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StarBulletin.com

Sharing the sea


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POSTED: Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My wife and I stand-up paddleboard at Ala Moana at least three times a week, twice a week in the late afternoons as an after-work workout, and once a week from morning to afternoon as a family weekend outing. Our three young children also have embraced stand-up paddleboarding. Many of our friends and relatives have taken up the sport as well.

We feel that it would be a real tragedy for the lagoon to become overregulated or considered a battleground. Our family paddleboarding activity is solely encapsulated by the calm protected waters of Ala Moana lagoon, where we do laps or cruise around observing the marine life. We do not surf, race or venture outside the lagoon.

There really is no alternative site for paddleboarders like us, and we have searched. We've coexisted just fine with the swimmers we've encountered over the past year doing this sport, and don't see why this cannot continue. There really is no need for all this unnecessary drama, despite the natural growth of the sport.

Malia Flynn's statements lead the reader to believe that Ala Moana Park is overrun with “;thinly disguised commercial operators”; (”;Paddleboarders need regulation,”; Star-Bulletin, May 29). On one of the three days we go paddleboarding we see an instructor giving lessons to a small group on the Magic Island end of the lagoon in the evenings, where they practice turns, balancing and other fundamentals in a carefully controlled environment. The rest of the paddleboarders are like us, regular people out enjoying their hobby; most are repeat paddleboarders and some are beginners.

Malia states: “;The use, weight, operation and speed of a paddleboard are more like a boat than a surfboard and should be so regulated by DLNR.”; Comparing a paddleboard to a boat? Nonsense! Most paddleboards are lighter than a lot of surfboards even, with the newer epoxy constructions versus the heavy fiberglass boards of the past. It's hand-powered, not motorized or driven by the wind. Can an errant paddleboard hurt someone? Of course! Just like a bicycle could hurt someone. Or a kayak. Or a golf ball.

Come on, let's just practice some common sense and responsibly share the space instead of pretending like you own the space. The “;me, me, me ... mine, mine, mine ... “; mentality has no place in Hawaii. If you require an unencumbered place to swim with nobody around you to be happy, then buy a swimming pool, for crying out loud.

I do sympathize with people who have been hit by paddleboards; it must hurt. But I've never hit a swimmer, nor has any of my family, nor have I ever seen any other paddleboarder hit a swimmer in the past year we have been going to Ala Moana. It's an extremely rare event.

If you want to talk hazards, let's take a closer look at people who set up canopies and don't stake them down and let the wind blow them over. Or people who bring aggressive dogs to the park. Errant footballs, blowing sand and poorly-tended charcoal grills pose a bigger threat to me at the beach than the worry of getting hit by paddleboarders while I am swimming. The ratio of newcomers to skilled paddleboarders is high admittedly, as in any new activity once it starts up. As the sport settles in, this ratio will stabilize at a much lower number.

By all means, stand-up paddleboarders can do their part to help alleviate the risks. Nobody should be practicing risky turns or moves where there are a lot of swimmers around. Inexperienced riders should not be trying to stand up immediately in the shallows where there are a lot of swimmers. Horseplay, like overloading a board with people all trying to stand up, is a no-no or best done far from shore. Paddleboarders should give swimmers a wide berth; most swimmers are not able to see where they are going as well as paddleboarders do.

I think the state Department of Land and Natural Resources's zoning solution is not such a great thing. For example, my family and I like to cruise around in the shallow beach areas observing some of the interesting marine life; this can be done in a responsible fashion without endangering swimmers. Conversely, some swimmers like to be out in deep water by the reef edge. Restrictions such as setting up a line of buoys will only exacerbate the problem and lead to more strife and territoriality. Segregating the space is not a solution.

Malia Flynn claims the DLNR solution is unworkable and shortsighted. In my opinion, a solution is not needed because there is no problem. Just more hype from a vocal minority that will likely cause unpleasant consequences for all of us, themselves included. If everyone was just respectful and courteous of other users, we would not have this drama.

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Don Kobayashi lives with his family in Kailua.