Obama's beach security is strict but still 'very cool, very friendly'


POSTED: Saturday, December 26, 2009

When North Shore waves get big, surf wraps around Mokapu Point and hits the Windward side at a spot known as “;Castle's,”; which some locals now call “;Obama's.”;

That's because the surf break is just off the old Castle Estate at the Kaneohe end of Kailua Bay, where President Barack Obama is vacationing for the second year in a row.

This year however, the Coast Guard set up a security zone around the president's vacation rental that includes the surf break.

Bob Ashton, a local resident and surfer, said the Coast Guard was not letting anyone surf Thursday past a yellow buoy marking the security zone.

But on Christmas surfers were able to catch waves just inside the zone.

“;What are we going to do? We're in board shorts,”; Ashton said. “;We're not suicide surfers.”;

;[Preview]  Crowds fill Kailua Beach for peek at the President

The President was briefed on a terrorist situation inside his Kailua Beach Rental Compound.

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Ikaika Vasconcellos said when he paddled out yesterday, Coast Guardsmen in a motorized rubber boat greeted him and told him he could surf as long as he did not cross an imaginary diagonal line between the yellow security buoy and a white security tent on shore closer to the Obama vacation home.

“;They had guns on the boat,”; Vasconcellos said. “;So we were like, 'OK, we won't pass your line.'”;

Ashton said allowing surfers to go into part of Castle's/Obama's was a reasonable compromise.

“;We'd really like to go over there,”; he said, pointing at waves breaking in the middle of the security zone. “;But this is fine.”;

Kyle Morgan, 14, and his brother Reed, 12, carrying body boards, were able to go in the water yesterday and were more disappointed that the waves were not as big as hoped for than anything else.

Obama's visit, they said, is “;kind of cool.”;

Their family lives on the Kawainui Channel, just mauka of the Kalaheo Avenue Bridge.

“;You can just cruise in the back yard and see the Coast Guard go up and down. There are two pretty cool gunboats at the canal,”; Kyle said.

A dried coconut frond stuck in the sand below a white tent manned by Secret Service and police officers marks the point where people hoping for a glimpse of the president and his family are not allowed to cross.

Anyone venturing near the coconut frond is met by an agent who quietly explains that this is as far as they can go. Other agents are stationed in the naupaka bushes along the beach, watching the crowd.

Some on the beach were rewarded yesterday afternoon with a distant sighting of Michelle Obama and the children playing on the beach.

“;You need a pair of binoculars,”; said Don Mitchell, who lives near the beach access. Mitchell, a Republican, said his wife “;doesn't like all the hubbub.”;

But their daughter Kathy Bowles said the visit is “;exciting.”;

“;It's unique to have the president vacation by you,”; said Kailua resident Chris Brigham. “;It affirms the magic of being here.”;

Alan Shinn, who lives in the secured area, said the Secret Service and Honolulu police have been, for the most part, “;mellow,”; perhaps a reflection of the easygoing, friendly neighborhood by the beach.

“;They (the Secret Service) are very cool, very friendly,”; Shinn said. “;They are businesslike but not overly aggressive. They went around and apologized to all the neighbors for the inconvenience.”;

Shinn, also a local surfer, said he welcomes the president's visit but is not ready to start calling Castle's “;Obama's”; until the president actually gets into the water.

“;He (Obama) doesn't surf out here,”; Shinn said. “;He's got to come out and surf.”;