Surf school bid deadline postponed

  • Visitors learn to surf at Kahaluu Bay. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Parks and Recreation Business Manager Reid Sewake, left, Deputy Corporation Council J Yoshimoto and Cindi Punihaole of the Kohala Center listen to stakeholders about the bidding process for surf schools at Kahaluu Bay Feb. 1 at the West Hawaii Civic Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Visitors learn to surf at Kahaluu Bay. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — After two meetings left local business owners with more questions than answers about the proposed surf school regulations, the county has postponed a looming deadline to bid on doing business at Kahaluu Bay.

A new date for the bid submission deadline hasn’t been set.

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An official with the Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation said the department and nonprofit managing the program that would limit surf school operations at the bay, “will revisit and revise” the invitation for bid.

The move pushes back a Feb. 20 deadline for surf schools to submit bids to be among four that will be permitted to operate at Kahaluu Beach Park under a program to be managed by The Kohala Center.

The Kohala Center was selected by the county to manage the program through a separate bid process.

Under the program, the permitted surf schools would be selected through a competitive bidding process with a minimum fee of $3,000 a month.

In an email to stakeholders, Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation business manager Reid Sewake said the county and The Kohala Center plan to “revisit and revise” the invitation for bids, which outlines the program specifications and bid submission procedures.

Changes, Sewake said, will be sent to potential bidders as an addendum and posted on The Kohala Center’s website.

“We’re going to take another look at it,” said Barbara Kossow, deputy managing director for the mayor’s office.

Kossow said there have been comments and concerns coming from the community about the proposal to limit surf schools at the beach, “so we want to make sure we cover those concerns.”

Kossow said the director of the Department of Parks and Recreation is going to meet with representatives of The Kohala Center, and there will be possibly another update next week.

Cindi Punihaole, director of Kahaluu Bay Education Center, a project of The Kohala Center, referred questions to the county.

Ben Callaghan, who runs Kahaluu Bay Surf and Sea, welcomed the announcement, saying it was a sign officials had listened and recognized flaws in the proposal. He also gave kudos to Hawaii Lifeguard Surf Instructors, a local surf school, for its grassroots advocacy on the issue, and acknowledged the community’s response to the proposal.

Callaghan said the regulations as proposed, which include designating a surf school concession area mauka of Waikua‘a‘ala pond, would burden the park’s resources and lead to visitors feeling hassled.

“If they’re regulating surf schools, that’s not the way to do it,” he said.

Wesley Moore, owner of Kona Town Surf Adventures, also welcomed the news, saying he’d next like to see officials bring surf schools to the table and get their input before crafting new rules and regulations.

“If they’re going to sit down and try to come up with something new, they really have to include the surf schools,” he said.

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Earlier this week a petition addressed to the Parks and Rec director and elected officials started circulating, urging them to postpone the proposal.

As of Thursday afternoon, 1,136 people had signed the online petition.