Catherine “Kiki” Kornreich

Looking out over the Pacific, from my lanai, I inhaled a deep breath and took in all of the wonder and beauty of the Oahu coastline. Ahhhh, this was paradise.

I was astonished at how many surfers were huddled around a dark reef, each waiting for their turn. I tried to count them, but like fish in a pond, they kept moving.

The cluster in front of me had at least 150 sitting or lying on their longboards and looking out to sea, awaiting the perfect wave. Or maybe gazing at the beautiful dark-skinned buns perched on the neighboring board (if it weren’t for the little tortilla chip patch of fabric on their lower back, you’d swear the ladies were naked).

Below me were three surfboard kiosks, each with 25-50 boards for rent. As the day progressed, the stacks of boards diminished, and the number of beginners increased.

The warm tropical water whispered my name, so I joined the other folks bobbing in the shallow surf. I kept finding myself in the direct path of those beginning surfers who had no control of their boards. Fearing decapitation, I wandered back to my room, head safely perched atop my shoulders.
I was in Waikiki, nestled between all of the other high-rise hotels that dot the shore.
The tourism has gotten crazier than ever in Hawaii, kinda like we’ve been experiencing on the Estero Bay. And I couldn’t help but wonder how the locals felt.

Commiserating with a few shop owners in Hawaii, I found that they were thrilled the tourists were back, and that the economy took a terrifying hit during the international quarantines. The bed taxes help pay for their infrastructure and without it, state employees were getting laid off and businesses where shuttering, like every other community on the planet.

“We love having you guys here,” one shop owner told me. “We’ve missed you.” I told her about one of my earlier trips here, when a kama’aina (local) yelled at me, “Haole (visitor), go home!” She said, “Oh, that won’t happen anymore! Those boys who wanted their beaches to themselves? They’ve realized they suddenly had all of the beaches to themselves …and were very unemployed.”
Here in Morro Bay, I have friends who sit out on their boards, having to jockey for the killer wave, and then get cut off by some kid who’s visiting with his family.

We’ve all watched as our quaint little beaches have been overtaken by families trying to escape the Virus, break out of their quarantines and escape the heat. We’ve bashed them on the Nextdoor app: their trash, their unmasked faces, their radical driving habits. And now that there’s more freedom to get out, not being able to get tables at our favorite restaurants.

I don’t have a retail business in Morro Bay, but I have many friends who do and their struggles were palpable.
It used to be the weekends, holidays and summer that brought the influx, now it’s pretty constant. But we’re adapting. We’re learning to open our arms to visitors, and to be grateful for their contributions to our economy. To maybe drive a little farther for a parking space, to walk the beach earlier in the morning. Maybe to help that kid on a surfboard…remembering that we were once beginners.

We all enjoy getting away and visiting other towns, states, countries. And then we are the tourists. Hopefully we’re wearing our masks, picking up our trash, and doing our best to be conscientious drivers.

I empathize with those little Hawaiian businesses, and do my best to be kind and thoughtful when I’m in their backyard. And I see plenty of people visit the Estero Bay who treat it with kindness and respect.

We may not be Hawaii, but like it or not we live in a county that people love to visit.
We are blessed to live in paradise. And paradise belongs to everyone.
Aloha.

Catherine “Kiki” Kornreich is a member of The BookShelf Writers. To see more of her work, please visit www.thebookshelfwriters.com