Waikiki shoreline holds up against pounding surf

File photo Waikiki Beach

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It’s being called an epic southern storm and it’s generating some of the best surf seen on Oahu’s south shore in 30 years.

“The beach is doing very well,” University of Hawaii Professor of Geology and Geophysics Chip Fletcher said.

Fletcher is keeping a close eye on the Waikiki shoreline.

“It’s a good way to monitor the beach,” Fletcher said.

A digital camera mounted high above the Sheraton Waikiki produces a photograph of the shoreline every hour.

“We’ve been watching, monitoring the digital cameras. We’ve been down and visited the beach a couple of times. There is some erosion but it’s relatively minor,” Fletcher said.

The camera is one of many features on the Pacific Islands Observing System — a federally funded project that uses a network of ocean monitoring locations across the country.

In this case, it’s helping researchers monitor the effect of this potent south swell.

“You can see a shallow area building up here and people wading out on it. They’re only knee-deep here,” Fletcher said. “Much of this will be transported back and whatever erosion takes place during the high swell event today and yesterday will be prepared naturally.”

It was just over two years ago, when 24,000 cubic yards of sand were pumped in from offshore to replenish and widen Waikiki Beach by about 37 feet.

Fletcher says the nourishment project was designed with recognition that erosion would take place and future sand replacement may be necessary, but right now — despite this monster swell — erosion has been minor.

“This is the first time we’ve done this. We’re all watching it carefully. There’s going to be a lot of lessons learned and thus far in this swell event it seems to be holding up,” Fletcher said.

Technology, with the help of a bird’s-eye view, is lending a helping hand.

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