Magazines, PeopleFrom Pipeline to Politics 

-Words by Mat Arney

Dustin Barca has often been categorized as a fighter, and tomorrow (Tuesday November 4th) he steps into the political ring as he runs for the position of Mayor of Kauai in the State of Hawaii general elections.

The Pipe specialist and former WCT competitor turned professional MMA fighter has been building his political profile on his home island of Kauai for the past few years, since stepping forward to lend his public profile to opposition to the Kauai Superferry in 2007 and most recently challenging chemical companies and global agribusinesses over their activities on Kauai. His grassroots activism had primarily involved speaking into a microphone at anti-GMO rallies until, in spring of this year, Barca stumbled upon current county mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr publicly launching his run for re-election. Incensed at what he saw as the possible continuation of an elected official operating with the interests of big-business taking precedence over the health of his island, he declared his intention to run in opposition there and then.

Surf Simply technical surf coaching resort, Guiones, Nosara, Costa Rica

Barca’s beef is that some of the largest and mostate offering the opportunity for more growing seasons (and therefore crop rotations) per year than on the mainland and due to its comparative isolation, it is an ideal location to develop and test genetically modified seed crops. In a best case scenario this could have meant the development of food crops that produce greater yields or are resistant to droughts, but unfortunately the reality is often the development of crops tolerant to high doses of the pesticides and herbicides that happen to be produced and sold by the same companies that develop the seeds. A lack of transparency over this testing and reported increases in cases of ill-health and environmental degradation from contaminated run-off water has led many in the community to rise up against their lands being used in this way. Partially as a result of this, Kauai imports 90% of its food despite being such a productive location, something that Barca has pledged to reverse in an effort to make Kauai’s economy and environment more self-sustaining.

Barca is running on a platform addressing four key issues; sustainable agriculture, cultural revival, the restoration of waterways and addressing how drug abuse (in particular meth-amphetamine addiction) is tackled and treated. Despite his noble intentions, however, he does face several obstacles in his race against the incumbent mayor. Barca came into this challenge with a high profile and strong social media game following his career as a professional athlete, however this path through life has left him lacking many of the experiences and leadership or administrative skills deemed necessary by many to lead a local government. A skeleton in his closet has also been dragged out by his detractors, centering round his arrest for assault in 2004 following a bar fight in California. He was not charged, however a civil complaint was bought against him, and this has definitely provided fuel for those who don’t wish to seem him succeed. This however, is all part of the game that Dustin Barca has chosen to play. Politics is not as black and white as professional surfing or MMA; it is grey and often shady. In stepping forward to challenge not only a politician but also large and powerful international corporations, he is laying himself wide open to the sort of scrutiny of ability and character that most professional surfers would struggle to conceive. Dustin Barca is a powerful and committed surfer and martial artist, and he has demonstrated a similar approach so far in his political career. If he is successful in his bid to become mayor of Kauai on Tuesday then hopefully he can hold his line and have a positive effect upon Kauai’s environmental, economic and social issues.