Maui Discussion

LETTER: Thrill Craft Biz Not to Blame for “Uncle Billy’s” Death

May 15, 2013, 2:00 PM HST
* Updated May 17, 9:32 AM
Listen to this Article
4 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

By Theo King, Kihei


A 1982 photo of the beach by the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Ka'anapali. Photo courtesy of Theo King.

A 1982 photo of the beach by the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Ka’anapali – it’s a completely different scene for ocean craft in 2013, says King (see 2013 photo below). Photo courtesy of Theo King.

As the owner operator of Pacific Jet Sports, Inc. I’d like an opportunity to respond to some recent letters, and some misconception 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, as William Kalanikai “Uncle Billy” Gonzales was preparing regatta lanes in Lahaina for high school paddling crews to practice on.


This unfortunate accident occurred on the ocean fronting Hanakao’o Beach Park. William Kalanikai was hit by a prop from a recreational boat and was critically wounded.


(Editor’s note: opposing view for boating in this area can be found here and in the Related Stories section below it.)

At this time the jet ski business was 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, PERIOD. For 33 years Pacific Jet Sports has been located on southside of Kaanapali, beachside of the Hyatt Hotel.


Any commercial water sports boating must use the ingress- egress boat-loading zone in front of Hyatt Hotel 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 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 Kaanapali use this same area to load.

The beach by the Hyatt Regency today in 2013. Photo courtesy of Theo King.

The beach by the Hyatt Regency today in 2013. Photo courtesy of Theo King.

We have a platform over a quarter mile off shore were we train and start the personal watercraft rentals. Jet skis are NOT to be operated anywhere near the beach but only in open ocean towards Lanai. It is the job of our instructors to monitor our rentals to operate safely and keep them away from the coastline.

In the 1980s, Kaanapali Beach fronting the Hyatt had eight commercial water sport businesses. 2 Catamaran sailboats, (Kieli IV and Dejvu), a parasail business (Parasail Maui), a sailing center (South Bay), a water-ski company, (Lahaina Water-ski), and 2 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 stand up paddleboard company, and a diving center. Two of the businesses are only active seven months of the year! A loss of 25 good jobs for locals. Commercial boating in this area has drastically decreased over 30 years. The Hyatt Regency beach back in the 1980s used to be a 100-foot wide beautiful sandy beach. In 2013 that same beach is only 20-feet wide with brown sand and littered with river boulders.

Today’s personnel watercrafts use a 4-stroke motor, the cleanest, quietest engine on the water. The same engine in our Honda jet ski is in the Honda Civic. To compare today’s watercraft to yesterday’s watercraft is like comparing the iPad to the big desktop of the 80s. Or cell phones.

Sound travels underwater at 1500 meters per second; in air 340 meters per second. Jet propulsion is the quietest motorized vessel, no prop in the water. Jet propulsion is safe for whales, dolphins and people. You simply cannot get cut up with jet (water) period. 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 (we offer a 30% discount to residents).

The tourists enjoy what we offer, making wonderful memories of Maui. We are family run businesses, we ourselves employee 10 people that have their own families. Our duty is to run a safe and respectful business, and we been doing it for 33 years. We are always trying to improve our activity for everyone.

Send letters to [email protected] – include your full name, town, and clearly state your issue. Ideal word length is 500 words; if your issue is a brief response to a published article, please leave a comment in the area below. We will not publish overly brief letters.

Make the most of your Maui vacation with these top-rated activities: Maui Top 20: Maui Visitor & Tourism Information
E-Mail Newsletters Receive daily or weekly updates via e-mail. Subscribe Now
News Alerts Breaking news alerts on your mobile device. Get the App


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Maui Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments