Kailua Bay Residents Armed With... More Knowledge

New Initiative To Help With Ocean Awareness

Kailua Bay Residents Armed With... More Knowledge

This time last year I was asked to write a feature story for Honolulu Magazine on the subject of ocean lifestyle as found throughout the Windward hamlet of Kailua, Oahu. I interviewed about a dozen residents of the town. Some had been born and raised there. Some came in the early 60s. One was the head of the Kailua Chamber of Commerce. Another led a sailing canoe club that disembarks from the shores of Lanikai twice a week. The range was spectacular.

The article was completely positive. It mainly focused on why people love the ocean so much in Kailua, and appear to incorporate it in to their every day lives more so than others who reside in other parts of the island. I included some history and geological findings. I shared stories from some of the town's more famous residents.

But what I didn't share was a common thread I heard from about a half dozen residents who had a very real, very serious complaint. Their sliver of ocean was in danger of being sullied. It was being compromised. And something needed to be done about it.

The issue was throngs of tourists who arrive from Waikiki, to paddle rented kayaks between the shores of Kailua Bay, to Flat Island, the Mokuluas, and back.

"These people..." said one source who asked that I withdraw his name, "come here with absolutely zero knowledge of the ocean. And they paddle recklessly to the islands -- which happen to be protected lands -- and have no knowledge of waves, reef culture, safety nor what is good for themselves or those around them."

And I heard it again and again. The story was the same. Certain kayak rental companies would give a vessel and an oar to anyone with $45, and leave them to the elements. Did these people not read in to why the Windward Side was called just that? More often than not, the sea is turbulent on Kailua Bay. It's why the kiteboarders love it. It's why locals -- most of whom could handle surfing North Shore waves -- opt to stay local, paddle the half mile to the reef, and charge waves just as dangerous. Yet here are people from all walks of life: Japan, Los Angeles, Denmark, Indiana, who had never paddled anything that wasn't a canoe in a lake. Yet for a few dollars they could put themselves in on the reef or in to the breaks where people who grew up in the ocean and studied it for years were playing. They were standing on reef. They were leaving trash on the islands. They were needing rescue more often than not.

Something needed to be done. And so it has.

We just learned about a new body called the "Offshore Islet Restoration Committee" that plans to educate visitors on the dangers and delicate nature of the ocean they are welcome to enjoy. And it's starting with educational materials.

Five-by-seven inch waterproof cards will be laminated to the tops or sides of all kayaks complete with information on reef culture and care, what kind of sea birds are nesting on Flat Island and the Mokuluas, safe routes to both islets, and more. The effort is spearheaded by Scott Burch of Mokulua Kayak Guides and a manager from Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks, who will absorb the costs of printing the cards and attaching them to vessels.

We put in a call to one of the town's kayak rental companies to find out the timeline and perhaps what phase two of the operation might be. A young woman answered the phone. When we asked about the program, it took a few minutes for the words to click.

"Oh, right, that," she said, somewhat unenthusiastically. "We're starting that program soon. It's called, like, and eco-system, I think. It's our first awareness program."

Well, it's a start.