Three tow-in surfing zones proposed by DLNR

A proposal for three state-controlled tow-in surfing zones for Kaua’i was unveiled Saturday.

The zones were announced by Vaughan Tyndzik, Kaua’i district manager for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Small Boat Harbors Division, who was accompanied at the meeting by Manuel Andrade, who manages small boat harbors in west Kaua’i.

The zones require a DLNR rule change and would run from:

– Kailiu Point in Ha’ena to the southeast point of Moloa’a Bay, a distance of about 15 miles.

– The southeast point of Papa’a Bay to Hanama’ulu Bay, a distance of between 8 to 10 miles.

– Port Allen to Miloli’i Point, a distance of between 12 to 15 miles.

Kaua’i’s best-known tow-in big wave surf spots are located in the zones.

The coastline from Hanama’ulu Bay to Hanapepe Bay was considered as a fourth zone, but that idea was scrubbed because the area, between 18 to 20 miles in length, is heavily used by residents and visitors, Tyndzik said.

Participants in the sport can launch from state small boat harbor ramps, county shoreline facilities and private properties within the three zones and the scrubbed zone when the waves are small or large, Tyndzik said.

After launching, people must drive the watercraft slowly for the first 500 yards from shore and then must proceed directly to the zones for tow-in surfing, Tyndzik said. Anyone loitering and “playing around are subject to a ticket,” he said.

Proposed rules for tow-in surfing include:

– Establishing tow-in surfing rules.

– Requiring all recreational thrill craft operators to obtain a certificate on safe use by January 2005.

– Establishing a safety instruction program for commercial thrill craft operators.

The meeting on the proposed rule changes was held at Chiefess Kamakahelei in Puhi.

Local residents speaking at the meeting said that only four-stroke water thrill craft should be used for tow-in surfing because the machinery is far less polluting than two-stroke craft.

The meeting included other proposed rule changes that deal with safer ocean recreation.

North Shore residents Al Paterson and Michael Schmidt also called for the protection of endangered Humpback Whales and to make rules for tow-in surfing that are enforceable.

Among five residents who attended the meeting, only Paterson and Schmidt gave testimony.

Implementation of such rules related to the sport and which affect commercial tow-in surfer businesses as well, will help reduce conflicts in the water, protect the environment and help the sport grow, the men said.

The DLNR division held concurrent meetings across the state yesterday on the rule changes or amendments to promote improved ocean safety in Hawai’i.

The rule changes deal with such issues as establishing thrill craft zones along the coastlines of Kaua’i, O’ahu and Maui and rules for tow-in surfing and requiring tow-line operators to secure safety certificates by January 2005.

Why the DLNR was not proposing similar areas for the sport on the Big Island was not immediately known.

Tow-in surfing, described as a “thrill-seeker’s sport,” started more than a decade ago and was created to allow surfers to catch huge waves that are impossible to drop in on by paddling.

During winter storms, wave faces can reach heights of 50 feet on the North Shore of the islands.

For tow-in surfing, one person aboard a jet-propelled watercraft tows a surfer using a narrow, small custom board outfitted with foot straps out to the waves.

The driver steers the rider, who is holding onto a line similar to a water skiing tow rope, into a cresting wave. Once up and traveling down the face of the wave, the surfer releases a tow line connected to the watercraft and surfs down the face of the wave.

Surfers, divers and swimmers on O’ahu are concerned the boundaries for thrill craft operations are not clearly defined and that the watercraft can collide with them, possibly resulting in serious injuries, according to the DLNR.

Paterson, describing himself as a lifelong surfer, said setting down rules for the sport now is timely and wanted more people to get involved in the process.

Paterson said he is opposed to the use of two-stroke, jet propelled personal watercraft for the sport because they pollute the water far more than four-stroke models now making their way onto the market.

Quoting from the Fall 2002 edition of Audubon magazine, Paterson said that “in seven hours, a 100-horsepower, two-stroke jet ski engine creates as much smog-producing pollution as driving a car 100,000 miles.”

The magazine, he went on, also noted that “a two-hour ride can release three gallons of unburned fuel into the water.”

Through its publication, the National Surfrider Foundation supports federal Environmental Protection Agency “regulations that would require the use of four-stroke engines for personal watercraft that reduce petrochemical discharge by up to 97 percent.”

The California-based group, which promotes “surfing in safe surf breaks,” Paterson said, has taken a stand that machines that are less polluting should be used for the sport.

Schmidt said he is working with a mainland company that would like to bring the four-stroke machines to Kaua’i.

Right now, the two-cycle versions create noise that adversely the Humpback whales, Paterson said.

As he swam near whales during a recent dive off Maui, a thrill craft came buzzing by, apparently startling the whales, Paterson said.

“The change in the behavior of whales was immediately obvious,” he said.

People found to be driving their watercraft closer than 300 feet of the endangered mammal are subject to fines, said

Under current law, people are not allowed to operate a thrill craft within a marine life conservation district or marine natural area reserve.

The DLNR also must enforce rules it creates, particularly as the sport grow, Paterson said.

About a handful of Kaua’i residents participate in the sport now, and he knows them all, he said.

But the day will come when “there will be 50 to 60 people riding down on jet skis…and it is going to be very, very difficult to police the numbers,” he said.

The proposed rule amendments also call for:

– Adding definitions for diver flags, “free” divers, personal floatation devices and scuba equipment.

– Requiring children 12 years and under to wear a personal floatation device aboard a vessel on the ocean, stream or moored.

The DLNR drafted the rules with the help of tow-in surfriders from O’ahu and Maui, Tyndzik said.

Written testimony can be sent to the Land Board chairman Gilbert S. Coloma-Agaran by Nov. 4. Tyndzik said testimony can be faxed to him at 246-6678.

For more information on the proposed amendments, go to www.state.hi.us/dlnr/dbor/bordraftrules.html.

If there are substantial changes to the proposed rules, DLNR will hold another round of public hearings to solicit additional comments in the drafting of the rules, Tyndzik said.

The Land Board must approve the rule amendments or additions before they go to the governor.

If the governor approves the changes, they will be filed with lieutenant governor’s office and become official ten days from the day of filing.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net

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