Gene Hanson Website


The Boom Boom Deck

Not My Day To Die

Hawaiian IslandsWe face a variety of perils probably on a daily basis. By far the biggest risk is we face injury and even death every time we get into a car. People slip in tubs and showers resulting in significant injury. But we all know about these risks. I think, however, what might be more perilous are the risks you don't know because you can be oblivious to the danger. This story is about one of those risks. And in my defense apparently I wasn't the only one oblivious.

This story happens way back in 1987 during my honeymoon in Hawaii. It was an 11-day vacation starting with 2 nights on Oahu (at Wikiki Beach), 3 on the Big Island, 3 on Maui, and ending with 3 on Kauai. This is far from ideal as you don't get nearly enough time on any island to really take in the activities and views. And simply resting at the hotel situated in a gorgeous location.

Hawaii - The Big Island
Hawaii - The Big Island. The town of Kailua-Kona is labeled in red.
Royal Kona Resort - Boom Boom Deck labeled.
Royal Kona Resort with the Boom Boom Deck location indicated.

View from the plane landing on the Big Island After our brief stay on Oahu we boarded an Aloha Hawaiian flight from Honolulu to a fairly small airport on the Big Island west coast. As we arrived the view from the plane said this was not an overly populated place. There was lots of lava, even though I knew we were no where near the active volcanos. From the airport we drove south to the town of Kailua-Kona where our hotel was located. Several people were going north and we learned later this was the much better resort area on the Big Island. Our hotel was fine, I suppose, but the first thing we noticed is that it lacked a beach even though it was on the water. Instead, they had a very small man-made beach on a salt water lagoon. I was anxious to try it out, however, but soon found it very inhospitable. Even though the water was shallow enough you dared not stand because the bottom was covered in spiny sea urchins. I don't think even water shoes would have made the situation safe. That evening we attended the obligatory luau and though we booked it when we were on Oahu, the location turned out to be right at our hotel.

Salt water lagoon
The salt water lagoon.
Waves crashing over the wall of the salt water lagoon.
Waves crashing over the sea wall of the salt water lagoon.

The next day was a full day on Hawaii. We decided we'd get in the rental car and head south to see the black sand beaches and the volcano. By the time we came back it was already late in the afternoon, but any thoughts of trying the lagoon again was not happening. It was now closed because the waves from the ocean were now crashing heavily over the rock barriers.

Royal Kona Resort - Towers, Lagoon, and Boom Boom Deck loations.

The Kona Hilton Resort (now called the Royal Kona Resort) has 3 towers and our room was in the Lagoon Tower.

Our second full day on the Big Island was basically free, but as part of our package we had tickets to a snorkeling excursion that I was really looking forward to. Early in the morning we made the short drive to the dock area in town where the boat would be launched to find out that it had been canceled due to the weather. Returning to the hotel it was still very early, but the salt water lagoon was still closed and there really wasn’t much to do other than to just sit around. My wife, Cindy, eventually found a lounge chair by the small hotel pool while I discovered a neat little area they called the Boom-Boom Deck. Though I had seen it the day before, it meant nothing, but now with the waves starting to crash into it I could immediately see that it was aptly named.

Though I have looked and looked in the internet, I could not find a single picture of what the deck looked like. Below you see the single picture I took later. So here's an illustration:

Boom Boom Deck illustration As you can see the deck layout looks like a grand piano. The blue circle indicates where I was standing when the wave hit and the red circle shows where I hit the wall.

Over the next hour or so I walked around and returned often to the Boom Boom Deck as the waves were getting higher and higher. It was really great when a big wave would come in and you’d get sprayed. Finally, one wave was so big it actually spilled water over the side and on to the deck itself. "This is really great!" I was thinking to myself. I was there with a teenager just enjoying the show when suddenly I could see a big wave coming in. It looked like it was 25 feet high and I was completely mesmerized by it and my mind was telling me I should be moving but my body just wouldn’t budge. The wave just got bigger and bigger and it was moving so fast that by the time I realized this didn’t look good, I had only enough time to think, "Oh, no!"  (Yeah, that's the cleaned up version!) The water from the wave must have cleared the wall by nearly three feet which is an incredible amount of water. I should have simply ducked under the small wall for protection since I couldn’t run, but instead all I ended up doing is turning to my left when the water just pushed me down to the ground as if I had no weight whatsoever.

I’m not only on the ground, but the water is moving me along the deck floor and in my mind I know I’m in big trouble. There’s a lava rock cinder wall behind me, I’m heading right toward it mostly submerged, and I can’t see a thing! I instinctively put out my left arm thinking that was the direction. In retrospect I should have covered my head, but I was correct about my body position and the wall and apparently not my day to die. I slammed against the wall hand first which stopped part of my momentum and then my left leg. But I hit very hard! The pain in my left hand was so intense my immediate thought was, "You idiot! You’ve broken your hand!" Dazed, I got up to find the kid asking me if I was okay and as I mumbled, "I think I’m okay," although my hand really smarted at that point. He darted away and I had no idea where he was going. Still in pain I thought I’d head up the room to see if I could find some sort of bandage because there was some bleeding from a cut in my palm just under my index finger.

Boom Boom Deck - Closed sign hastily put together Not finding anything I came back down to find the kid now with a uniformed security guard and they were looking for me! He had apparently gone to explain what had happened and the guard was extremely concerned. By this time I wasn't! Though I was still in some pain I was now euphoric that my hand was not broken and maybe my hand was just sprained plus a somewhat painful hole in my hand that had pretty much stopped bleeding already. I knew what the security guard was worried about: suing the hotel. As he got me to the office he cleaned the wound, bandaged it, and gave me a small tube of neosporin and told me I should not get it wet. By this time I knew my hand wasn't even sprained. I told him I'd be happy to sign any form relinquishing them of responsibility because I felt this was my stupidity. I only knew after the fact they were not comforted by my story of how I got slammed into the wall while standing on hotel property.

I wondered around to find Cindy still where I left her by the pool earlier to show her my bandage and tell her the strange story. Within an hour or two the hotel had hastily prepared a sign to close the Boom Boom Deck! Even the following day when the ocean was back to relative calm the deck remained closed and I assume that was on my account and the next day the sign would be gone. At the time my thought was I had to assume this had simply never happened before because I would think they'd have a nice sign and a permanent structures in place to close the deck under these circumstances.


Royal Kona Resort - Today What I'm going to write now is mostly speculation and based on only one item I did find about the Boom Boom Deck 10-15 years ago. Someone posted that they had closed the deck in a time proximity close to my incident. I still don't believe this because 1) why would they not simply do a better job of closing in case of high surf and 2) the deck is still there today, but completely redone, expanded, and to my eye it looks safer. And along with this, there is the simple fact that it's no longer officially referred to as the Boom Boom Deck. They now call it the Lagoon Terrace.

But then again my incident must have been chilling to the company. They had to be relieved that my injuries were fairly slight, but I could have easily hit my head on that wall and things would have been very bad. It could have killed me or I could have been paralyzed.

What follows are a variety of views of the updated Boom Boom Deck now referred to as the Lagoon Terrace. All these images were gleamed from the internet.