HONOLULU (KHON2) — When surf photographer John Falatea Salanoa saw that the memorial board at Pipeline had been vandalized, he sought help from the community.
After the story was posted, word spread fast and the community showed up in Salanoa’s messages, sending their support and asking how to pitch in.
“I received an email from legendary surfer Shaun Tomson saying he was so very upset about the carving that he would donate $300 to the restoration of the memorial,” Salanoa said. “I have not asked him for the money as I love the fact that he reached out to me.”
On Tuesday, Feb. 1, Salanoa saw that someone had carved a swastika symbol into the board — and next to it was his late brother’s name. Les Falatea, a Pipeline charger and local legend, passed away in 2008 of a sudden heart attack.
“Les was a true ambassador of aloha,” Salanoa said. “He was a flight attendant with Hawaiian Airlines and beloved by everyone from Tahiti, Samoa, Hawaii and Mainland America.”
On Thursday, Feb. 3, Salanoa went down to the memorial to sand down the sign himself. That’s when he saw that someone had connected the lines to make it into a window.
“I didn’t realize there was a bigger carving on the other side,” he added.
As he started to work on it, Salanoa said many people came up to the memorial not ever knowing it was there and asked if it was a new.
“The guys from the Volcom house came out and helped with the sanding,” Salanoa said. “Jamie O’Brien came out and was so happy to see the repairs being made — his father Mitch was a big part of the memorial going up.”
He said they got everything done in two days, first sanding and washing it, then going back to stain it.
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From a swastika symbol, to a window, and now, a clean slate, Salanoa can keep doing his old ritual of patting his brother’s name on what now looks like a brand new board.