For over a century the Waikiki beach boys’ concession stands have shared aloha with visitors through surf lessons, outrigger tours and lifeguarding. The beach boys have sought to embody the spirit of Duke Kahanamoku while trying to make a living at the same time. The intrigue of their oceanic knowledge and island lifestyle has given generations of tourists the Hawaiian experience they sought.
But what once was a loose hustle has become a permitted operation, one that must be renegotiated every five years to be exact. A company called Dive Oahu has won the most recent bid for permits and the two previous permit holders, Star Beach Boys and Hawaiian Oceans, are being evicted. The beach boys claim Dive Oahu will white-wash their tradition with name-tagged, polo-shirt wearing and iPad wielding corporate beach boy 2.0 versions-details Dive Oahu says are county requirements-that seem a far cry from what the tradition embodies. Many beach boys and well-respected watermen like Paul Merino and legend Buffalo Keaulana are worried that it’s an attack on Hawaiian culture. Another main concern is the decrease in pay beach boys will take if they choose to work for the new permit holder.
Supporters led a peaceful protest at the Duke Kahanamoku statue on Waikiki beach yesterday calling upon the local government to review the permitting process in order to preserve the tradition, often passed down through generations.
Read more details in the Honolulu Star-Advisor here.
Below are local news reports and social media postings covering the concerns.