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Hawaiian surf entrepreneur’s wave pool fought over by locals

Brian Keulana is the quintessential Native Hawaiian waterman, renowned in Hawaii and for his keen understanding of the ocean, gifted with surfing and lifeguarding skills passed down from his big-wave rider father.

Now, as one of the islands’ standard-bearers of surfing, Keulana wants to further promote the sport in its homeland by building an artificial wave pool just down the road from the beach – a place where competitive surfers will always find the right break. Guarantees can be given which are sometimes elusive in nature.

The adventure proposal has made waves in Hawaii, especially among some Native Hawaiians, and has raised questions about how the modern-day sport is followed by the millions of people around the world who have been riding waves for millennia. fits into the cultural heritage of the islanders.

The project has landed in court and reflects the unease some Native Hawaiians feel about the commercialization that has long been a cultural touchstone.

Heilani Sonoda-Pell, a plaintiff in the civil case seeking to close the wave pools, said, “They are profiting from a cultural practice by building these wave pools and controlling it, which is going to destroy the actual beach nearby.” Are.” “I can’t speak for other Hawaiians. All I can say as a Hawaiian is…it’s against my culture.”

Surfer and author Mindy Pennybacker said the controversy highlights a struggle over how to balance tradition with a flourishing sport. While researching her book, “Surfing Sisterhood Hawaii: Women Reclaiming the Waves,” she learned about creative ways to surf when there was no surf, including finding river waves or rolling down hills.

She also looks into how wave pools help athletes improve, with a World Surf League Championship Tour event over Memorial Day weekend at a California wave pool developed by pro surfer Kelly Slater.

“The beauty of surfing, and the frustration of surfing at both a recreational and competitive level, remains unpredictability and how reflexively surfers have to deal with changing conditions,” she said.

The lawsuit – filed in state environmental court by a group of Hawaiians and residents near the proposed site – alleges that the 7-million-gallon (26 million litres) artificial pool will harm nearby limu, or seaweed, and ivy kupuna, or The ruins will desecrate ancient Hawaii.

In a bid to stop the project, the lawsuit challenges the Hawaii Community Development Authority’s approval and finding that it will not have a significant environmental impact. The development authority and the state attorney general’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit, which seeks a new environmental review.

The hearing is set for July and it is unclear when the judge will rule.

Sonoda-Pell explained that the artificial lagoon would be 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from a beach called White Plains, which is a popular surf spot.

A wave pool has recently opened nearby and opponents say the other one is unnecessary and a waste of water. But Keulana is committed, noting that ocean conditions aren’t always ideal for learning how to land or save lives.

One recent afternoon, there was no surfing at Makaha Beach in west Oahu, where Keulana grew up. Despite Makaha’s world-famous reputation for its brutal shore breaks, conditions were very calm.

“The sea is the greatest treasure we have,” he said, “but it could be flat. It could be big. It could be dirty. It could, you know, have sharks here and there. .

He worries that Hawaii’s Olympics are at a disadvantage to aspiring surfing competitors who could easily train at one of the many surf parks around the world. He noted that a wave pool allows for more time on a surfboard in an hour than most surfers get in a week at sea.

“You see these surfers going to these surf parks and catching wave after wave and they’re honing their skills and then they go out to sea when there’s a swell,” he said. “Boom. They’re already prepped and ready.

Using the latest technology, the facility will simulate the ideal conditions needed to keep top surfers competitive and serve as a “lifesaving laboratory” to teach safety skills in a controlled setting.

His business partner, Keno Neerim, said that while the waves could be customized with a single tap on a tablet, an electromechanical system would use the panels to generate 1,000 waves per hour, up to 8 feet (2.4 m) high on the seabed. Copies Some 80 surfers can simultaneously work different waves: barreling waves, big waves, kid-friendly waves, Neerim said.

“He’ll be sick,” professional surfer Sheldon Passion said of the details. He grew up surfing in Makaha and now surfs all over the world, and has trained at Slater Wave Pool and Texas Pool. “When the waves are small … we can go out there and do our job.”

Ikaka Kaulukukui, surf operations manager of the existing wave pool at the facility called Wai Kai, said it has improved his surfing.

“Everybody comes to Hawaii for you big winter waves, like we’re … a Mecca for big-wave surfing … but that ain’t gonna happen here … every day,” he said.

Sonoda-Pell, who calls himself a water protector, questioned whether a wave pool is really necessary to excel at surfing. While she used to surf in her youth, she is no longer an active surfer.

“I know from our history as a cultural practice, when the surf was up, families would drop whatever they were doing and go out and surf,” she said. “So, the timeline of when to surf, when is a good time to surf … was created by nature, was created by Kanaloa,” she said, referring to the Hawaiian ocean deity.

Nairem said the project will incorporate water conservation and off-the-grid electricity and will incorporate native plants into its landscaping. Keulana said that a vacant lot in an area outside Honolulu known as Kaleloa was chosen because it was not pristine and had been used as an aircraft engine test site for the US military.

In addition to a surf lagoon, the 19-acre (7.6-hectare) site will also feature rock climbing, beach volleyball, skateboarding and other activities. The proposed facility is eyeing a summer 2024 opening, though it’s unclear how the lawsuit could affect the timeline.

“We have met with several Hawaiian cultural consultants and conducted extensive archaeological and environmental studies to ensure that we protect and reclamation of the site,” said a company statement online, using a Hawaiian word that means “care for.” can be done”.

Keulana said he hoped the differences could be resolved with huponopono, a traditional, culture-based form of mediation. Project opponents say they are ready for such a meeting.

“I’m more disappointed in myself. I felt – and we felt – that we did everything we could,” Keulana said of concerns about the project. “I think being Hawaiian means getting together and working out our differences and problems.”

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