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Water sports: Be safe, have fun!
by Yuki Ohashi, Science & Environment editor

Beautiful beaches, crystal blue water, and a variety of marine sports characterize the Hawaiian experience.

In fact, besides the “big 3” surfing, scuba diving, and snorkeling, there are many water sports alternatives here on O‘ahu.

Click on image for larger view

Discovered by the French, popularized by local enthusiasts, kite surfing is the most extreme new water sports. Kite surfing uses a waterproof inflatable kite to provide an enormous amount of power to lift a surfer out of the water and into the air. If the surfer goes down, the kite simply floats on the surface and is very easy to recover.

Kite surfers use a special board with foot straps designed to help produce stability at speed and still keep the edge of the board in the water. The most common kite sizes for local riders range from 9 to 16 meters for men and 5 to 14 meters for women.

Currently, Kailua beach is the most popular area where riders are allowed to launch; however, there are many safety concerns. Some safety guidelines that the Hawaiian Kitesurfing Association suggests are:
• All beginners seek professional instruction, and use a proper safety leash.
• Kiteboarders yield right of way to all other beach users.
• Assisted launch and landing is recommended.
When Launching
• Attach kite safety leash (do not attach board leash until kite is launched and in the neutral position.)
• Make sure that beach area is clear.
On the water
• Incoming kiters must let launching kiters go out first before landing.
• Kiters must not come within 200 meter of the beach or swimming areas unless launching or landing.

Wakeboarding is a sport new to Hawai‘i. It actually came from surfing. Around 1990, surfers in California got a ski rope and towed themselves behind a boat. Wakeboarding was born. Similar to water skiing, it uses a board that looks like a little surfboard but is fastened, like a snowboard, to the surfer’s feet enabling him or her to jump and do elaborate tricks.

Unlike kite surfing, wakeboarders do not have to already know how to surf, although knowing how to water ski or snowboard helps. However, to reduce injury risks, participants must follow some safety rules:
• All riders should be towed at boat speeds that allow for reasonable control and stability.
• Use correct board size and binding.  Wet binding and feet before use.
• Do not attempt land or dock starts; these can increase the risk of injury.
• Always wear a life jacket.

Kayaking is also great fun in Hawai‘i. With a kayak, one can paddle out on quiet waters and have a great experience. In fact, the Hawaiian Islands are described as “paddlers’ paradise.”

Kayaks are usually light and easy to handle. Most of them are stable, very easy to get into, and fun to use. The average speed is three to six miles per hour.

Mokulua Islands, the twin islands one mile offshore of Lanikai beach in Kailua, are the most popular kayak destination on O‘ahu. Experienced paddlers surf the channel between the islands. For beginners and advanced paddlers, Kahana Bay Beach Park is a good location, because the water around there is usually very calm.

Like any other water sports, every kayaker must use good judgment and common sense to avoid dangerous situations. The most common danger is a storm that causes the kayak to capsize. Be prepared – keep your cell phone and flash light, food, and water in a waterproof bag tied to the boat – and don’t panic.

We can experience many water sports on O‘ahu; however, anybody can encounter stressful or dangerous situations. To reduce the risk of danger, get advice and guidelines from experts before you explore these exciting ocean sports.

Rules for Water Safety

File story by Jonas Kirby

At least 20 million people visit the shores of O‘ahu every year, and beach and ocean recreation play a major role in the lives of both visitors and residents as well.

On O‘ahu, however, ocean beaches can often be dangerous due to weather-generated surf, currents, and wind. Over the past 10 years, statistics show three or more drownings and 200 or more accidents requiring ambulance assistance each year.

According to lifeguards, many of these accidents are neck, back, and spine injuries experienced by body surfers and body boarders in the shore break.

Amazingly, about 90 percent of these injuries occur when the surf is three feet or less. The common assumption, that small waves are too weak to be harmful, is wrong. These waves can toss one “over the falls” and head first into hard-packed sand, causing severe injury and sometimes even death.

Surfing accidents also claim lives in Hawai‘i, even though surfers generally are better trained than body boarders and more knowledgeable of ocean dangers. The shore break is not an issue for surfers because they generally ride waves in deeper water further from shore. Nonetheless, there are also great dangers, especially in large surf.

Surfers should be aware of location and direction of swells and ocean currents. “The bigger and more frequent the waves, the stronger the currents”—is a very important rule to remember. Surfers should be exceptionally strong swimmers and capable of taking care of themselves if they are carried seaward by ocean currents.

Every individual who enters the ocean in Hawai‘i or anywhere else should be aware of the ocean’s unpredictability and power.

Things to do before you go into the water
• Check with lifeguards about beach dangers.
• Pay attention to signs. These convey warnings of risks and how to avoid them.
• Avoid closed beaches during high surf advisories.
• Pay attention to weather news bulletins and warnings of hazards.
• Always swim with a partner.
• “When in doubt, don’t go out.”
• Don’t exhaust yourself.
• Never turn your back on the surf.
• Don’t fight a current. Swim with it and diagonally across it until it releases you.
• Keep this handy and review it with your friends before you go to the beach.


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