Mae Russell, left, who will attend Hawaii Pacific University in the fall, and Marisa Aquino, who's headed for Barnard College, cram in time at the beach before hitting the books. Both prefer board shorts for beach and casual wear. Many young women are sporting the more covered-up look. Photo by Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
"What's up with that?" whined one over-30 male. Whatever happened to bikinis? I want to see bikinis!"
Wake up, man!
Considering the bikini celebrates its 50th anniversary next month, it just may be that today's youth considers them passe.
Over the years, teens have been exposed to human flesh on television, in films and advertising. There's no mystery there, so the notion of French enterpreneur Louis Reard's "smallest bathing suit in the world" - as the bikini was introduced in 1946 - no longer has much appeal to them.
Ryan Fujino, Rhen Yamamoto and Richard Toynton, three 16-year-olds who were were playing football at Kailua Beach, voiced their appreciation of women in board shorts.
"Board shorts are solid," said Fujino. "Everybody looks good in board shorts. And they're comfortable."
"It's better than having a thing stuck up your butt," said Yamamoto.
(Remember the thong? That was one trend we all wanted to go away.)
"Board shorts just look better (than bikini bottoms)," Fujino said.
Toynton described them as being more "classy"-looking than bikini bottoms.
Castle graduate Mae Russell, a member of the Windward Mall teen board who was on the beach in board shorts and bikini top, spoke for modest teens everywhere.
"Not all girls like to show off their bodies. It's shame, that's why. Only the real skinny, skinny girls like to show off their bodies, and sometimes, they don't want to show their bodies either.
"Only the tourists can go for broke," she said. "Oh, look, there's two of them now."
She pointed in the direction of two portly fellows in bikini bottoms. Suddenly, Yamamoto's words sounded sage indeed.
"All my friends wouldn't go to the beach and wear bikinis," Russell said. "It's especially shame if you see people you know from school. This is a social place and there are guys you want to impress, so you don't want to show them all your flub."
Board shorts designed especially for women first hit the beaches about two years ago. The first wearers were surfers and windsurfers, and Quicksilver's Roxy division was among the first to offer them to wahine. Today, Russell said, many teens still refer to board shorts as "Roxy" shorts.
Local manufacturer Hapuna Surfwear, Inc., started making board shorts in Spring '94, and the company's vice-president Jimmy Rapisarda said, "I think Roxy might have been the first to do it, but we didn't know that at the time.
"We'd surf a lot at Old Man's (off San Souci) and we saw girls on the beach wearing guy's surf shorts. We asked them why and they said they wanted to be covered. So we took a gamble and made some samples, and all the girls we knew loved them."
Rapisarda said he noticed sales began taking off last August.
The trend has hit on a national level, with manufacturerers as far away as Jacques Moret, in New York, recently introducing their own board shorts. The style is also making a splash in Japan.
Although Hapuna entered the sportswear business in 1988, selling everything from bikinis to jackets, Rapisarda said they've dropped those items completely.
"We're focusing on the board shorts. It's a big market. We can't keep up. Hopefully, it's an indicator of things to come, that people will be looking to Hawaii to find things that are fun and sporty, and not just looking at the mainland, and not looking at France."
Lanikai Sportswear in Kailua carries about 10 lines of board shorts ranging from $25 to $45. General manager Scott Brown, who is new to the business, said, "When we bought this store in March, it had no board shorts."
But his two nieces, in intermediate and high school, set him straight.
"They said this is what women are wearing. They like 'em because they dry out quick and cover more."
At Town & Country Surf Shop at Ala Moana Center, assistant manager Melyssa Montes said, "Japanese tourists never came into the store much before, but now they're seeing people at the beach wearing board shorts, and they want them, too. We're getting a lot of older people who aren't looking to go to the beach. They say they're just trying to be funky now, a little more hip.
"We can't get enough of them. They're selling so fast."
Most of the store's board shorts carry the T&C label and run about $30. There are sizes to fit ages 7 and up.
The beginning of the end of board shorts, like any other trend, will likely be when everyone's grandma is sporting them, but Montes isn't betting on that.
"In Hawaii I don't think the trend will really fade out, because it also serves a function. People will always go to the beach and we'll always carry a supply of women's board shorts, the same way we will always carry a selection of men's board shorts."
Meanwhile, diehard bikini fans will not be at a complete loss for something to wear. At Splash Ha-
waii in Ala Moana Center, board shorts cover a mere two racks. Other space is devoted to swimsuits, bikinis and sun dresses.
Manager Laurinda Butler said, "Every woman should have a pair of board shorts for summer because it's so versatile.
"But for us bikinis will always sell over board shorts."