Still in the Game

Despite an earthquake, Seaside Tennis offers top-notch service

By: Marty Wentzel

Guests of Mauna Kea Resort’s two hotels have long enjoyed exclusive access to the destination’s private 100-member Seaside Tennis Club, ranked among the best in the world. But when one of those two hotels the Mauna Kea Beach shut down in December 2006 due to damage from an October earthquake, Seaside’s tennis director Craig Pautler expected that the club would close, too.

Instead, Seaside figures in December were as good as the previous year; January 2007 business took an upturn, and by February, Pautler was giving more lessons than ever.

“This is a facility that only nature and [Mauna Kea founder Laurance] Rockefeller could have created,” he explained.

Perched on the edge of the Kohala Coast, its courts provide jaw-dropping ocean views.

“I don’t know any other place where it’s okay to stop a game for whale and dolphin watching,” he said.

Pautler started at the Seaside 30 years ago, then made his formidable design mark on other hotel tennis facilities, like Kiahuna on Kauai and Ihilani on Oahu. Four years ago, he returned to the Seaside, which had slipped in the rankings.

“I felt I owed it to Rockefeller to bring the club back,” he said.

Since then, Pautler’s attention to detail has paid off. Employees visit every court with cold water, iced towels, sunscreen, new balls and visors, providing what Pautler calls “courtside service.” The club features new fencing and windscreens, umbrellas and awnings and upgraded ball machines and court equipment. The resurfaced courts are washed every other week. Pautler instituted more teaching programs, with gear and gadgets to keep the game fun for youngsters.

As a result, the Seaside has resumed its high ratings among tennis critics, and VIPs often call on his services during their vacations. While admitting that the Mauna Kea club is his swan song, Pautler shows no signs of slowing down.

“Tell everyone to come see what we’re doing here,” he said. “We even have tennis shoes you can borrow.”


Seaside Tennis Club Mauna Kea Resort

The club features 11 oceanside courts by the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, currently closed due to earthquake damage (plans call for a tentative 2008 reopening, according to hotel officials). Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel guests can play at the private tennis club for $15 per person per day, and the hotel’s commissionable packages include use of the courts.