Saving lives is an everyday thing for county’s 15 lifeguards

LIHU’E — Saving the life of a visitor off Kealia Beach last year helped

Kaua’i County lifeguard Eugene Ancheta realize lifeguard work will be his only

calling.

During that incident, a local man swam out to help the visitor,

who had been swept out to sea by rip currents, Ancheta said.

The visitor

kept grabbing at his would-be rescuer, who pulled away to save himself from

being pulled under the water, Ancheta said. The visitor floundered in the

water.

Ancheta had finished his work at Anahola Beach and was driving to

his home in Kapa’a. When Ancheta saw the man in distress, he stopped by the

beach and acted.

With his board, Ancheta said he swam 100 yards from

shore, calmed the man down, and brought the visitor back to the beach to his

family.

“It made me realize that what I was doing is important and that

this is the type of work I can do the rest of my life.”

Ancheta is one of

15 county lifeguards, and his current assignment is to rotate and patrol county

beach parks in Hanalei Bay, Wailua Bay, Po’ipu and at Salt Pond in

Hanapepe.

Ancheta chose to become a lifeguard because he saw it as natural

extension of his love of sports.

For most of his life, Ancheta has fished,

spear-fished and surfed.

Because his orientation is athletics, he wanted to

direct it to something positive like lifeguarding, Ancheta said.

Ancheta

has been a lifeguard for three years. This year, while stationed at Lydgate

Park, Ancheta brought back to shore four individuals who might have drowned or

suffered injuries had he not been there to render aid.

He also saved

others from possibly drowning when he wasn’t a lifeguard, he said.

The

drowning death of a Connecticut man at Hanakapi’ai Beach last year still

bothers him, Ancheta said.

The man had been walking on the shoreline when a

wave apparently knocked him down and a raging rip current dragged him out to

sea.

The current brought the body back to a cave by the beach, and Ancheta,

who was manning a Jet Ski, and another lifeguard, were ready to go into the

cave to recover the body.

But unsafe high waves and surf that pounded the

shoreline prevented them from doing so.

The body later floated out to sea

and was never found.

“My biggest regret was when we left,” Ancheta said. “I

wanted to recover the body for the family, even if I had to put my life on the

life.”

When he is on the job, Ancheta is ready to move on any rescue.

He is equipped with binoculars, a scanner, his own cell phone, rescue

equipment, a rescue board and a floatation device.

While working at Lydgate

Park last week, Ancheta assisted fellow lifeguard Norman Hunter, who is

permanently assigned to the East Kaua’i beach park.

They talked story and

joked occasionally, but they became silent when someone went into the ocean

beyond the protected swimming area within the rockwall pond at the

park.

Through binoculars, Ancheta marked the progress of the swimmers, and

along with Hunter, gauged whether their safety could be jeopardized.

If

their safety became a question, the lifeguards would have instructed them to

move to a safer area. Ancheta said he has always been comfortable in the water.

He learned to surf before he learned how to swim.

While visiting the Kealia

Beach one day, Ancheta, at age 8, came across an oddity in the shoreline brush

that caught his attention.

It was a skeg that was connected to a old

surfing board left by someone. For many months to follow, Ancheta practiced

surfing at Kealia Beach.

The experience ignited in him a lifelong

appreciation for the ocean, marine life and the environment.

As an adult,

he competed in triathlon for nine years. The skills he learned as a long

distance swimmer, he said, has helped him in his job as a

lifeguard.

Ancheta said its a job he would have a difficult time giving up.

“I love it. You are a saver,” he said. “People appreciate that we are

patrolling the beaches.”

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