen,’” says Cole. “Preserving Kawela Bay and the Turtle Bay property was a huge dream we set a few years ago, and by the time we hold the Benefit this year, that {goal} will have been finalized and completed. It’s my hope that at our Benefit, or around that time, we’re setting the next big dream together. What that will be, where it will be, I think we just have to look around us on the North Shore and see all this beauty and look for those opportunities.”

These success stories add to the well-being of local residents and future generations, and are just one of the many ways the prestigious surfing series works with the community to improve the North Shore lifestyle.

“I think Vans Triple Crown has done a great job of supporting a lot of great community efforts and trying to be a good partner to the community,” says Cole. “From restoring and renovating bathrooms to helping maintain the shoreline, they’ve done a lot of things and I think it has been a good partnership. We’re really pleased to be adding this to the long list of ways that we can partner with each other and with the surfing community, Triple Crown and the North Shore.”


Walk along the 7 Mile Miracle shoreline and you’ll witness another outcome of the VTCS in our backyard – clean beaches.

Vans has once again committed to a wide-ranging sustainability program that spans the entire series, staying true to their vested interest in protecting the planet and improving global communities for future generations. Initiatives such as waste diversion strategies with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, providing organic, non-GMO local meals to VTCS staff and athletes with Ke Nui Kitchen, reducing single use water bottles by implementing Flowater systems and providing alternative transportation to event sites have all been applied once again to the 2015 VTCS season.

Vans’ Sustainability department is a frontrunner in the movement. Kim Matsoukas is the Director of Sustainability for VF Corp, a global leader in branded lifestyle apparel and footwear, which includes Vans as one of their top five largest brands.

“Vans has always believed in doing the right thing and we’ve had employees who’ve pushed this forward in a grassroots way since the brand’s inception,” says Matsoukas. “But over the last few years, Vans has made a concerted effort to build a real strategy around sustainability, to measure how we are doing, to set goals and to integrate sustainable thinking into different functions.”

All these come into play when developing the Triple Crown, and Vans has progressed to make these pillars a priority for the surfing series. “We recognize how special the North Shore is and how gracious the local community is to host the event each year,” Matsoukas says. “Vans wants to make sure this event enhances the local environment and gives back to the community every year. We do this mainly by working with local partners like Pacific Biodiesel to power the event with diesel made from the used cooking oil from local restaurants. We also partner with Sustainable Coastlines, who do an excellent job of managing our recycling and composting program and educating spectators on the importance of reducing plastic use.”

For the third year in a row, Vans Triple Crown has teamed up with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, a local nonprofit that inspires communities to care for their coastlines through fun, hands-on beach cleanups. Hired to provide a comprehensive 45-day resource management strategy during the Triple Crown, Sustainable Coastlines is in place to keep the beaches clean, minimize waste and educate the public about resource management.

Kahi Pacarro, Executive Director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, has been fine-tuning the non-profit’s collaboration with VTCS and the community for years. “We started with a real bare bones approach to trying to divert as much waste from our HPower and landfill facilities,” explains Pacarro. “Going on year three we’re really excited to up our game, and learn from the last couple Triple Crowns and other events we’ve done to provide a really good resource management program.”

Last year, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii collected 3,111 pounds of trash overall from the events. Of that, 1,500 pounds was compostable and 1,000 pounds was recyclable, meaning that the program was able to divert 60 percent of the trash away from HPower and the landfills, and turn it into a resource for other avenues. The switch to labeling the program ‘resource management’ as opposed to ‘waste diversion’ was made to “Bring value to every single aspect of the waste stream,” says Pacarro. “If we just called it waste diversion, that would mean that we’re dealing with some type of waste. But the reality is, here in Hawaii even the trash that gets thrown away is a resource because we’re converting it to energy at HPower. So we’re bringing value not only to the compost and the recyclables, but also to the trash as well that we can’t recycle or compost here on island.”

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii will implement resource management tents and bins throughout the contest sites, as well as host a beach cleanup every day right after lunch to make sure none of the trash finds its way into the ocean. Furthermore, Pacarro and his team have designed an Education Station, a 20-foot mobile container that acts as a classroom with a movie screen, located across from Pipeline at Waihuena Farms. Striving to inform the public about trash, resources and the importance of keeping our beaches clean, the Education Station is open during contest days and is free to the public.

Sustainable Coastlines founder Kahi Pacarro Photo: Keoki
Sustainable Coastlines founder Kahi Pacarro Photo: Keoki


Vans Triple Crown has spent decades cultivating meaningful partnerships with organizations, schools and businesses for the betterment of the community. The North Shore Community Land Trust, Ke Nui Kitchen and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii are just a few examples of these collaborations, with VTCS continuing to pick up new partners each year.

Na Kama Kai will be a new partner and beneficiary this year. A Hawaiian ocean-based program that aims to work with the youth, Na Kama Kai was founded by Makaha resident and well-respected waterman Duane DeSoto. Recently inducted into the Duke Kahanamoku Hall Of Fame, DeSoto is a world champion longboarder and humanitarian that aims to spread knowledge and passion for the ocean to the community and future generations.

“It’s imperative when we have such a big event like {the Vans Triple Crown} that we have a connection back to the community,” DeSoto says. “What we bring as a nonprofit is a hands-on ocean education program, accurate cultural teachings, and a connection to the people. Having the Triple Crown at Haleiwa, we will simultaneously be doing work at Haleiwa Beach Park as a giveback and direct connection back to the keiki of our community.”

During this year’s Hawaiian Pro in Haleiwa, Na Kama Kai will be hosting an interactive beach day on Sunday, November 15 to educate keiki about the importance of ocean safety. The clinic will be presented by industry partner Reef.

Developing a 5-part curriculum, Na Kama Kai will introduce and educate about ocean safety, conservation and cultural connection. The day will include curriculum from a Polynesian Voyaging Society instructor; an ocean safety station where students learn how to read the ocean and be aware of surroundings; a one-one-one paddle session with Na Kama Kai volunteers to expose the keiki to the ocean in a safe environment; a canoe ride up river to learn about the importance of our ahupua‘a and keeping our rivers and land clean; and a stewardship and conservation station to learn about marine debris, endangered species and cultural relationships.

“Nobody knows Hawaiian culture better than the Hawaiians, and what Duane and his ohana offer through Na Kama Kai is truly a gift to all who get to experience it,” says Wilmott. “Reef will be partnering with WSL Hawai‘i through our 2016 youth development program and saw Na Kama Kai’s clinic as a perfect way to kick off their involvement.”

Other great partnerships with the VTCS include Mauli Ola Foundation, FloWater, Turtle Bay, North Shore Chamber of Commerce, Surfrider Foundation, Department of Parks & Recreation, Surfline, GoPro, Freesurf Pedal Power, Friends of Waialua Bandstand, Sunset Beach Elementary, Chance’Em and the Wailaua Surf Team, Ke Nui Kitchen, Malama Pupukea-Waimea and more.

The Vans Triple Crown is continuing to make a positive impact on the North Shore and as the most prestigious surfing series in the world, has the opportunity to show the world what it means to be a steward of the land.



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