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Kailua Beach Park: The Anti-Waikiki


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“Commercial activities are appropriate here.”

Bob Twogood, the owner of Twogood Kayaks Hawaii lost half his business as a result of the commerical-activity ban.

Many Kailua residents may be happy with fewer kayaks and windsurfing boards in the water, but for Bob Twogood, owner of Twogood Kayaks Hawaii, the commercial activity ban has drastically altered his business. In fact, it’s more than cut it in half. “I’ve laid off over half my staff,” he says. Twogood has been in business for 32 years, and rents to both locals and Mainland tourists.  

“I think the law that was passed was unnecessarily extreme,” he says. “There are a lot of commercial activities that are appropriate for the park and don’t interfere with the use of the park by the residents that live in Kailua. And, you’ve got to remember, this is a City and County park, it’s for people from Mililani who also want to come over.”

Twogood’s shop on Hamakua Drive is almost three miles from Kailua Beach Park. Pre-beach-activity prohibition, employees would give kayakers a brief lesson, load up the kayaks onto trailers and drop everyone and everything off right by the park. Now, renters have to strap the kayak to their cars themselves—much less convenient.

“What would be reasonable, and I think the residents of Kailua would support this, is a permitting system that allows limited commercial activity that is appropriate for the park, that is enforced,” he says. He feels public opinion is on his side, and hopes to have a professional survey demonstrating as much completed this month, in hopes of starting the conversation to amend the ordinance. “I don’t think this issue is over.”

Until then—if that ever does happen—Twogood does what he can to keep his business afloat in the face of a law aimed squarely at businesses like his.

There may be a commercial activity ban, but head to Kailua Beach Park any day, and you’ll still see lots of yellow kayaks, likely from Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks. Because of its location within walking distance of Kailua Beach Park, the company reaps the benefits of the ban, and now enjoys a functional monopoly on kayak rentals. The owner wouldn’t return our calls, so we decided to rent a kayak and experience the scene ourselves.

It’s an overcast Friday morning, but Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks, in the Kailua Beach Shopping Center, is bustling. As HONOLULU Magazine digital media manager Christine Hitt and I arrive in the parking lot, a guide shows a group of Japanese tourists how to hold a paddle.

After we sign a liability waiver and pay a $3 permitting fee to paddle out to the Mokuluas (on top of the base $69 half-day rate), we watch an instructional safety video. Then we strap on life vests, grab our kayak and cross the street to the beach. I can see how, in a large group, this could create a traffic jam. Unlike the tourist group, we weren’t given any paddling tips. I’m guessing the group purchased a guided tour, advertised on the Kailua Sailboards website for $129 to $155 per person.

We put our kayak into the canal and easily launch into the ocean. Our first stop: Popoia, aka Flat Island, home to hundreds of wedge-tailed shearwaters. There we saw the same group of six Japanese tourists, led by a tour guide. There were a few other kayaks already beached on the sand, the majority of them stamped with the red Kailua Sailboards logo.

After exploring Popoia, we began the journey to Mokulua Nui. About 45 minutes later, we crash-landed onto the beach, wedging our kayak in between a line of about 15 other kayaks, most of which, again, were rented from Kailua Sailboards.

There were almost 30 people already on the islet, including another Kailua Sailboards tour group, this time of Mainland tourists. We also saw a guy with a small dog, ignoring the huge blue sign in front of him reading, “No dogs allowed.”

The clouds grew increasingly ominous, so we decided to head back, paddling noticeably more slowly on the return trip. Eventually we made it, although at one point the kayak turned sideways and we flipped over. A couple sitting nearby laughed. We made it back to Kailua Sailboards just as the first raindrops fell. As I drove home, I thought about the day. I can see the appeal; if I were on vacation, I’d want to spend time at Kailua Beach. Yet I can also see the hassle a fleet of kayaks can create for local beach-goers.

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Honolulu Magazine July 2020
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