Kokua Line

June Watanabe

Surf site safety
lies in the eyes
of the beholder

Question: I have been trying to find out whom to talk or write to about a surfing spot in East Oahu called Fingers. It's on the beach side of Hanapepe Loop in Hawaii Kai and is a favorite surfing spot for people who are familiar with the place. However, I seriously think that Fingers is a very dangerous spot, so it should be off limits, especially to young people. Many parents who allow their young ones to surf there probably have not gone down the path or they have lots of faith that nothing will happen to their loved ones.

Answer: The state Department of Land & Natural Resources' Division of Boating & Ocean Recreation is the agency to contact (587-1974). Part of the division's mission is "to preserve Hawaii's natural and cultural resources, while ensuring public access to state waters and enhancing the ocean experience."

Stephen Thompson, the division's Oahu District manager, said he can't recall any major safety issues that have come up at Fingers for at least 10 to 15 years to warrant putting it off limits.

John Clark, an authority on Hawaii's beaches and surfing sites, said, "In my opinion, Fingers is no more dangerous than any other surf spot in Hawaii that breaks on a shallow reef."

While there are areas where DLNR has imposed restrictions, such as Point Panic and Makapuu being off limits to surfboards and Ala Moana Beach and Waikiki being off limits to motorized boats, he can't think of any area "where you can't enjoy the waves in some form or another," Thompson said.

"We can propose it, but I don't know if it would withstand public acceptance to the point of adopting a regulation" to put a surf spot off limits, he said.

Clark, a former lifeguard and now a deputy chief for the Honolulu Fire Department, says he's familiar with Fingers because he surfs regularly at China Walls.

"Fingers is the innermost of three surf sites at Portlock Point," he explained. "The other two are Walls and China Walls."

"Fingers" got its name because it "is adjacent to Finger Rock, a large finger of rock at the base of the sea cliffs," Clark said.

The dangers in that area, "like any other, vary with the size of the waves. Young kids ride it when it's small, and older kids ride it when it's big."

Clark also said the only surfing fatality he's aware of in that area happened at Walls, which "is really a dangerous spot for experts only, where the surfers take off and ride along side the sea cliff (the "wall") off of Hanapepe Place. The surfer who died struck the wall. Many other surfers have been injured doing the same thing."

Q: I read an article in the Star-Bulletin about reconstruction permits for vehicles. How can I obtain more information?

A: Call the city Division of Motor Vehicle and Licensing at 532-7700. You'll hear a recording giving all kinds of information, including on reconstruction permits. At the end of the message, you are given an option to speak to a person, during regular office hours.

The reconstruction permit office is at 1112 Kapahulu Ave., under the H-1 freeway.


See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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