DLNR: Party on, but do it responsibly

Waikiki 'Floatopia' party to continue

Published  10:28 PM HST Mar 14, 2013
Waikiki Fourth of July Flotilla

The Department of Land and Natural Resources is walking back from a threat last summer to ban offshore parties in Waikiki known as floatopias or flotillas. The parties feature hundreds of people who paddle out on just about anything that floats, and then tie off to each other.

"It usually starts off with a couple of boats getting together, and then rafts and everyone start tying off to each other and jumping from rafts to boats," explains Aaron Rosenblatt, who has taken part in the festivities the past five years. "It's a lot of fun."

Discussions to outlaw the blowouts began last summer after the annual Fourth of July flotilla off Kuhio Beach attracted hundreds of people, some who had to be assisted back to shore through five foot surf. City lifeguards estimated 175 to 200 party-goers were brought to the beach on water craft, some who were noticeably intoxicated. The incident prompted a meeting a few days later between various stakeholders concerned about the situation, including representatives from the Honolulu Police Department, the city's Ocean Safety Division and DLNR.

In an email to KITV4, spokeswoman Deborah Ward said DLNR would consider all available options to bring some level of control to future waterborne parties, but administrative rule changes are not being considered at this time.

"As long as the party-goers are not disturbing others or putting themselves at risk, and are operating their vessels in a safe manner, there's no need for the state to get involved," wrote Ward. However, Ward said conservation officers would keep a close watch over the parties, making sure boat operators are not drunk, or driving in a reckless manner.

Meanwhile, the head of the city's Ocean Safety Division, Jim Howe, said lifeguards would also take extra precautions during the offshore celebrations.

"Ocean Safety remains committed to working cooperatively and effectively with the Department of Land and Natural Resources to keep our waters safe," Howe wrote in an email.

Kahi Pacarro, of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, welcomed DLNR's approach. Members of Pacarro's non-profit group, including Rosenblatt, partake in the annual Independence Day festivities, while also gathering trash offshore.

"I appreciate that," Pacarro said of DLNR's decision. "I hope that they're seeing that we're trying to be responsible with this event; that it's been going on for a long time, and it's a tradition at this point."

Pacarro insists many of those who were assisted back to shore on July 4 were simply taking advantage of a free ride.

"Lifeguards were coming out there with their jet skis," he said. "If you were to ask anybody that had to swim in almost a mile into shore if they wanted a ride, of course they're going to say, 'yes.'"

But Waikiki beach boy Rob Siock says more than a few of the revelers who were assisted to the beach were showing clear signs of being overly intoxicated.

"A lot of people that couldn't handle their time out there, and a little too excessive drinking," said Siock. "As soon as they came in, just boards all over the beach, and not handling their liquor too well."

Meanwhile, spring break is already underway in Waikiki, with mainland college students arriving daily. Already, an online message board is promoting a floatopia party at 11 a.m. on March 29. One message reads, "Location will be given closer to the date through messages, so we don't get our party ruined by the cops so fast."

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