City emphasizes danger of popular Waikiki swimming spot after football player seriously injured

After a recent injury, the city is warning people about the dangers of jumping off a groin in Waikiki.

On Saturday, University of Hawaii football player Kalepo Naotala was seriously injured while diving off Kapahulu Groin, also known as Waikiki Walls.

Sources say the Virginia native dove in head-first and injured his spine.

Both the city and a physician says this happens a lot, so what can be done to minimize the risk?

Waikiki Walls is a popular place to jump off of, despite the numerous warnings signs.

We went out to the groin on Monday and found dozens of people jumping into the water.

“We have very shallow reef areas with some deep holes in between, and those holes in between are not real big, and so if you miss, you are going to hit the shallow reef area,” said Jim Howe, director of the city Department of Emergency Services.

Even visitors who are unfamiliar with the area are jumping off, because they see everybody else doing the same.

“Everybody who lives here is doing it, so we kind of wanted to try it,” said Corey Newton, who was visiting from Australia.

“I’m going to be here for a week, so might as well get in all the kicks I can,” said Jonathan Sebacher, who was visiting from Missouri.

“Does it look dangerous to you?” KHON2 asked.

“No, not really,” he replied. “I’ve seen all these other people jump and they seem fine.”

Diving and jumping off the groin is not allowed, but the city does not have enough resources to monitor that area, so they’re asking for help.

“If you see someone that is not familiar with coming to one of these areas, like the Kapahulu Groin, and you don’t think they understand, please take the time to stop your activity, and go up and help them,” Howe said.

The state reported five incidents resulting in spinal cord injuries near Waikiki Walls over a seven-year period.

“There may be some deep areas or shallow areas they’re not sure where to jump, and they hit their head, or if they jump feet first, they can break their back or break their neck,” said Dr. Howie Klemmer, emergency medical chief at Queen’s Medical Center. “If you’re not sure, don’t do it. People can ruin the rest of their lives and become paraplegic or quadriplegic.”

“With any type of body of water, you have to know what is on the bottom, so before you jump, you want to know what you are jumping into,” Howe said.

The city has also been checking social media and recently found an advertisement hosting a belly flop contest there. Officials called the organizers, and they’ve since canceled the event.

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