Surviving a rogue wave
Get ready to run, I said to my wife as we watched a muscular swell gain momentum shortly after noon Monday at Hanakapiai Beach. Like the 40 or so people at the beach, wed hiked the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail on a brilliant sunny day, watching towering waves crash into the Napali bluffs.
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Hanakapiai is one of the beautiful and deadly beaches of Hawaii. People constantly underestimate it. One year when a buddy and I hiked in, a helicopter brought in the body of a pilot who had been caught in a rip tide and had a heart attack trying to get back to shore. We had crossed his devastated family when we hiked in.
I’ve hiked in to the falls four or five times, but the last time my wife slipped and injured herself, so that was the last time.
Beware the beauty of Hanakapiai.
Close the trail, close the beach, close down access to tourist, they are not safe and unaware of the natural danger and put our life guards, first responders in danger. They are not listening to the warnings because they think it will not happen to them, but it does and it does often. Close access to tourist, they should be cited for trespassing. Do not allow this to continually happen.
I totally agree. I’ve visited Kauai about 15 times and am well aware of these unfortunate incidents. Way too much danger along the trails. Mahalo.
HAHAHA -yeah, because only tourists make mistakes and have accidents.
Just so you know….Visitors are drowning at roughly nine times the rate of local residents, according to Health Department data
People like you are the reason why you have to get cavity searched to fly on a plane. Reactionary “solutions” which do nothing. In case you haven’t noticed we live on an island. Surrounded by water. People drown everywhere. You can only do so much to help. Cost of doing business. Or lets just close every beach on the island because you could drown. Better walk everywhere too so you don’t crash. In fact don’t leave the house, its dangerous out there
As kauai resident and local who moved to the island 6 months ago, i fully agree with original poster. We must restrict access to all the trails and beaches to tourists for safety sake. I did not buy a house with hedge fund money and paid big time just to deal with tourists! Its ridiculous.
You being here 6 months doesn’t make you local LOL
thats some good advise
I didn’t see any actual locals in the picture…Oh wait,.. that’s because we’re not idiots!!!
We were on the *rocks* well above the beach and yes there were locals there. In fact one of the locals was a woman and her son – dad had gone to hike to the falls and they were on the rocks with us. The local woman said she’d lived on Kauai for 30 years and had often visited this beach but had never seen a wave like this. When she told her husband where we were — high on the rocks well above the tide line — he couldn’t believe we were swept away by the wave.
When we vacationed on the North Shore of Kauai 2 years ago, people were repeatedly warned to stay away from the surf, yet 2 tourists who didn’t heed the warnings drowned. I’m not sure what else the local authorities can do—other than perhaps make this article required reading on flights to the Garden Isle.
Typically, the dry rocks indicate you’re in a safe spot, but not this time. Of course, people who weren’t there are all going to chime in with righteous criticism, but accidents happen. In cars. On the beach. Everywhere. Clearly, a lot of folks were caught off guard, and they can’t all be careless. The most experienced pilots die in plane crashes. The most experienced volcano experts die in eruptions. The best animal experts get killed by animals. It’s life. Just be glad this time everyone is okay, and hold back on the blame game.
YEs, they all can be careless. On a day when the advice for every lifeguarded beach on the islands was “stay out of the water” they went past the permanent signs saying an area is dangerous. Bad things happen there when we aren’t in the midst of a major winter swell, going there during a major water isn’t a great idea.
Thanks for your compassionate and insightful comment. It’s true, we saw the signs and thought we were being cautious. On the beach was a mix of locals and visitors. I agree that those on the beach were taking a foolish risk but those of us well up on the rocks felt we were being respectful of the conditions and in a safe place.
Great story on why you should always listen to the folks at ocean safety instead of being stupid (especially the part about taking the picture on the beach, classic).
We thought we were being cautious. We were on the *rocks* well above the beach and yes there were locals there. In fact one of the locals was a woman and her son – dad had gone to hike to the falls and they were on the rocks with us. The local woman said she’d lived on Kauai for 30 years and had often visited this beach but had never seen a wave like this. When she told her husband where we were — high on the rocks well above the tide line — he couldn’t believe we were swept away by the wave.
Waste of time, I don’t see any rogue wave only the shirt of some by standers.
The article says nothing about the trash (shoes, glasses, etc.) swept away, more plastic crap in the ocean…and what were those yokels not thinking ? What can the lifeguards say, and how about the 2 new park rangers?? enuf already, make em pay for the ride out
yeah, make everyone who gets into accidents pay for first responders’ services. oh wait, we all do, via taxes.
not like these people were trespassing at Queens Bath. accidents happen, get used to it.
Good article but incorrect use of the term “rogue wave” and shame on him and TGI for using that term In the headline while making it sound like this event at Hanakapia is rare. Rogue waves are by definition “unusually large waves for a given sea state.” Hawai’i was seeing a monster swell and the conditions that they encountered were not unusual, although I’m sure all the visitors would disagree.
They’re called sneaker waves: They are impossible to predict, appearing with little or no warning, and often surge high up on the beach with deadly force. A ‘rogue wave’ is a term generally used at sea, for a wave that’s at least twice as big as other waves.
Everyone should read Earthling’s post about drownings. Local or tourist, the ocean always wins.
Some commenters suggest that drownings only happen to irresponsible and clueless tourists, not wise locals. Read the 2011 study, “Drowning Deaths in the Nearshore Marine Waters of the Island of Kauai, Hawaii 1970-2009” published in the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education.
Over a 40-year period (1970–2009) a total of 392 drowning deaths were recorded on Kauai. More than three-fourths (300) were due to nonboating incidents occurring at the ocean shoreline. The others occurred inland in rivers, lakes, swimming pools, and at private residences. Of those 300 shoreline drownings, 220 were visitors and 80 were Kauai residents.
Drownings are tragic and they can happen to anyone. Let’s be thankful that this particular incident did not end in tragedy. Everyone be safe out there.
Full drowning study available to read here:
Hi, I don’t normally post things but the unnecessary and unfounded blame-game here is dangerous.
I was there, and tossed brutally by the wave. As many have noted, there is signage and warnings throughout the run up to and at the beach, to be careful. These warnings NEVER mention the possibility of “sneaker” waves. They mention the possibility of flash floods via the river. They mention the dangers of swimming. They mention the slippery conditions. They mention not going near the ocean. But while there were some people who certainly went too close to the high-water line, the large majority of us were well up on the rocks, with at least 50 feet between us and wet sand.
During the shuttle service (which was still operating the day of and two days after) that brings you to this trail head, we were given 20minutes of warnings about what to watch out for. But nothing about such a swell. A Kauaian resident who has jogged the trail 4x per week for over a year was sitting amongst the rocks, thrashed like all of us, and had never seen anything like it in his 200+ visits to the beach.
Later, when describing the incident to people living in Kauai, they said there normally isn’t such a large stretch of sand (“beach”) between the rocks and the surf. So those of you who have been there may think we were sitting on the rocks with the surf lapping at our feet…not the case.
Just to say that most of us WERE being cautious and respectful of the power of the ocean especially in winter. Heeding the warnings we were given. And still suffered significant injuries. t’s called Hanakapiai Beach not Hanakapiai Overlook…
Not sure what’s the right solution. But think you should be discussing based on the facts of this situation.