Stab Magazine | How Waikiki Is Drowning A Slow Death

How Waikiki Is Drowning A Slow Death

Birthplace of surf forecast to be underwater in 15 to 20 years.

news // Apr 25, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Let’s talk about Town for a minute. This week headlines broke across mainstream media outlets that Waikiki could be underwater in 15 to 20 years. 

Could that be true? Could the birthplace of modern surfing, home of Duke and the Beach Boys, site of Jack London’s epic prose, the epicenter of all of surfdom, truly be facing extinction in the next couple decades?

The simple answer is, yeah, probably. The injection of Hawaii into the national news cycle was based on the “Hawai’i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report” and subsequent legislation proposed by state representative Chris Lee, the chairman of the state’s Energy & Environmental Protection Committee.

The report is 300 pages long and covers everything from environmental to economic impacts of impending sea level rise throughout the Hawaiian islands. As surfers, there’s one sentence that stands out among all the rest.

“Sea level rise would take its toll on Hawaii’s world famous beaches, including iconic stretches of beaches such as North Shore Oahu’s “Seven Mile Miracle,” the beaches of Kauai’s North Shore, and West Maui beaches, unless drastic measures are taken to curb the practice of shoreline armoring.”

The report is based on the prediction that global sea level rise will be up to 3.2 feet by 2100, with more recently published data indicating that sea level rise could be that high by as early as 2060 as the Earth’s oven continues to heat up. For a little bit of context, that’s less time than it took surfboards to morph from heavy wooden planks to high-density, carbon fiber-wrapped weapons. 

“More than 13 miles of beaches have been lost on Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, and Maui to erosion fronting seawalls and other shoreline armoring. Many more miles of beach could be lost with sea level rise, if widespread armoring is allowed,” continues the report.

“Over the next 30 to 70 years, chronic flooding with sea level rise will increase, impacting homes and businesses located near the shoreline. Approximately 6,500 structures and 19,800 people statewide would be exposed to chronic flooding.”

Lee’s legislation, HB1487, is a response to the eye-opening information found in the report. It seeks to put coastal protection plans in place that would allow Honolulu to adapt and mitigate the effects of sea level rise.

“Data shows that Honolulu is expected to begin seeing regular flooding of the urban core in as little as fifteen years,” reads the bill. 

Hold onto your plastic straws, it looks like Waikiki is about to go under. 


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