Stab Magazine | Is This The Beginning Of The End For The Waikiki Beach Boys?

Is This The Beginning Of The End For The Waikiki Beach Boys?

The beach boys saved surfing from extinction, now we owe them our support.

news // May 17, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Put it this way, without the Waikiki Beach Boys there is no surf culture.

Without Duke and the boys reviving and then sharing the high art of he’e nalu on the sands of Waikiki at the turn of the 20th Century, Waco, Texas, would still be known for cultists not wave pools and the Surf Ranch would be inundated by cattle.

After all the history and everything the beach boy tradition and livelihood means to today’s Hawaiian culture, on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, the City of Honolulu planned to evict the boys from their board racks at Kuhio Beach.

Located in front of the famous bronze statue of Duke, if you had to pinpoint the birthplace of surfing, it’d probably be here. In 2017, the permit to run the surf concession was awarded to a company called Dive Oahu run by Brian Benton.

“About 18 months ago a friend came to the Island and made me do stuff I normally never do,” posted Benton in April 2017 (the post has since been deleted). “We went to the beach and sat in the sand and watched the waves and the surfers in the hot sun in Waikiki. While she was looking at all the hot guys I was looking at the dollars being made by renting chairs, umbrellas, surfboards. Within a day I started looking for a contract.”

Perhaps Dive Oahu has forgotten where this all came from?

City politics is typically dirty business, and the Dive Oahu case is no different. Not long after that April post, Benton was granted the contract – in which he agreed to pay the city more than 52-percent of his monthly gross revenues. Now, the companies that had run the beach boy stands, Hawaiian Ocean and Star Beachboys, believe they were cut out of the permit negotiation process.

They are alleging that Dive Oahu’s permit is strictly financially motivated and does not take into account the experience, expertise, tradition and contributions of the beach boys over the past century.

“In 2017, the City erred on a decision to award Dive Oahu one concession stand on Kuhio Beach. After Hawaiian Ocean’s disputed the award in court, the process was nullified. Immediately after this decision, the City hastily re-categorized the process and re-worded parts of it,” reads a portion of a statement issued by the company. “Dive Oahu was awarded a contract for both concession stands. There were no public hearings to correct the process’ initial errors. Hawaiian Ocean’s is concerned by the City’s lack of transparency and due process. No company has ever held two long-term contracts for the Kuhio Beach concession stands simultaneously.”

“This means a lot for us beach boys,” said Makaha waterman Rusty Keaulana, who showed up at the rally this week.

Standing alongside his father, Buffalo, and a large crowd of motivated watermen, he continued, “If this can happen here it can happen on our side too. The whole thing is the culture of Waikiki. What is a beach boy? We look up to the Duke…my whole thing was to try and be like the Duke and how are we gonna teach our young generation?”

A hearing is now scheduled for 10:00 am on Thursday morning where a judge who will hear the case for a temporary restraining order. The goal is to push the transition back until July 6, when the same judge will preside over an injunction hearing to determine the final fate of the concession permits.


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