Oahu’s North Shore is known for its monster-size waves. But officials with the Department of Land and Natural Resources believe it’s the swell direction, and not the size of the surf, that’s causing severe erosion to beachfront homes.
"Too much north swell and not enough large west swell to bring the sand back and fill in this puka, which would essentially solve the erosion problem,” said Sam Lemmo, administrator of DLNR's Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands.
Currently, six to eight shoreline homes between Rocky Point and Sunset Beach are threatened by the erosion, which Lemmo called “unprecedented.” A house belonging to professional surfer Fred Patachhia Jr. appears to be suffering the brunt of Mother Nature’s battering ram. On Sunday, a pool that had been filled in several years ago gave way, and half of it fell onto the beach below.
On Monday, Lemmo and a geologist with the University of Hawaii’s Sea Grant College Program surveyed the area and spoke with some of the homeowners.
"We're just here to really kind of try to assess the matter and talk to some homeowners, give them some comfort (and) maybe see if we can come up with some ideas on some short-term solutions," said Lemmo.
Although swell direction is the likely culprit of the erosion, some longtime Sunset Beach residents believe the city’s annual bulldozing of sand may have exacerbated the problem.
"I think we need to reconsider moving sand because it affects the way the waves break, it affects the coastline and ultimately nature's going to take its course. If we try to sway that course, somebody else is going to deal with the brunt of it," said Liam McNamara, a professional surfer who has lived near Rocky Point for the past 20 years.
According to city spokesperson Jay Parasco, a bulldozer is used to move sand in the Sunset Beach area every summer after first obtaining a permit from DLNR. Parasco said sand was last moved in June or July, and it’s a matter of moving it from high points along the shoreline to low points.
“For years and years they’ve moved sand from Pipeline; they move it here, they move it there,” said McNamara. "But at the end of the day when they move it, it’s going to affect another area."
For now, the best solution may be Mother Nature herself. A more westerly swell is expected to hit the North Shore on Saturday.
"Hopefully this will all come together and at least the situation will stabilize,” said Lemmo. “I hope it doesn't get worse."