Trash to Totes

Kini Beach Bags

Business partners David Watt (left) and Dale Geldum (center) along with surfer Kealii Malama (right) show off Kini Beach bags.

Photo: David Croxford

David Watt hopes to save the Waikiki shore—one trendy tote at a time.

During a stroll with pal Dale Geldum, Watt, a Kailua native, noticed the beach littered with grass mats and neon inflatable beds. Waikiki had seen better days.

“I joked that I would make bags so people can take their stuff with them. It was tongue in cheek, but the light went on,” says Watt.

So the friends went into business selling beach accessories fashioned from the flotsam, calling  their new venture Kini Beach. The first step was to gather the 30,000 yards of beach gear discarded annually.

Hoping to collect in mass, Watt knocked on hotel doors, receiving rejection after rejection. He then tried the Outrigger Waikīkī on the Beach Hotel. It was a match made in recyclable heaven.

The Outrigger already had a system for collecting some of the beach gear abandoned by previous guests and lending it to current visitors. Now, the hotel donates most of the collected gear to Kini Beach. Kimberly Agas, vice president of operations for the Outrigger, attributes the hotel’s green move to its employees.

“Being ecofriendly is innate in all of us,” says Agas. “Once they heard about Kini Beach and met with David, they were eager to help out.”

On top of saving some beach accessories for future guests, employees gather the unwanted gear directly from hotel rooms and pile them away. All Watt has to do is pick up the stacks.

Swept up by the excitement of his new project, Watt forgot his only sewing and design experience came from his eighth-grade home economics class. So he partnered with his childhood friend, Derreck Higa (now recently deceased), and the two starting making bags. 

Today Kini Beach has earned some bragging rights: a successful accessory line made up of 99 percent recycled material; 12 stores carrying it statewide; two in California; projects in Australia.

“I wasn’t an environmentalist looking for a cause,” says Watt. “The cause just hit me.”