Pay per wave: Native Hawaiians divided over artificial surf lagoon in the birthplace of surfing

May 29, 2023  -EWA BEACH, Hawaii (AP) — Brian Keaulana is the quintessential Native Hawaiian waterman, well-known in Hawaii and beyond for his deep understanding of the ocean, gifted with surfing and lifeguarding skills passed down from his big-wave rider father.

Now, as one of the islands’ standard-bearers of surfing, Keaulana wants to further boost the sport in his homeland by building an artificial wave pool just down the road from the beach — a spot where competitive surfers could always be guaranteed the perfect breaks that are sometimes elusive in nature.

The bold proposal has made waves in Hawaii, particularly among some Native Hawaiians, and raised questions about how a modern-day sport followed by millions worldwide fits into the cultural legacy of islanders who have been riding waves for millennia.

The project has landed in court and reflects the unease some Native Hawaiians feel about the commercialization of what long has been a cultural touchstone.

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