Officials discourage floating, drinking off Waikiki on July 4
What has become the notorious July Fourth “Floatilla” off Waikiki has prompted early warnings from local officials hoping to discourage a large turnout and drinking in the water as a way to celebrate.
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What has become the notorious July Fourth “Floatilla” off Waikiki has prompted early warnings from local officials hoping
to discourage a large turnout
and drinking in the water as a way to celebrate.
“We’re trying to address … Floatilla and too many people coming out and thinking it’s a smart idea to get drunk and float out in Waikiki,” said Eddy Crochetiere, maritime enforcement
specialist for the U.S. Coast Guard. “Somebody could really get hurt and drown, so we’re trying to discourage people from partaking.”
The Coast Guard and multiple state agencies Monday conducted a media briefing and tour aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter
Joseph Gerczak, previewing areas in waters off Waikiki that will be under heavy patrol Thursday.
Floatilla is a relatively recent event, with revelers on plastic floaties jumping in the ocean to drink, usually around Waikiki beaches. It has been problematic for local officials since before its peak in 2017 for a number of reasons: the safety of the swimmers; the trash they leave behind; and the boaters who drink.
Crochetiere estimated about 5,000 people attended Floatilla in 2017; many were in their 20s or younger. Hundreds eventually needed assistance getting to shore, with 20 requiring medical attention and 10 even being sent to the hospital.
The turnout was much smaller in 2018, numbering in the hundreds, although officials said
hundreds of people still needed assistance to get back to shore, and they took note of the number of underage kids in the water.
“Typically, during holiday celebrations, there is an influx of underage drinking taking place, and this is
specifically dangerous because it’s taking place (on the) water,” said Cathy Lee, spokeswoman for the Honolulu Liquor Commission. “We are working to remind our license retail establishments to be checking IDs when they sell liquor.”
Public consumption of
alcohol in Hawaii differs
depending on whether in the water or on land; namely, public consumption is illegal on land but not in the water. Underage drinking is illegal regardless of the situation.
“It technically is not illegal to get in the water and drink … but it’s a terrible idea,” Crochetiere said.
He said the Coast Guard can and will also enforce boating laws.
“They know our enforcement capabilities are very strong. We don’t hold back on the boats,” he said. “Boating under the influence — terminated immediately, immediately get their fines, possible arrest. Overloaded vessel — terminated immediately. If it’s an illegal charter, which means somebody is not licensed to be a commercial enterprise … that’s illegal — we terminate immediately.”
While the Coast Guard will be patrolling the water in Waikiki to enforce boating laws and spot illegal commercial boating operations, a large part of its presence will be to provide assistance to Floatilla
Officials are also warning swimmers that there may be rougher waters this year, which could make the decision to drink and swim a more dangerous one.
“We have variable weather conditions on the horizon, especially with large surf, and if you combine that with alcohol … it’s probably a recipe for disaster,” said Kari Benes, injury prevention coordinator for the state Department of Health.
National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration officials said they’re hoping to minimize the amount of litter dumped into the ocean that they say comes during any holiday. “The best thing to do is to take care of your rubbish,” said Adam Kurtz, NOAA protected species management specialist.
Kurtz also reminds
swimmers to be aware of marine animals. “Keep in mind that it’s just another day for them. They’re trying to survive out there, so keep a safe distance,” he said.
Operation Dry Water, a partnered effort between the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the U.S. Coast Guard, will have thousands of local law enforcement officers nationwide on land and in the water to look out for boaters who drink during Independence Day celebrations.