Beachgoers await signs marking activity areas
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer
By Eloise Aguiar
KAILUA — On a breezy day at Kailua Beach Park, dozens of kiteboarders, windsurfers, kayakers, swimmers and sunbathers jockey for space at the north end of the park, sometimes getting into one other's way.
Simple signs two years in the making are intended to help solve the problem, but they haven't yet been erected.
Listed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Kailua Beach has attracted thousands of users from around the world to enjoy its white sandy shore and clear water and a variety of watersport activities.
In the past, beach users and residents have complained when the area is crowded with activity and warned of potential and even dangerous hazards of mixing swimmers with windsurfers and kiteboarders.
Self-policing on the part of kiteboarders seems to be working, beachgoers and neighborhood board members said, but some problems still surface from time to time.
Kiteboarders say the signs are needed to help minimize conflicts.
"We have the area for ingress and egress in the water, but there's no marking on land and that is what the (Department of Land and Natural Resources) is working on," said Josh Seymour, manager of Hawaii Watersport.
Seymour said tensions on the beach would ease if the city and state could agree on an area for kiteboarders and windsurfers to set up and launch. Kiteboarders especially need space because they require about 200 feet to lay their lines on the beach before takeoff.
"We have to constantly go down and ask people to move," he said, adding that sometimes that causes problems.
The signs are done and awaiting city approval of a Memorandum of Agreement, said Ed Underwood, administrator for the state Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation. Kiteboarding isn't specifically addressed because the city has no rules regulating kiteboarders, Underwood said.
"It will basically map the entire area and it will show the ingress-egress access point for the kayaks ... the swim zones areas ... the windsurfing area, which kiteboarding basically falls under that category," he said.
The division has been working on the signs since at least 2006, having completed a first draft in September of that year, said Debbie Ward, DLNR spokeswoman.
"The sign does not address staging area on the beach because these areas — above the high wash of the waves — are the kuleana of the City and County of Honolulu," Ward wrote in an e-mail.
City officials could not be reached for comment.
In the meantime, residents complained to The Advertiser about kiteboarders creating safety problems several weeks ago when the winds were strong and the beach was crowded.
However, the chairwoman of the Kailua Neighborhood Board said no one has reported any issues to that body recently.
"They did set up the rules and they have their launch zones and where they're supposed to set up and take down, but I suspect that if it's a really crowded day, it's going to create some zoo-like conditions," said Kathy Bryant-Hunter, Kailua board chairwoman. "It would be very difficult to navigate through there."
Beach users said they've seen some problems but noted that the incidents are rare and the kiteboarders are quick to correct anyone who is causing trouble or who isn't showing proper courtesy.
Craig Austin, of Kailua, said he recently saw a person continually crash his kite and didn't seem to have control over where it would come down. But Austin said he's never seen anyone hurt by a kiteboarder. Austin, age 60 and retired, said the kite equipment is an inconvenience but the beach is big enough for everyone.
"It's here for everybody and let them enjoy," he said. "I can't say that I feel that any one activity seems detrimental to the others," he said.
Bob Longstaff, 64, said he comes to the beach every day and sees kiteboarders talking to people all the time. The Oahu Kite Club has a sign on the beach outlining some common-sense rules, including get lessons for beginners.
The kiters take turns, Longstaff said. They set up on the grass and on the beach. When one kiter takes off, someone from the grass goes down to the beach to prepare to launch, he said.
Longstaff said people who rent kayaks try to launch in the area where the kiteboarders are and that causes conflict.
"Windsurfers, the kites, the kayaks — they all congregate in one area and that's the hard part," Longstaff said. "Everybody gotta respect everybody ... if they get out of hand, somebody going tell them ... you cannot do this."
Reach Eloise Aguiar at firstname.lastname@example.org.