On a breezy morning, six young water enthusiasts in life jackets, guided by instructors, paddled through the waters of Kailua Bay on one-man kayaks toward Popoia Island, also known as Flat Island.
The short kayak adventure to the little island roughly a quarter-mile off of Kailua Beach Park is part of a new Jr. Waterman/woman program offered by Kailua Beach Adventures to fill a void for teens following the cancellation of a number of summer programs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For 13-year-old Logan Bergevin, a paddler with Kailua Canoe Club and Makalei Canoe Club, the cancellation of the outrigger canoe paddling season this year prompted him to look for other ocean recreation activities. The new program he discovered online sparked his interest in learning about kayaking. “It was an opportunity to learn more about it, and I learned a lot,” he said.
The five-day course is offered through the summer to youth ages 13 through 17. Participants learn kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, ocean safety, marine conservation and stewardship.
Though the program is designed to be a five-day course, marketing operations manager Devin Moody said teens may opt to sign up for a day or two.
In addition to providing a fun and educational program for youth, Moody said he hopes the program will help boost revenue for the 38-year-old company as the state’s mandated 14-day quarantine for out-of-state passengers remains in effect through the end of July.
The summer months are peak times for businesses like Kailua Beach Adventures where visitors make up a majority of the customer base.
In pre-COVID-19 days, motorists often stopped for groups of tourists crossing South Kalaheo Avenue as they walked to the beach a short distance away with kayaks rented from the company. Visitors also booked guided kayak tours to Popoia or the Mokulua Islands.
Nowadays, visitors statewide are sparse.
On Friday morning, manager Matt Giordano pointed out the nearly empty parking lot next to the store. “It has been dismally slow,” he said.
Kayak guide Mike Giraudy, who has been employed with the company since 2018, now serves as an instructor in the youth waterman program.
The new five-day course is a great idea where kids can get out of a house and make new friends and memories, he said. “The main thing is we have fun out there.”
Instructors regularly check weather conditions to ensure safety for the students.
In the youth waterman program, participants learn different paddling strokes, techniques to reenter a kayak should you flip over in the ocean, and assessing hazards. “A lot of these kids are probably going to go back to their parents and probably teach them how to kayak,” Moody said.
Instructors take youth to Popoia Island and the Mokulua Islands where they learn about wedge-tailed shearwaters, endangered Hawaiian monk seals and native plants such as akulikuli, aweoweo and naupaka.
As of June 12 the state reopened Popoia, Mokuauia, Kapapa and the Mokulua Islands on Oahu to keep in sync with the city’s reopening of beaches.
Teens in the youth waterman program also learn to be good stewards by keeping the beach free of plastic, which poses a danger to the marine life.
To adhere to guidelines to minimize the spread of COVID-19, the staff sanitizes all equipment after each use, and students wear face masks during classroom sessions held in a room next to the Kailua Beach Adventures store.
Noelle Swartzendruber, 13, said she signed up for the program after her parents heard about it through word of mouth.
Through the program, the young swimmer and surfer said, she honed her kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding skills. “You learn a lot of stuff, and you go to a whole bunch of places,” Noelle said. “It’s really fun and definitely worth it.”
SUMMER WATER ADVENTURES
>> What: Jr. Waterman/woman program run by Kailua Beach Adventures this summer for youth ages 13 to 17. The five-day course begins every Monday; participants learn kayaking and stand-up paddling, ocean safety and marine conservation.
>> Where: 130 Kailua Road, a short distance from Kailua Beach
>> Cost: $80 a day or $300 a week. Equipment and lunch included.
>> Requirement: Must know how to swim.
To sign up, visit 808ne.ws/jrwatermanwaterwomanprogram.