Despite Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s announcement Wednesday that the city’s parks would be closed the next day, there were at least 100 tourists enjoying Kuhio Beach Park on Thursday morning, according to Dave Carvalho of the city concession Pacific Island Beach Boys, who was waiting to hear whether the city Department of Enterprise Services would order his concession to close that day.
“It’s going to be rogue city down here, guys bringing their own surfboards, demanding all cash for rentals and lessons,” when the two city concessions left the beach, Carvalho said.
The neighboring Dive Oahu concession also had opened as usual early Thursday morning, said manager Shelly Rofrits, “but all the facilities on the beach were closed, including the restrooms, and there were no lifeguards.”
At about 11:30 a.m. Dive Oahu got the call to shut down, said owner Brian Benton, who agreed that the beach environment would deteriorate. “My biggest worry and fear is, since we’re not on the beach daily, other people who do not have permits or insurance will be there selling lessons and renting boards, and somebody will get hurt.”
In accordance with city regulations, Benton said, his employees had TB clearances, valid current lifeguard certifications and a valid surf instructor card through the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and his business had to be able to accept credit cards and generate receipts.
“Right now, with no lifeguards on the beach, if there is an accident in the water, that means the Fire Department has to respond, and they may not get here in time,” he said.
As his concession started breaking down its tents and equipment racks, “illegal peddlers swarmed back,” Benton said. “Now every peddler in town is at the beach, trying to make a buck.”
And, he added, with no toilets open, people would relieve themselves in the ocean.
Before the mayor’s announcement Wednesday afternoon, Carvalho had pointed out to a reporter how the concessions helped keep the beach and the sidewalk arbor spaces clean. One arbor housed a sparkling smoothie and food bar, and Pacific Island Beach Boys had a bright, tidy equipment rental stand in another, but foul smells emanated from the other arbors where people sat or slept.
Early Thursday morning, however, “about 7:30 a.m., about 15 police cars came down and got rid of most of the homeless in the arbors,” Carvalho said.
The arbors were still clear of people and roped off with yellow caution tape Thursday afternoon, as were the large banyan tree by the hula mound and areas of access from the sidewalk to the beach, but people simply ducked under the tape.
On the sands of Kuhio Beach, near the dismantling concessions, hawkers stood beside small improvised piles of surfboards, offering surfboard rentals.
A thin young man hailed two young female tourists. “It’s $20 for two hours,” he said.
“Maybe later,” one replied.
The young man wouldn’t give his name, but he and an older man who gave only his first name, Skip, said they were renting boards for Star Beachboys, one of three surf shops on Koa Avenue about half a block mauka of Kalakaua Avenue.
An employee of Star Beachboys confirmed in a phone call that the business had representatives on the beach offering rentals and lessons. They were all certified lifeguards and instructors, he said.
Star Beachboys had held one of the city concessions at Kuhio Beach until 2018, when the city picked Dive Oahu’s bid.