Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Bodysurfer Barry Holt, right, turned abruptly to avoid
a bodyboarder at Point Panic yesterday. Most of the
time the various types of surfers show respect for one
another, though it would be good to clarify the rules
governing the water spot, Holt said.

Point Panic:
Battle for
the breakers

Competition among bodysurfers
and boogie boarders leads officials
to create tougher rules

By Rod Antone

For years paipo board riding has been the only type of bodyboarding allowed at Point Panic for bodysurfers.

The trouble was that state conservation officers had a hard time telling the difference between the 55-inch wooden paipo boards and boogie boards, which are not allowed.

The result, according to bodysurfers: Boogie boarders were getting away with being somewhere they should not be.

"Boogie boarders, they're like lice, they're everywhere," said bodysurfer Michael Kliks. "They're young and they take off farther out on the wave and dominate it and they injure people.

"One kid did a back turn and hit me right in the face and somehow dislocated my thumb."

To clarify the situation, state Land and Natural Resources officials decided it would be simpler to not allow either paipo or boogie boards by changing a rule. The amended Point Panic restrictions are expected to go into effect by the end of this summer.

The amendment defines a handboard allowed at Point Panic as any type of surf-riding board that is without skegs, worn on one or both of the operator's hands, is generally 15 inches in overall length and is used for the sport of wave riding.

The amendment also extends the Point Panic area 100 yards seaward. DLNR officials said the proposal will be forwarded to the state Attorney General's Office for approval before it can be sent to the governor's office.

"The department continues dialogue with the paipo board community," said Steve Thomson, Oahu District manager for the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation. "But it's a bodysurfing place and this proposed rule keeps it a bodysurfing place,"

Reaction to the rule has been mixed among well-known Point Panic bodysurfers, some who are concerned that paipo board riders were never intended to be excluded. Kliks and others said that while the wooden paipo board can be dangerous in inexperienced hands, the ancient Hawaiian sport has co-existed with bodysurfers for years.

"Personally I don't think it's good to ban paipos," said Kliks, who also organized last year's Royal Richards Memorial Championships of Paipo Riding contest at Point Panic. "The problem wasn't with paipo boards, it was with boogie boards."

City Ocean Safety officials said they often get calls from people complaining about some sort of board riding at Point Panic weekly, especially during south shore swells.

"It can get nasty, there's a lot of intimidation out there," said Ocean Safety officer Ed Pestana. "We don't do enforcement -- that's the state -- but we get a lot of calls from people that we pass on."

Even those with respect for paipo boarders said that regrettably, the no-boards-at-all restriction may be the best way to go.

"Mostly its boogie boarders there, but all it takes is one or two surfers or boogie boarders to throw everything out of whack," said bodysurfer Mark Cunningham.

Last year's paipo board champion Barry B.K. Holt said the real problem is clarification, and that hopefully the new restrictions make it clear as to what kind of board he can bring to Point Panic.

"It doesn't matter to me, I can paipo board someplace else," he said. "If it's easier to keep all boards out then do it."

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