KILAUEA — Klaus Wolf credits Kauai for introducing him to his wife, Margit Oeda, and the German couple give back to the island every time they visit by cleaning the beaches.
“We are more or less taking a walk every day from KBV (Kauai Beach Villas) to Wailua River bridge along the beach and enjoying the ocean while we are here,” Wolf said.
Along the way, they see plastic pieces of various sizes strewn along the beach, and over the past few days, the visitors have noticed piles of the stuff on the shorelines.
“We collected plastic parts on the beach and added to pile ups,” Wolf said. “It looks just not right.”
A professor at the University of Applied Sciences in Regensburg, Germany, Wolf has been visiting Kauai since 1999 and in 2010, he was doing reservations with the timeshare company RCI while on island.
“I was staying at KBV (Kauai Beach Villas) and the wifi was so bad, that I was going up to Ka Eo Kai (Wyndham Ka ‘Eo Kai in Princeville) to go online and also do some reservations with RCI,” Wolf said.
While working, he was approached by a man who needed help with a German client whose phone number and email he had, but with whom he could not connect.
Wolf agreed to help and that night sent the woman an email, offering help.
“The next day an email back from Germany, the lady was so happy that someone contacted her in German, because her husband passed away and she didn’t know much about the timeshares,” Wolf said.
The details of the woman’s situation weren’t lining up, so Wolf took a drive to Princeville the next day to find out more information.
He was able to help resolve the woman’s immediate situation, but needed more information from her in order to be of further help, so Wolf suggested the two meet when he returned to Germany, and the woman agreed.
“So we met Oct 8th 2010 in Bad Fuessing (Germany) in the afternoon, enjoyed the rest of the day there and fell in love with each other,” Wolf said. “And we are together since then.”
Now, Wolf and Oeda walk Kauai’s beaches together every time they visit, and the couple has an idea to help keep Kauai’s beaches clean: marine debris collection stations.
Instead of piling plastic up on the shorelines, Wolf suggests constructing marine debris collection stations — places where people can deposit the trash they collect on their walks on a daily basis.
“Why not put up stations like with doggy bags on beaches to be cleaned and places to deposit the collected items. People like us, would certainly give their hands and collect items, if we would know where to deposit them,” Wolf said.
Throughout the years, Wolf said he’s seen a change in the amount of debris washing up on Kauai’s beaches.
“Discussing the issue with my friends here, we think especially around the Wailua Golf course it feels way more plastic and other debris on the beach compared to the last years,” he said.
Wolf continued: “Also bigger parts of plastic, ropes, empty bottles and canister of any kind and so on. Looking back to 1999 and the following years it is certainly worse than then.”
Visitor volunteers like the Wolf family are always welcome at cleanup events hosted by organizations like Surfrider’s Net Patrol and 808 Cleanups, according to Barbara Wiedner, of Kauai’s Surfrider chapter.
“The visitor base is an important part of our efforts,” Wiedner said.
During a recent Net Patrol cleanup the last week of February, three of the 33 volunteers were visitors, and Wiedner says sometimes it’s a larger percentage.
“We have a family from Japan that’s come three years in a row. The last time they were here, the visitors made up 50 percent of the volunteers. That was fun to see,” Wiedner said.
Some visitors ask about beach cleaning events months in advance of their vacations, and some people target the activity as priority one when they get off the airplane.
As one of those helpful visitors, Wolf said he’d like to pitch $100 to kick off his idea for marine debris collection stations and wants to encourage people to lend helping hands.
Wolf and Oeda are on Kauai until March 11 and are happy to be finally getting some sun in Poipu during their vacation.
“Mahalo and thanks for letting us enjoy the beauty of Kauai,” Wolf said. “Just five minutes or less, being in Ka Eo Kai, can change a whole life.”