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Kailua Beach Park: The Anti-Waikiki


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“We need to protect these special places.”

Respect the Mokes co-founder Erick Rusnak.

“The Mokuluas are training grounds for surfing, diving and learning how to respect the ocean,” says Erik Rusnak. “We consider the Mokuluas our church,” he adds with a laugh. In 2011, Rusnak, with his brother Tait and friends Kawika Lindsay and Dean Fujioka, founded Respect the Mokes, an organization dedicated to preserving and educating the community about the two offshore islets in Kailua Bay, home to 11 kinds of seabirds. You’ve probably seen some kamaaina sporting the Respect the Mokes T-shirts or bumper stickers on cars. (The group also has an active Facebook page, updated daily with scenic shots from Kailua beach.)

Rusnak, who grew up in Kailua, is glad commercial beach activity is prohibited. “Enough was enough.” He says he’d see “squadrons of kayak tours,” with back-to-back groups of 25 to 30 kayaks going to the islets—the most popular route for kayakers—and a lot more trash on the beach of Mokulua Nui, the larger of the two islets, to which everyone eventually paddles. “The biggest group now is eight kayaks,” he says.

Rusnak would know: He tries to paddle out to the Mokes six days a week. On Sundays, no one is supposed to go to the Mokuluas. “It’s a peace day on Sunday, to give the islands a break,” he says. It’s part of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ new permitting/conservation effort for the islets. It’s $3 per commercial kayak, with the money going toward conservation. (But, says Twogood, permitting is done on the honor system. No one has checked up to see that he’s actually collecting the money for the DLNR and filling out the paperwork.)

Permit enforcement aside, Rusnak says visiting the Mokuluas now is nicer, more enjoyable. “They shouldn’t be overused by commercial vendors. There’s plenty of room for business in Kailua, but we need to protect these special places,” he says. He then says goodbye, it’s time to paddle out to the Mokes.


“Kailua bay is a spiritual place.”

Kathy Erwin goes to Kailua Beach every day. She grew up in the Windward town, and views the beach, and the bay, with a more philosophical approach. “Walking and running the beach, paddling, swimming and surfing can be simply recreation, but, for many, Kailua Bay is a spiritual place.” Erwin, who works at Le Jardin Academy, has been paddling at Kailua Canoe Club for more than 40 years, a coach of the club for 25 of those years, and is currently the head coach.

It’s with that spiritual approach that she says many of the club’s members supported the commercial-activity ban. “Some [members] wanted a total ban, some wanted regulation or limited hours for commercial activity,” she says. “One thing everyone agreed on is that we want to preserve Kailua Beach as a gathering place, a playground and a sanctuary. We want everyone to contribute to keeping Kailua Beach beautiful for our children and grandchildren.”       

Kailua Canoe Club, founded in 1971, is exempt from the commercial activity ban, and, says Erwin, club members can still sell food and drinks during its regattas. But since the ban has been in place, it’s been smooth paddling for competitors on race day. Before, it was common for inexperienced kayakers to veer into the racecourse, especially the Kamehameha Day regatta in June. Practices are safer, too. “I have been nearly impaled by wind surfers while paddling my kayak,” says Erwin. She adds that dodging windsurfers aside, she doesn’t particularly mind. The club is a steward of the beach. “Some amount of sharing and helping is what we do and to be expected … There is a strong sense of responsibility now take care of the beach, to keep it clean and to protect it from exploitation.”   


“No one wants it to be a Windward Waikiki.”

Kevin Lockette and his family live right across the street from Kailua Beach Park. While he says the city has gone through some growing pains in the past two decades he’s called it home, he says it still retains its small-town, tight-knit sentiments. “It’s worth protecting,” says the father of two, who works with his wife, Ginger, as a physical therapist in Kailua. “No one wants it to be a Windward Waikiki.” Lockette explains that’s always been a fear. That, combined with an increased number of visitors, most of whom want to visit Kailua’s No. 1 beach, was the community’s impetus for the ban.

“It’s been way better, but I do feel for the local business owners,” he says. It hasn’t helped the traffic though, he concedes. “The weekends are just crazy. We live a quarter mile from Kalapawai Market and it takes 20 minutes to get past there. It’s faster to just walk.”

But the beach and its parking lot are calmer, he says. He no longer sees the trucks and trailers loaded with kayaks taking up four or five spaces when he walks his dog. The beach where he and Ginger taught their son and daughter, now teenagers, how to swim is less crowded. The conditions are agreeable for the family, all of whom are avid paddlers with the Kailua Canoe Club, to launch the outrigger sitting on their front lawn, later that afternoon.

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