The land council approves the surf school rules for Kahalu’u Bay.


The state’s Land Board voted unanimously last week to approve rules that limit and regulate the business activities of surf schools in Kahalu’u Bay.

“This regulation is definitely a step forward in making it a safer environment for all of our park users,” Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation Director Maurice Messina told the Land Board before. his vote 7-0. Hawaii County manages Kahalu’u Beach Park, but does not have the authority to authorize bay waters.

Under the rules, which still require the signature of Governor David Ige to become final, the Boating and Ocean Recreation Division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources will be authorized to issue up to eight permits for the teaching of the commercial surf school, an increase from the current four allowed by rules set in 2016 at the popular North Kona site.

While there would be more companies licensed to operate in the bay overall, the rules would create two periods of instruction for the bay, spreading the impact. Four commercial surf schools would be allowed to operate from 8 a.m. to noon and the other four from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The number of students allowed in the water has been reduced to four per operator, for a total of 16 at any one time.

In a virtual public assessment hearing on September 8, the Department of Lands and Natural Resources said 21 people had testified orally; 48 other testimonials sent by mail or email.

The Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) submission to the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) characterized the witnesses as being opposed in two groups: those who opposed any commercial activity in Kahalu’u Bay and, second, those who opposed changes in business operations, who were largely business operators.

“The main concerns of DOBOR are the safety of ocean users and the protection of natural resources,” said the background report submitted to the board of directors. “Therefore, DOBOR’s recommendations focus on the area’s capacity for commercial use. “

Messina pointed out to the board on Friday a handful of security concerns in the bay, which he said he visited the day before the virtual meeting. That Thursday, he said he counted 10 to 15 trucks and vans from different surf schools and people walking back and forth on Alii Drive with surfboards. He described the bay “as quite dangerous” with surf schools giving instructions and “common people” on paddleboards all looking for one of the few small waves rolling in the bay.

Police are also struggling to regulate parking along the roadway, he said. He also said there had been “problems” between surf schools vying for the waves to support their activities.

“We hear about these guys cutting their tires and vandalizing everyone’s gear because there are so many competing for the same wave at the same time,” said Messina.

DOBOR submitted an amendment to the rules which went to a public hearing in September to clarify that they apply to all non-motorized watercraft, such as paddleboards and e-foils, not just surfboards , in zone A or on the north side. from Kahalu’u Bay.

After a discussion by the board of directors of concerns about the amendment being a “substantive change” that would require another public hearing, and the assurance of the State Deputy Attorney General, it would not need to ‘another hearing, the board to adopt the rule as presented on Friday.

Another possible change will have to be brought to a public hearing, as it would, in fact, be considered a “substantive change,” said Ed Underwood, director of DOBOR.

“During the conversations at the public hearing, it was raised that perhaps we should shut down all business or ban all business activity on weekends or Sundays on a weekday,” a- he declared to the board of directors. “This is something we can look at, but it was not part of the package of rule amendments, which would be considered a ‘substantive change’. We figured we could do that at a later date, if that’s something we want to do in the future.

DLNR, Hawaii County, and other stakeholders have been discussing the issue of regulating commercial surf education in Kahalu’u Bay since at least 2015, although the issue is discussed in West Hawaii archives. Today from 2004-05.

Initially, Hawaii County was to take the lead in limiting access to the ocean waters of Kahalu’u Bay and enforcing those limitations. However, after learning that it was not the competent authority, no permit was issued.

The state took the initiative to allow commercial surf schools in Kahalu’u Bay in 2019 after an agreement was reached after state and county officials met in June 2019 at the request of the state legislature.

The attorney general will then review the rules approved by the BLNR on Friday, which can be forwarded to the governor for signature and archiving with the lieutenant governor. At this point, the rules have the force of law.

The permits would be issued by lottery, DOBOR staff said at a previous BLNR meeting.

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