By Chris Takahashi | Staff Writer 

Bryan Dieter was on hand to represent the first public unveiling of his latest enterprise, the Land-Swell Surf Mapping Project, at the North Shore Ocean Fest this past Saturday.

Set against a backdrop of calm blue seas, the annual event has been held at the famed Turtle Bay Resort near Kawela Bay for the last six years. Organized by the North Shore Ocean Education Coalition, the event draws a number of ocean-based nonprofits, government agencies, and other groups that engage the public and share educational lessons with students and children.

Dieter’s Land-Swell Surf Mapping Project was one of many such groups at the event that uses technology to advance the public’s understanding of the ocean. The Project uses data collected from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to create high-resolution topographical maps of nearshore beaches. The practical applications of the maps are varied, according to Dieter, and could be utilized by ocean rescue personnel, surfers, and scuba divers, among others.

Pointing to a fishing boat not far offshore from the bay at next to the resort, Dieter stated that the boat was likely sitting over a deep channel in order to be best situated to catch fish. It only took him a few moments to make this inference, having consulted a topography map from the Mapping Project for the waters off Turtle Bay.

The Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation, a charitable organization founded by musician Jack Johnson and his wife, Kim, could also be found at the North Shore Ocean Fest. The organization runs environmental education programs for K-12 aged children and also embarked upon sustainability measures seen on-site at the event.

According to Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation Executive Director, Natalie McKinney, the organization helped to provide many of the greening initiatives for the event, including filtered water stations for reusable bottles, helping to cut down on waste. The Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation is an active supporter of initiatives that promote a plastic-free Hawaii.

The event on Saturday featured a number of ocean-themed activities for children, vendors for clothing and food, and locally-made art. Live performances, including hula dancing, took part throughout the day-long event held.

Hawai‘i Marine Animal Response (HMAR) also had a table at the North Shore Ocean Fest. Their group aims to educate the public about the Hawaiian Monk Seal, which is currently at population level that designates “endangered” status.

Field Response Manager Rheanne Berg, of HMAR, said that approximately seven to eight Monk Seals are spotted by visitors and volunteers each day, and according to Berg, the organization taps into a vast network of volunteers to respond to each beach sighting. Volunteers help to identify individual seals and bystanders are educated on the current status of the endangered species. Berg did mention that efforts are working to increase the population size, but that more research is needed. 

Berg said that it’s important for the public to remember that the seals are threatened by humans and that if spotted on the beach, she suggests to “keep your distance.”

[Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct name of the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation]