South Shore swell overrides surfer caution
Many surfers on the South Shore were more interested yesterday in wave quality than water quality.
Wave riders dotted the seascape at Ala Moana Bowls during the first swell of the season.
Yesterday's South Shore surf ranged from 3 to 6 feet, with some sets as high as 7 feet, the National Weather Service said.
Ala Moana Bowls, a popular surf spot, is just beyond the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, into which the Ala Wai Canal feeds. About five weeks have passed since the city diverted 48 million gallons of raw sewage into the canal after a sewer pipe cracked March 24 following heavy rains.
A few surfers hesitated to take the plunge, and some refused to go in yesterday.
"I wouldn't get in the water on the south side of the island for all the tea in China," said surfer Robert Carriles, 49, who admired the waves.
But he noted the "high number of surfers with the south swell."
Carriles has refused to go into the water ever since he went metal detecting with a man who developed a foot infection, possibly from contaminated sand in Waikiki, a few weeks ago.
Surfer Andy Birk, 23, usually surfs the North Shore. But after catching waves just off Magic Island, he walked over to see the crowd at the Ala Moana Bowls area just Diamond Head of Magic Island.
"I'm really tempted," he said. "They still have the signs up. I heard the state said everything is A-OK."
"The frustration is they're kind of quiet about it," he said. "You don't hear it on the news, but the signs reappear."
"Obviously, Bowls would be the most contaminated," Birk said. "It's basically in the (Ala Wai) canal."
One surfer who hopped on his board in the murky Ala Wai Channel to paddle out to join the crowd asked, "What's wrong with this water? It's just water."
Numerous other sewage spills on Oahu during March forced the shutdown of other beaches and waterways.
Signs remained posted yesterday warning the public to keep out of the water and not to swim or fish at the Ala Wai Canal, Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, Ala Wai Channel, Kaneohe Beach Park, Kokokahi Beach and Kualoa Beach.
Department of Health spokesman Kurt Tsue said the bacteria (enterococcus) count in the Ala Wai was at 1,400 colony-forming units, but that is normal for the canal. He said the special warning signs might be replaced with regular caution signs.
Water samples taken Monday showed enterococcus at 100 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters at the Ala Moana Harbor Boat Launch ramp (well above the acceptable level of 7), and it was 60 at the Ala Moana Canoe Launch Ramp. The count was 7 at the Magic Island Finger.
Damien Borja, 19, braved the water, saying it was his first time surfing in the area since the sewage spill.
"I'm full of cuts," he said. "I hope I don't get anything."