Huge swell saves homes threatened by erosion, changes beaches

Local News

The biggest swell of the season has come and gone with another one on the way next week.

The massive swell changing the landscape at several North Shore beaches in just three days.

The swell arrived Sunday, peaking up to 45 feet in certain spots before dying down on Thursday. 

The rocks at Ke Iki were blanketed by mounds of sand up until Tuesday. Today, those same rocks, once five feet below the sand, now sit exposed.

“It’s a huge change from what we had the past few weeks. It’s very rare. We actually had a little bit of a beach out there, and I’m told that hasn’t happened in 15 years,” said North Shore resident Lukas Kalvaitis.

“There was so much sand over there. Nobody I talked to had ever seen it before built up to that extent. It was very unusual,” said Chip Fletcher, University of Hawaii professor of earth sciences. 

Mother Nature showed how much sand was naturally moved across the Seven-Mile Miracle, including in front of homes at Ehukai. 

Last month people couldn’t even walk in front of the lifeguard tower. On Thursday, the beach reached about 50 yards out. It’s a huge change from September and October when the sand erosion began with all the sand being pushed toward Ke Iki Beach. 

Nearby homeowners are in complete awe over how much sand moved from the massive swell.

“I was blown away first off that that much sand can be moved around. That’s like metric tons of sand,” said one homeowner. 

Homeowners worried what the first big swell of the season would do. Luckily, the direction was in their favor, and another westerly swell is expected next week.

“Next week, around Wednesday, it’s expected for west-northwest, which is like the dream direction, and we’re looking to get more sand moved directly in front of our house,” the homeowner said. 

Fletcher, a sand erosion expert, says the tarps could be giving homeowners a false sense of security. 

“The tarps, they protected the homes, but they also in addition to that prevented the beach from accessing sand that it needs in order to stay in equilibrium with the rising ocean,” he said. “Those tarps are buying you some time. It’s not as if you’re going through a temporary window of erosion here, and when you come out the other side everything will be the way it was historically.”

“When we come out of the other side of this season, and next winter, and the winter after that, this whole line will want to continue move landward,” Fletcher added. “Sea level rise is inevitable. Shoreline retreat is inevitable, and it is inevitable that their homes will continue to be highly vulnerable in the coming years.”

As for safety, lifeguards reported dozens of surf rescues during the huge swell. 

“We probably tallied over 60 rescues, mostly surfers in distress at Waimea Bay,” said Lt. Kerry Atwood, North Shore Ocean Safety. “Everybody made it. We didn’t have to send anyone to the hospital or call Emergency Medical Services on anyone. It’s pretty amazing.”

Ocean Safety has since removed most of the caution tape from beaches. We’ll keep you posted if beaches are closed with the next approaching swell.

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