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Hawaii’s First Wavegarden Pool Still on Track Despite Opposition from Local Groups

by Staff

A development group planning to bring the first Wavegarden pool to the Hawaiian island of Oahu has confirmed that their plans are still on schedule despite pushback from a coalition of native Hawaiian groups

The opposition groups have criticized the development for its perceived environmental and cultural impacts, even bringing about a lawsuit against Honokea, the company behind the development. They have also circulated a petition that has thus far garnered 700 signatures. 

However, when reached for comment, Honokea pushed back against the claims of environmental harm and confirmed that their project timeline is still on track. Following an environmental assessment approval last spring, the project is currently in the permitting process and scheduled to open to the public in 2026.

The $106-million project coined as “Honokea West,” is centered around a surf park that utilizes Wavegarden technology. Set to be built in Kalaeloa on Oahu’s west side, it will be the first wave pool in Hawaii to feature a “traveling” wave, after the Lineup at Wai Kai, a standing wave, was the first surf park to open on the island in March of 2023. In addition to the wave pool, the project plans include an adventure lagoon, rock climbing, a skatepark, beach volleyball, exercise areas, food and beverage, a surfboard design facility, 400 parking spaces, and areas for Hawaiian cultural practices and education. 

In a recent press conference, the local opposition groups underlined their concerns about the development’s environmental impact. Their worries stem from the seven-million gallons of potable water that the pool will require during a water crisis in Oahu, injection wells utilized on the site that could taint ground water and nearby shorelines with pool chemicals, and the removal of natural habitat that includes sacred burial sites. 

Honokea rebutted the accusations that they will harm the groundwater, saying that “there is no merit to (that) claim.” They also clarified that they “will not be using harmful chemicals to treat (their) water, and any injection wells, if built, are closely monitored by the state and federal government.”

Honokea was cofounded by famed Hawaiian waterman, Brian Keaulana. On the website, he released a statement to address the opposition. 

“As a descendant of generations of native Hawaiian surfers and watermen, I am disappointed by the misguided accusations being levied against Honokea West,” said Keaulana. “This project is motivated by my ohana’s love for the ‘āina (land), kai (ocean) and our people. Honokea West will integrate Hawaiian values into every aspect of our guest experience and will share our surfing traditions and values.”

“We are aware of our island’s water concerns and will be integrating conservation into our operations,” Keaulana added. “The project site in Kalaeloa has been in disrepair for decades. We’ve met with a number of Hawaiian cultural advisors and conducted extensive archaeological and environmental studies to ensure that we protect and mālama (care for) the site… For far too long, surfing has made advancements on the backs of our Hawaiian culture. Honokea West will expand the world’s understanding about surfing and reinforce the inextricable tie between surfing and Hawaiian culture and values.”

Honokea estimates that the park will attract 300,000 to 400,000 visitors annually and will require 200 full-time employees. They also have addressed several claims by the opposition on their website, saying that no protected plant or animal species were found on the site and they have identified two potential “pre-contact structures” on the land that are still being studied and would be preserved as required.

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