Lessons in dangerous water conditions could save lives

LIHU’E — Kane Pa and Keohokui A. Kauihana have developed a proposal they say

will curb drowning off Kaua’i waters – teaching visitors how to avoid

dangerous water conditions before they go to the beaches.

The program would

be particularly helpful to tourists since many aren’t familiar with dangerous

water conditions here.

Through a classroom setting at the beach, Kauihana

said he would instruct visitors on how to identify dangerous rip currents and

to escape safely if caught in them.

“The danger becomes less of a danger

when you realize just how dangerous it is,” Kauihana said.

Kauihana said

he is fine-tuning the plan and hopes to implement it one day. The proposal was

initially designed for use by youths and has been successful, he said.

Using what they learned from water safety, three Anahola youths in January 1998

saved the lives of two California residents who got caught in rip currents in

Anahola Bay, Kauihana said.

Visitors, Kauihana and Pa said, can protect

themselves from being victims of drowning by taking these precautions:

Before going into the water, throw a branch in the water and see where it goes.

If the branch doesn’t move or moves slowly, it’s probably safe to swim in that

area.

* If you get caught in a rip current, don’t fight it.

“When you

get caught in the current, you need to stop and feel where the water is pulling

you,” Pa said. “The mistake tourists make is that they panic and try to swim

to shore. They usually become tired. Some don’t make it back to shore and

drown.”

* Ride out the rip current until it dissipates at sea, and then

swim to shore. Rip currents can span 10 to 40 feet in width and 100 yards in

length.

* Be wary of beaches that are buffeted by trade winds.

Trade

winds create swells, which add to the size and strength of rip currents.

* Don’t swim by the mouth of a river that empties in a bay. The current can

take you out to sea.

* Ask surfers how safe the water is before going

in.

* Ask businesses that rent activity equipment where the safest beaches

are.

* Go to beaches with lifeguards.

The most dangerous beaches

are located on the North Shore, in East Kaua’i and at Polihale Beach, Pa and

Kauihana said.

Kealia Bay is dangerous because it has high waves, rip

currents and fresh water currents that flow from the Kealia River into the

bay.

Rip currents are treacherous in Hanalei Bay because they roll

unobstructed over sand dunes, according to Kaua’i County lifeguard Eugene

Ancheta.

Kauihana said 20 youths were taught the basics of water safety

and first aid during a Junior Lifeguard Class held in Anahola Bay in December

1997.

A month after going through the course, the three youths saved the

California couple.

The program was implemented with the help of the

county’s Parks and Recreation Division, Coalition for a Drug Free Hawai’i,

American Red Cross and the Anahola Ocean Recreation program.

Anahola Ocean

Recreation, supported by the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center, is a

nonprofit group whose focus is to promote ocean awareness and water safety. The

classes were led by Orlando Anaya, a water safety specialist, and Kauihana, a

one-time lifeguard with the City and County of Honolulu.

Kauihana, who is

president and coordinator of the Anahola Ocean Recreation, said the group

continued to offer water safety classes, a boogie board contest and other

activities in 1998 and 1999. Through the program, youths also have been taught

the value of protecting marine animals and their marine environment, Kauihana

said.

The program has reinforced the aloha spirit for youths to help

others, particularly for those who get in trouble in the water, he

said.

“In the old days, they watch them get in worst trouble,” Kauihana

said. “Now, I taught them how to react.”

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