Saturday, December 7, 2013

Goodbye Kitty Bob

We are saddened to report the passing of our friend and dive-shop mascot Kitty Bob, on this day the 7th of December 2013. Oh Bob, who appeared mysteriously one day already missing his tail (and keeping mum as to how), you wormed your way into all of our hearts: Staff, crew, customers, and random Kawaihae-visiting shoppers, campers, and paddlers. Somehow friendlier than the other Kawaihae cats (or perhaps just confident? Insistent? Fearless?) he had no fear of us and would just walk calmly through the front door, setting off the doorway buzzer. He would meow for food and a bowl of cold, filtered water. And he would get it! Satiated, he would jump up onto the newly windexed glass counter and promptly bathe himself atop a divers halfway-filled-out liability paperwork. He favored nap spots in display windows, or freshly folded shirts. Last week he made a quite comfortable bed in the fluffy cotton "snow" in our Christmas window.
Bob had his active times, too! Did you ever see him run up a palm tree? Quite a fast and lithe ascent. A few days ago we watched him stalk and capture a green gecko, parading off with its limbs protruding from his Cheshire grin.
Non-divers would often stop in, year after year, to see how Kitty Bob was doing. Children liked to guess about how he lost his tail (Drunken bar fight, Shark attack, Lost a bet, jealous kitty girlfriend...) and each tail tale could have been the truth. Fishermen stated that Bob knew how to read the fish flags, appearing at top speed if it was an Ahi flag, and more leisurely if it was "just" a lesser fish. That was our fish snob! After his snacks of fish trimmings, Bob liked to refresh himself with a drink of water straight from the hose, or to the delight of divers, by jumping aboard the Kohala Diver and drinking straight out of the Mask/Camera buckets! He never took us up on the offer of going to sea, preferring, I think, the free trimmings brought back to him in tribute.
Oh mysterious Bob, telling no tales, moodily swiping at kids, leaving cat hair on merchandise and legal paperwork alike. You made us crazy! But you also reminded us, every day, that no matter your history or the strain of your nightly toils, one can find a warm spot of sun, a beautiful view, a bite of fish from a friend, and a family to adopt you, to love you, and to cry at your passing. Wishes for fishes in kitty heaven to you. We will miss you, Kitty Bob.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Baby Monk Seal Born at Keokea Beach!

The night of Monday, November 11th, a KDL staffer got a frantic call. "There is monk seal at Keokea and she doesn't look good. I think she is sick. What do we do?" Turns out she wasn't sick: She was in labor! A healthy wrinkled black pup was born to the seal, a young female herself only born in 2008.
Over the past days, volunteers have gathered to protect the mum and pup, visitors have flocked to take photos, and the Kohala community has come together to welcome the new addition to this gravely endangered species.

Photo by our very own Scott Rettig, photographer extraordinaire!

Some Frequently Asked Questions:

 What is a "Monk Seal"? And why should we care?
The Hawaiian Monk Seal is an endemic species to Hawaii, meaning it is native to this area and not found elsewhere in the world. It is an endangered species protected by Hawaii State law, the Marine Mammal protection act, and the Endangered species act. There are only about 1000 seals in all of Hawaii (Northwestern chain and main islands) and the population declines by about 4% a year.
 For more about Monk Seals, check out the NOAA Monk Seal Homepage. 

What should I do if I see a Monk Seal?
Please observe from a distance. Report the sighting to NOAA, as they can use all the data they can get. The NOAA site to report a seal is here: Report a Monk Seal Sighting. Please remember that the ropes and rules are there to protect both you and the seal. Seals can be aggressive or defensive towards you and your pets, and interactions with humans can change their behavior and threaten their mating habits and survival. If you are in the water, please exit the area and try not to interact.

I want to surf at Keokea. How long will the pup be there?
It is estimated that the pup will be there with it's mom for about 7 weeks. During that time, the mama seal won't leave the pup to feed, so she will gradually lose weight. She is a small and young mother to begin with, so there is some concern for her safety. Meanwhile, the nursing pup will get fatter and fatter, oftentimes out-growing it's mom. The pup will lose it's wrinkly appearance as it plumps, then gradually will change out it's black fur for the silvery brown. Surfers and users of the park have been entering the water to the left, over the rocks, which is more dangerous, but possible. The park is roped off near the seal, and closes entirely at 7pm.

What are some of the threats against Monk Seals?
Monk Seals as a population are threatened by habitat and food source loss, entanglement, human interaction, along with some horrific recent killings by humans by gunshot wounds. Less than 1 pup in 5 makes it to reproductive age. Keokea pup has already been threatened by an aggressive male attempting to mate with its mother. More about threats to the seal can be found here: Population and Threats to Monk Seals.

I heard that Monk Seals eat their weight daily in the same fish fisherman are going after. Is this true?
No. The seals only eat about 5% of their body weight a day, and they forage for many types of fish. There are only about 150 seals in the main Hawaiian islands, so their impact to competitive fish species is minimal. More about myths here: Myths and Facts about Monk Seals.

Can I see a Monk Seal underwater if I dive with Kohala Divers?
Haha. We wish. There are very very few Monk Seals on the Big Island to begin with. This is why we are so excited by the new pup in Kohala. Underwater sightings are very rare: In the past 7 years we have seen them maybe three times. Following the laws and NOAA's rules, we can not interact with them, and must end the dive, exit the water, and move to another site. We must all do our part to limit the human interactions that threaten the seals. But we can promise you all sorts of other awesome sights if you come diving with us!

Finally, if you want to be more involved, NOAA has a site for What You Can Do to Help the Hawaiian Monk Seal.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Whales Are Back! (Early!)

On October 29th, our divers aboard the Kohala Diver saw our first Humpback whale of the year! We then saw him (presumably) two more days. This video was taken aboard the Kohala Diver on November first.
Here is a link to a West Hawaii Today Article  about the recent sightings.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Top Ten List of Dry-Dock Activities: New for 2013!

Our beautiful and trusty boat just spent a week in dry-dock, where she got all shined up with a few improvements. But what did our beautiful and trusty staff get up to while we were pining for boat diving? A New-For-2013 List:

#10) Vacation. Exotic vacation in beautiful Bali, with gorgeous photos of underwater exploits (presumably from a boat... fickle harlots on someone else's boat! The shame!). We place this as number 10 because we are super jealous. And bitter. Jealousy is also why we just called them fickle harlots. Sorry about that. (Not.)

#9) Dry dock. Yes, Captains Stephen, Bob and Greg inhaled fiberglass while scraping, sanding, painting and toiling away in the hot, dry sun of Kona to make the Kohala Diver beautiful. (This is not ninth most awesome. We just placed it here so that the Bali-bound staff members above ~fickle harlots!~ will feel really really guilty and bring Captains Stephen, Bob and Greg fetching sarongs or something.)

#8) Tattoos. Always a dry-dock activity. You will never guess who and you will never guess where and you can probably guess what!

#7) Tent sale! Our first (annual?) dry-dock tent sale took up some parking lot space and featured an actual tent! Along with wonderful deals on new and used gear. Check in the shop because we still have some of these items for sale prices.

#6) Planned a wedding! Did you know Captain Stephen and Captain Laura can officiate at your wedding? Wicked Awesome!

#5) PADI classes in the pool! This week we had plenty of classes using our gorgeous and distracting pool: Discover Scuba Diving, Open Water, Scuba Review, and Emergency First Response Instructor Training! (Okay, that last one wasn't in the pool.) We think all academic work from now forward should take place in the hot tub. Would you find quiz-taking distracting in a hot tub?

#4) Other hobbies. Wait? We have other hobbies besides diving?!?! Who knew? This week saw some dry photography (the best way to get to know your camera for quick underwater changes), roller derby, gourmet cooking, reading, motorcycling, tv watching, origami, and knitting. Yeah, we were bored.

#3) Gear repair. We did tank visual inspections! Hydros! Inspected and replaced o-rings! Added Atomic swivels to our personal regulator 2nd stages! Patched wetsuit holes! Cleaned all the masks! And of course, dutifully made sure our dive logs were up to date! (Maybe that last one was just me...)

#2) Testing new gear! Dry dock is the perfect time to try out new fins, spring straps, booties, thinner suits, and compasses. After all, these are the perfect shore diving tools. (Change your buckle-back fin straps to the assorted spring straps we have in the shop. There is no going back to buckle-backs!)

Which brings us to the Number One Kohala Diver Crew Dry-Dock Activity of 2013- You guessed it:
#1) Shore diving. You didn't think we would let ourselves dry out, did you? This week we covered miles of shoreline and hit some Kohala Coast spots we never get to by boat. We were accompanied by our enthusiastic, hard-core, and often very brave divers who were willing to get sand in their booties and endure long surface swims. We were rewarded by turtles, dolphins, rays, lionfish, and nudibranches galore. But the best rewards were the friendships gained from shared experience. Take THAT you Bali-vacationing defectors!

But with all that, we are so happy our glorious boat is back. We are spoiled rotten and lucky we live in Hawai'i. Please welcome her back with a dive?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

September is International Coastal Cleanup Month!

One rubber chicken, 117 mattresses, 4,159 candles, and 689,274 utensils. What do all of these things have in common?  They’re all marine debris collected last September at the Ocean Conservancy’s 2012 International Coastal Cleanup®, sponsored in part by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.  The numbers are in: more than 550,000 volunteers came together to collect 10 million pounds of marine debris.  In the United States, volunteers found enough bottles that, when stacked end to end, equal the height of 1,000 Empire State Buildings. That’s a lot of trash on our beaches and in our waterways!
This litter is threatening our marine environment, economy, and health, and the problem will only get worse unless we change the way we consume and dispose of products. There are solutions, and we can prevent litter from ending up in the ocean.
So here’s a challenge: the next time you use a throw-away item - a bag, bottle, or utensil - answer the question, “Where is it going?” How will you keep your items from becoming litter in our oceans, rivers, and streams?
You can also help by participating in one of our local Coastal Cleanup Days this month.  For more than a quarter of a century, volunteers from all over the world have gathered every year along coastlines and waterways to participate in the International Coastal Cleanup®. Many walk, while others set out on boats. Thousands more don scuba gear (our favorite method) to seek trash below the water’s surface.  This Saturday, September 21st, is the official International Coastal Cleanup Day, where you can head down to our beautiful Puako shoreline and help clean up there.  Please contact Cynthia Ho at for more details on this event.  This year's theme is "Get the Drift and Bag It!".  Kohala Divers and Kohala Coast Dive Club will be holding another cleanup the following Saturday, September 28th at Kawaihae Surf Park/LSV Landing here in Kawaihae.  Divers, snorkelers, walkers and helpers of all ages are welcome to join in and gather up rubbish from the ocean and the beach park.  Kohala Divers will offer free air fills or tank rental and 50% off our gear rental for any divers who wish to participate.  After all our hard work, please join us for a delicious potluck lunch and relax and talk story with your fellow cleanup crew members.  Give us a call at the shop at 808-882-7774 for more details or to sign up. You can help make a difference and turn the tide on ocean trash.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Finally Trying Some New Gear

Working in a dive shop, we get to see new innovations in gear on a regular basis. Every once in a while, even though I am surrounded by great new gear, I realize I have been using the same style equipment for years. When one gets great gear to start with it does last a long time.

Yesterday, however, I decided to try out some completely new products just to see what has changed. First up was the new Seawing Nova full foot fins just released from Scubapro.  I have been using the Twin Jets from Scubapro for about 12 years and am pretty passionate about how much I love them. My first pair of fins as a diver were the "blades" from U.S. Divers, so when I got my first split fin it really made me realize that those blades were simply glorified two by fours strapped to my feet. The Twin Jets gave great power with very minimal effort and swimming long distances or for a long time in them is an absolute breeze. I definitely relegated myself to the split fin crowd.

When the Seawing Nova was released as a buckle back I was tempted to try them because they are so different. Not a blade, not a split? I have to admit: I am a spoiled boat diver, so the idea of dealing with a boot is too much for my pampered dive style. When they finally came out with the full foot style for us warm water lovers I had to give them a spin. They do run big in size. My women's size 9 1/2 foot fit perfectly in the size small. The foot pocket on dry land feels a bit rigid and stiff but as soon as I got in the water with them it was so soft, there was no rubbing and it was really nice to kick. With a split fin you do need to get a good four or five kicks going before the power kicks in where as with these your first kick gives you great power. I can see where that would be a great advantage in free diving. I used the typical scissor kick when I wanted quick speed and more of a frog kick for slow cruising. Definitely, as with any fin and maybe even more with this one, a bicycle kick with a bent knee loses all power.

I would certainly recommend this fin to anyone who does a mix of scuba and free diving, or for anyone who wants maximum power from a fin that can also cruise comfortably. I am not retiring my Twin Jets! However, I think they will be my standard scuba fin and the full-foot Seawing Nova will be my free dive/ speed fin of choice.
Next, I switched out my mask (mainly because I forgot it in my beach bag at home). My current mask is the Cressi Big eyes EVO which again, I am quite partial to. It has a big viewing field and a very soft inner seal that touches the face and never leaves "mask face" marks. Definitely no complaints about my Cressi, but since I found myself without it I decided to try the new Tusa Freedom one. I notice when anyone tries it on in the shop it always wins them over because of how comfortable it is, on virtually every face. Underwater it definitely delivered comfort, was easy to clear, and its low volume made it very easy to equalize. I especially like that this mask is so versatile for so many faces! Perfect if you share your mask or want something on hand for guests to use.

Glad to know that I still love my tried and true gear, but its also nice to know there is always room for more dive gear technology. Things seem to keep getting more comfortable and easier to use. If you want to try on something new come into Kohala Divers. We have a lot of gear on display and even some in our rental department that you can try out. Its amazing how much more enjoyable the sport of diving can be with the right set of equipment for the adventure.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Kohala Coast Dive Club: Mahukona Dive.

What do local Big Island residents do on a beautiful Saturday morning? Well, if they are divers they probably find some gorgeous dive spot and get underwater. But what if they don't have a dive buddy, or they are not familiar with the best shore dive spot, or they are not yet certified?

Our local dive club for the Kohala coast of Hawai'i Island has a fun get together about every two to three months. We pick a location with good dive conditions and plan a potluck, dive, snorkel, and beach fun day. If you don't have a dive buddy (and you're a certified diver) just show up with gear and chances are within minutes you will meet a new dive friend to jump in with. We always have lots of divers and their families.  There is something to do for every one. The best thing is: We have a lot of good cooks in our club so there is always something great to munch on.

As the day goes on the divers come up with fun stories of what they saw. Today one diver saw a manta ray a few hundred yards straight out of the bay. I heard of other encounters with tear drop butterflies, scrambled egg nudibranchs, and dwarf moray eels. Even the littlest club members got in on the action when one of our dive friends brought up a baby octopus and a few shells for our kiddos to check out. Don't worry: After the kids got a chance to check out the awesome sea creatures they were escorted all the way back down underwater to safety.

The dive club is called Kohala Coast Dive Club. It is free to join and you can find all of our upcoming activities on our facebook page, in email newsletters once you sign up, or the calendar on There are also great opportunities monthly for local residents to get certified at a discount! It's your big blue backyard: Get out there and explore! See you at our next event!!
Little future diver checking out her first octopus.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hurricane Flossie: Bring it!

Hawaii Civil Defense warns residents of Hawaii County of impending high winds, rain, flash floods and storm conditions due to our excellent positioning right in the path of Hurricane Flossie! Small craft advisory says everyone stay out of the water! Our friends in Kona dive shops have moored and shuttered for the day, canceling their charters and garaging their lawn furniture.
What do we decide to do here at Kohala Divers? Why, take a group of brave divers, students, and snorkelers out on the water for a two-tank dive trip! Because we are just tougher and more awesome than everybody else, THAT is why! 
The morning seemed flat and calm, with an oppressive stillness. Our snorkelers discovered sunny shallow reefs and a few swim-in lava tube caves. Our open water students finished up their last two dives: They now can show off their logbooks with training dives during a hurricane! Our certified divers were thrilled with a rare Hawaiian Conger eel hiding out under a ledge with a few cleaner shrimp!
Grey clouds and rain began: You know how divers hate to get wet! Crew member Robyn said, "As we just turned the corner to pull into the harbor- The wind began. The timing was perfect!" Our guests ran for cover and our crew unloaded the boat in the wind and rain.
The above photo was taken by Gunner from the Harbor Gallery next door, and featured on Hawaii News Now.