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Swimming and paddling lanes will remain at Ala Moana beach

    One stand-up paddler uses the designated lane at Ala Moana Beach Park as another heads toward it.

A pilot project to designate separate lanes for swimmers and stand-up paddlers at Ala Moana beach has been declared a success, prompting the state to leave the lane buoys in place indefinitely.

“A full year has passed and the corridor seems to have served its purpose, separating stand-up paddlers from other ocean-users and greatly reducing the risk of injury due to overcrowding,” said William Aila Jr., Department of Land and Natural Resources director, said in a news release Thursday.

Seven buoys separating the lanes were installed in May 2010 after a surge in the popularity of stand-up paddling led to congestion in the swim channel.

“We were getting complaints from paddlers about swimmers and from swimmers about paddlers, so we settled on a corridor to increase safety,” said Deborah Ward, DLNR spokeswoman.

Ward said that the calm waters at Ala Moana Beach offer ideal conditions for stand-up paddlers.

“It’s great, it’s working,” said Reid Inouye, owner of Paddle Core Fitness, who gives paddling lessons at the beach.

Inouye said the buoys are essential for swimmers. “It’s working for swimmers who don’t want paddlers on the inside. It’s more about the swimmers who have the safety of not being hit by a board,” said Inouye.

Ward said the department received mixed opinions at first about the buoys.

“Initially there was a range of opinions. Some people felt it wasn’t necessary. But by and large people seem to be complying voluntarily, and it seems to be working,” said Ward, who noted the department doesn’t receive many complaints these days.

Kaimuki resident Tai Blechta swims at Ala Moana once or twice a week.

“It is nice having the separation,” Blechta said. “A lot of swimmers actually use the buoys to spot off of — to measure if they are going in a straight line.”

Blechta said the designated corridors are most useful for less skilled paddlers, who can pose a danger without established boundaries.

In December the department announced it would wait half a year to decide whether to keep the partition.

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