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Captain Offers Clarification on Jet Ski Safety

May 23, 2013
Captain Theo King - Pacific Jet Sports Inc. , Maui Weekly

As the owner-operator of Pacific Jet Sports Inc., a personal watercraft rental business on Maui, I'd like an opportunity to respond to some recent letters, and some misconceptions about our business.

We have been in business since 1982. It is our mission to operate a safe, fun business for all.

A boating accident occurred on December 29, 2011, as William Kalanikai "Uncle Billy" Gonzales was preparing regatta lanes in Lahaina for high school paddling crew practice. This unfortunate accident occurred in the ocean fronting Hanakao'o Beach Park. Gonzales was hit by a propeller from a recreational boat and was critically wounded. At this time, jet ski businesses were closed due to the whale season ban (Dec. 15 to May 15) on all personal watercraft.

We feel for his family, friends as well as Maui's close paddling community.

At Hanakao'o Beach Park, no vessels are allowed to be fronting the shoreline of the beach park. For 33 years, Pacific Jet Sports has been located on Southside of Ka'anapali, beachside of the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa. Any commercial water sports boating must use the ingress-egress boat-loading zone in front of Hyatt's beach center.

We pick up customers using a small inflatable boat, which is operated by licensed captains. We have an additional shoreline employee to watch and assure safe loading. In this zone, boats have a no-wake speed regulation of 5 mph. This loading zone is 100 feet wide and extends 300 feet offshore.

In the 32 years of jet ski operation, we have never had a citation, and thankfully never had a boating injury. During the high north swells, all the charter sailing boats in Ka'anapali use this same area to load.

We have a platform over a quarter-mile offshore where we train and start the personal watercraft rentals. Jet skis are not to be operated anywhere near the beach, but only in open ocean toward Lana'i. It is the job of our instructors to monitor our rentals to operate safely and keep them away from the coastline.

In 1980s, Ka'anapali Beach fronting the Hyatt had eight commercial water sport businesses--two catamaran sailboats, (Kieli IV and Dejvu), a parasail business (Parasail Maui), a sailing center (South Bay), a water-ski company, (Lahaina Water-ski), and two jet ski companies, (Pacific Jet Sports and Island Jet Ski). The total number of jobs was over 40.

Today, 32 years later, there is only one jet ski company, one parasail company, a standup paddleboard company and a diving center. Two of the businesses are only active seven months of the year. This generated a loss of 25 good jobs for locals.

Commercial boating in this area has drastically decreased over 30 years. Back in the 1980s, the Hyatt beach used to be a 100-foot-wide, beautiful sandy beach. In 2013, that same beach is only 20 feet wide with brown sand littered with boulders.

Today, personnel watercrafts use a four-stroke motor--the cleanest, quietest engine on the water. The same type of engine used in Honda Civics is used in our Honda jet ski.

To compare today's watercraft to yesterday's watercraft is like comparing the iPad to the big desktop towers of the '80s.

Sound travels underwater 1,500 meters per second and in air 340 meters per second. Jet propulsion is the quietest motorized vessel and has no propeller in the water. Jet propulsion is safe for whales, dolphins and people. You simply cannot get cut with jet because it is water. Jet propulsion should be embraced, not banned.

Let's keep this in perspective. Our boats and skis do not come in to Hanakao'o Beach Park. We have a lot of local customers and we offer a 30 percent discount to residents. Visitors enjoy what we offer, making wonderful memories of Maui.

We are family-run businesses with 10 employees who have their own families. It's our duty to run a safe and respectful business, and we been doing it for 33 years. We are always trying to improve our activities for everyone.



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