Surf instructor Christopher Yasuma demonstrated how to stand on a board at the Hans Hedemann Surf Inc. shop in Waikiki on Kapahulu Avenue yesterday. The surf school has had to relocate their "land lessons" from outdoors at Kaimana Beach to indoors at the store due to complaints from neighbors.

Kaimana Beach surf school
gets swell of protest

Some people who live near Waikiki's Kaimana Beach say a commercial surf school is threatening the peace and quiet of their neighborhood.

One resident, Alethea Rebman, has been circulating a petition seeking a change in state rules to prohibit a commercial activity, such as a surf school, in a residential area. She plans to present it to the Diamond Head-Kapahulu-St. Louis Heights Neighborhood Board Thursday.

According to Rebman, during the summer tourist season Hans Hedemann Surf Inc. would regularly lead 20 to 45 students from Kaimana Beach to Tongg's Reef, several times a day, without enough surfing instructors.

As a result, Rebman said, the inexperienced students and other beginning surfers in the water were at risk for injuries. Another problem, Rebman said, is that hollering and yelling by surf instructors trying to "create excitement" for their clients disturbs residents of nearby condominiums.

Surf school president Hans Hedemann said his school maintains an average 5-to-1 student-instructor ratio and that safety is a top concern. This summer there were some groups of 25 students, plus five instructors, he said.

Hedemann, who plans to present a detailed information packet on his business to the neighborhood board, said he believes only a few people have a beef with his operation. "It's not like the whole neighborhood is up in arms," he said yesterday at his Kapahulu Avenue surf shop.

"There are a lot of people who use the Kaimana Beach area who don't want any commercial activity in the area," Paul Merino, Honolulu lifeguard captain for the South Shore, said yesterday. "No matter what happened they would be against it."

Hans Hedemann surfing students hit the swells at Tongg's Reef yesterday, as a surfer entered the water from shore.

Lifeguards don't have a position on whether commercial activity should be allowed on Kaimana Beach, said Merino. "What we care about is everyone's safety, whether commercial or public. ... From what we've viewed, they (Hedemann's Surf School) have conducted themselves in a safe manner."

Hedemann operates six surf school locations on Oahu and the one at Kaimana Beach has received the only complaints, Hedemann said.

He said he believes that Rebman's inquiries about his school teaching 20 minutes of surfing safety instruction on land in Kaimana Beach Park led the city Parks and Recreation Department to revoke his temporary permit to do that.

Since August, Hedemann said, his instructors teach the out-of-the-water orientation indoors at the Kapahulu store, then are driven to Kaimana Beach. He hopes to be able to resume teaching in the park.

Keith Fujita, assistant manager of the nearby Elks Club, said he sees the surf school groups go by several times daily, but hasn't witnessed any safety or noise problems, nor heard any comments from members.

"Members here can be pretty vocal (about their concerns) ... And I have heard zero about it," he said.

Surf instructors Willie Kaimikaua and Ryan Laquiere outfitted their students with rash guards before surfing at the Hans Hedemann shop in the New Otani Hotel yesterday.

Surfboard shaper and Gold Coast resident Tim Groh said he has concerns about the qualifications of some of Hedemann's instructors.

"It's mayhem out there at times, like a demolition derby," Groh said.

Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou and state Sen. Les Ihara said they are trying to mediate a compromise that will ensure that surf school students and other surfers have access to the reef and that area residents aren't disturbed.

"I don't want to eliminate the Hans Hedemann surf school. They're a legitimate business," Djou said. "On the other hand, I completely sympathize that they are in a residential area."

The city has jurisdiction on activity in the park and Hedemann has appropriate state registration for his equipment and instructor permits, said Steve Thompson, Oahu district manager for the state Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.

Thompson said his division is considering holding a public meeting to hear residents' concerns before renewing the school's equipment registration next year. Djou said that might be a good way for neighbors to have their concerns heard.

Several local regulars at the beach yesterday said they haven't noticed a conflict between the surf school and others in the water.


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