A Big Mahalo To Island Lifesavers

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - December 30, 2009
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Full-time water-safety officer Chris Tanaka at work on Kailua Beach

The year 2009 has been one of challenges and rewards, and we have much to look forward to as we head into 2010 and the start of a new decade. But before we start the new year, it is important to reflect back on what made this year so special.

It’s also important to thank the people and organizations that make our lives safer in the ocean.

We start with Hawaii’s lifeguards, who put their lives on the line every day. Whether they’re jumping into the raging shorebreak at Waimea Bay during a monster swell or comforting a visitor at Waikiki Beach who was stung by a box jellyfish, they are on our beaches every day patrolling, counseling, educating and saving lives. They don’t do it for the money or the notoriety. They do it for the love of life, knowing they are on the front line of Hawaii’s gift to the world - our beaches.

When lifeguards need assistance, they turn to the Honolulu Fire Department and its rescue specialists and the city’s Emergency Medical Services. Whether by air or by sea, the teams from Rescue 1 and Rescue 2 along with Air One and EMS saved many lives in 2009. They respond to calls for missing divers and kayakers, boaters and swimmers in distress, stranded and injured hikers, fires and just about everything you can imagine.


It takes a special person to do what they do knowing when they’re called upon that they’re usually responding to a crisis. Several of my dear friends are on rescue teams. They are special men with enormous hearts. They serve because they believe everyone should return to their families safely (even when some of us make poor decisions). What we have to remember is they, too, have families that worry about them returning home. Let’s thank them for their sacrifices as well.

When it comes to saving lives in the ocean, many instantly think of the United States Coast Guard, which provides equipment, technology and life-saving skills at a moment’s notice. Its mission is to protect the public, the environment and the country’s economic interests in our ports and waterways, and we’re grateful they’re just a phone call away.

Another group that needs to be highlighted is called upon when ocean conditions are often at their roughest. The Hawaiian Water Patrol is a fixture at surfing events on the North Shore, patrolling the water on personal water-craft, assisting competitors in some of the most intense situations on this planet.

HWP’s roots are deep with the biggest names in life-saving paving the way: Terry Ahue, Brian Keaulana, Melvin Puu and Dennis Gouveia. The team also has become a source of safety for Hollywood.

Producers and stunt and safety coordinators regularly tap into their knowledge when shooting films in Hawaii. Their work is priceless.

There is another team of front-line workers that rarely receives the credit it deserves: the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement aka DOCARE. The state officers from the Department of Land and Natural Resources are responsible for the enforcement of rules and regulations for all divisions within the DLNR. They’d never say it publicly, but I will: This team is understaffed and not always appreciated. DOCARE officers promote safe and responsible use of Hawaii’s natural resources.

It’s a tough job and they “want” to do it. Remember, they only enforce when we violate.

And finally, we salute the hundreds of coaches and volunteers who mentor our keiki in ocean-related activities. From paddling to surfing, yachting to fishing, you give unconditionally, and because of that we are a stronger community.

To all of the difference-makers who keep us safe in the ocean: Mahalo for what you do. Your tireless work is appreciated.

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