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Short-sighted DLNR couldn’t miss Peaman point any more

Updated: 
October 10, 2017 - 8:58pm

The Ironman World Championship will kick off Saturday morning from Kailua Bay, marking the start an adventure of a lifetime for nearly 2,500 athletes from around the globe.

But in those same waters, so many stories have started with just a splash and a smile, and there weren’t giant inflatable Gatorade bottles, thousands of spectators or camera crews on hand to witness it.

Led by Sean “Peaman” Pagett, Frozen Pea Productions has been putting on free, simple, community-building athletic events in Kona for three decades at Kailua Pier and along Alii Drive that promote living a healthy lifestyle.

Peaman events have been the starting point for hundreds of local athletes, giving them a fun, free opportunity to participate in an atmosphere that celebrates how many laughs you have on the course as much as it does your finishing time. Some who got their start at Peaman events can now boast being among an elite group who can call themselves an Ironman World Championship finisher.

However, all that could be coming to an end, at least if the Department of Land and Natural Resources and its Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation have their way.

DLNR is requesting that Peaman be fined an exorbitant amount of money so he and his lighthearted race series can be made an example of. The administrative fine that has been recommended is the maximum $10,000 — which, according to Peaman, is a whopping 10 times the amount that the maximum fine the original citation carried for holding his biathlons without marine ocean water event permits.

If the Land Board agrees to the fine when it meets on Friday, Peaman will likely ask for a contested case hearing — a quasi-judicial proceeding before a hearing officer — and this dragged out battle will continue.

It’s obvious DLNR wants to make an example of Peaman, as evident by their staff report stating that, “unless there are consequences for violating (state law and administrative rule) provisions, people do not have an incentive to abide by the rules and directions of (DLNR divisions).”

Peaman should not be made into an example in this foolish pursuit by the DLNR, an entity County Prosecutor Mitch Roth kindly referred to as, “ethically challenged.”

Peaman is already an example of what one person can do to make a positive impact on their community.

In the face of the fines, Peaman has not backed down, and rightly so. The Big Island Sports Hall of Famer and his attorney, Jason Braswell, have argued that DOBOR’s rules — in particular Hawaii Administrative Rules Chapter 13-244-19, which deals with authorization for staging a regatta, marine parade, boat race or exhibition — do not apply to his casual athletic gatherings, which neither include an entry fee and nor award prizes based on a finishing place.

District Court Judge Margaret Masunaga agreed, dismissing a criminal complaint March 13 against Peaman with prejudice, meaning he can’t again be charged again for the same offense.

The first cancellation in the history of Frozen Pea Productions happened in August, although a bunch of friends still showed up and “unofficially” did the route. There really wasn’t much of a difference and the schedule resumed in September with the Wee and DLT Whirled Peas Biathlon.

The show is continuing to go on not because Peaman feels like he is above the law. That’s not his point. For him, this is not a matter of a permit or even money. It’s a matter of morals and standing up for what you believe in.

That being said, rules are in place for a reason. If people decided to do unpermitted, large-scale events every weekend in Kailua Bay, it would undoubtedly become an issue and safety hazard. But just look at the history. What problems have these events spawned over their 30-year existence?

Even for those who aren’t ones for the swim-bike-run lifestyle, it’s common knowledge that Peaman events are about much more than that. They are free, inclusive events and everyone is welcome — from the elite athlete to someone just looking to take a dip and dash with some good company.

Want to swim with your dog and run while hula-hooping? Peaman will make a category for you. Want to split the swim and run with your spouse or child? Go right ahead. Just looking for the first step to get in shape? Peaman will likely be right there beside you getting out of the water, or at least at the finish line to give you a high-five.

Other than seeing the smiles, Peaman said he does not gain anything from his “negative-profit events,” which feature post-race food for participants and even toys for the Pea Wees. The community profits in spades.

If you plan on taking a read through the DLNR’s “background” report, block out some time. The 78-page document — which is hilarious in itself — features screen shots of Facebook posts and, ironically, an exhausting amount of detail on Peaman’s very simple events. It does, however, curiously omit the criminal case that was dismissed earlier this year.

The report cites events like the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, the Nuuanu YMCA Turkey Swim and the South Shore Classic on Oahu — all which charge entry fees, draw large competitive crowds, and have a structured system for timing and awards. Using these as examples not only shows how out of touch the people executing this case against Peaman are, but also that they are also missing the point, completely.

Those who have ever attended or participated in a Peaman event will tell you they are not intrusive or overly complicated. There are not throngs of athletes battling in the water or running people off sidewalks. There are no timing chips, fancy finish lines or uber-competitive mindsets.

The most prestigious award you can win at a Peaman event is the Perpetual Pea, which is given to individuals or families who represent love, family, friendships and the spirit of aloha for the Big Island community.

The races boast names like the Brown Bear Dash and Sunny Sprint, the Doc Ferren Hall of Fame Biathlon and the Zoomin’ Zak Plunge and Plod Biathlon — named after people who have made an impact on the Kona community (and beyond). And it’s not every weekend. It’s once a month, on a schedule that has been relatively the same since the start.

As Peaman puts it, his events are put on by the community, for the community. What’s better than that?

Kona has a severe lack of activities for youth that are free, fun and safe. While groups like LavaKids — which the Pea Wee course is now named after — are trying to help fill that void, eliminating Peaman events would be a huge loss for our community.

“I always hope people experience aloha in its purest form, which is when people come together and celebrate the day,” Peaman said of his events during an interview back in 2014. “I really get perturbed when people talk bad about Hawaii and say the aloha is gone. There is always aloha, you just have to find it.”

Whatever the outcome, there’s no doubt Peaman will continue to make a positive impact on his community, exude the aloha spirit and show up to Kailua Pier with his patented smile, whether it’s for a dip by himself or with friends.

The question now is, will the Land Board be able to find even an ounce of aloha? If not, we would settle for some common sense.

JR De Groote is the sports editor for West Hawaii Today. He can be reached at jdegroote@westhawaiitoday.com

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