A two-alarm fire wiped out the Waikiki surfboard racks today for the second time in less than two years.
Ten Honolulu Fire Department resource units, staffed with 37 personnel, responded to the two-alarm fire at about 11:18 a.m. Sunday.
When they arrived, HFD said firefighters found several storage racks of surfboards in the beach access alleyway fully engulfed with fire and smoke.
HFD said flames from the fire were directly impinging upon the exterior of the Honolulu Police Department’s Waikiki substation and the Moana Surfrider hotel.
Occupants of adjacent buildings were evacuated. Heat and smoke from the burning surfboards scorched the Moana Surfrider’s exterior and concession stand.
Firefighters focused on extinguishing the blaze that had broken out along the police substation’s exterior walls, roof, eaves and adjacent coconut trees.
The fire department said the fire was contained to the surfboard rack and concession stand area and was fully extinguished at 12:01 p.m. No injuries were reported.
Longtime surfer Theresa Strange was in Moiliili when a friend called to tell her that the Waikiki surf racks, where she keeps her hand-shaped speciality boards, were ablaze.
Strange quickly made her way into Waikiki, where thick smoke was billowing from the city-owned surfboard lockers at 2425 Kalakaua Ave., between the substation and the hotel. She discovered she had lost a 10-foot, 6-inch glider shaped by local surfboard maker Todd Pinder worth $2,100, as well as a 10-foot Nuuhiwa worth about $1,700.
Today was the second time in less than two years that Strange and fellow Waikiki surfers experienced this kind of surfing loss.
“It’s more than just a rack — it’s a community. It’s hard to get a spot so people tend to stay for years. The rent is roughly $25 to $45 a month and there are roughly 525 boards here,” she said.
While board values vary, Strange said the emotional attachment is perhaps the biggest loss.
“The board becomes an extension of yourself because you spend so much time with it,” she said. “If you have a really good one it’s irreplaceable. There are nuances that make up each board that are translated from the shaper to you.”
During a similar fire on February 27, 2020, Strange lost boards that were shaped by Donald Takayama and Midget Smith, who are now dead.
“I’ve had boards at the surfboard lockers for years,” Strange said. “In 46 years, this is only the second time that there was a fire — once in February 2020 and now.”
The lockers reopened in August 2020 — not quite six months after the last blaze destroyed them.
It’s not known what caused Sunday’s blaze or the last one, although some witnesses blamed it on the homeless, and others said they had heard it could be caused by rival surfing concessionaires.
Angela Kerecz of Kailua said she and her husband Bobby were in Waikiki for a day at the beach with their 10-year-old daughter Soul when they saw the smoke.
“We saw smoke billowing from the pier,” Angela Kerecz said. “It scared Soul. She’s been really clingy.”
The blaze also put Mandi Wojcicki, a visitor from Battle Ground, Wash., on high alert.
“We saw it all the way from Aloha Towers, ” Wojcicki said. “We were nervous. I said, ‘What if the island catches on fire.’ My husband said, ‘Mandi, it’s a big island.’”