Ocean recreation conflict surfaces in Waikiki

Gino Quinones
Gino Quinones
Paul Yamaguchi
Paul Yamaguchi

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) – A decades old conflict between surfers and bodyboarders has resurfaced in Waikiki. While most say it has not become a big problem, there is some concern more surfers are putting other ocean users at risk by entering the "no surf" zone at the Diamond Head end of Waikiki Beach.

The surf spot straight out from the makai end of Kapahulu Avenue is called "Walls." The water there is part of the Waikiki Ocean Recreation Management Area (ORMA) designed and defined by the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The state has rules for activities allowed in the Waikiki ORMA. Bodyboards, paipo boards, and body suffers are permitted at Walls. Surfboards are prohibited.

Lifeguards do what they can to police the water and keep surfers out of the waves at walls. But before they arrive at 9 a.m. and after they leave the beach at 5:30 p.m. people on surfboards break the rules and compete with bodyboarders and body surfers for waves.

"One time I was surfing right around by the wall and this guy came out of nowhere right in front of me and he almost run me and my cousin over," said Gino Quinones, an 11 year old from Ewa Beach who bodyboards at Walls.

The water in Waikiki is so crowded collisions are bound to happen. Bodyboards are soft and when they collide it is usually no big deal. But surfboards are hard. Their skegs have sharp edges.

A concerned parent sent Hawaii News Now an email saying, "This is just a disaster waiting to happen."

The body boarders we spoke to say they are not too concerned. They say it is not a big problem as long as it is only a few surfers and as long as those surfers are skilled.

"It's Okay because we know each other that's why. We know the guy doing surfing and body board over here too. So it's okay," said Willie Veleon, who bodyboards regularly at Walls.

"If it's an amateur and he just doesn't know what he's doing on a surfboard, then I tell him, yea, a safer place is right down there with the tourists," added Paul Yamaguchi, a Manoa resident who says he feels comfortable enough with Walls that he bring his 6 year old daughter to bodyboard there.

There are not signs informing people Walls is a surf-free zone. There used to be buoys delineating the no-surf zone. The words "No Surfing" were written on the buoys, but the buoys were taken out by big swells and have been replaced by temporary buoys that do not have anything written on them.

If there is friction between surfers and other ocean users at Walls, it has not gotten too heated. The conflict may continue to be nothing more than an undercurrent as long as no one is hurt by a surfer and the ocean users there keep an eye out for one another.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.