Rescuers are heroes, but more are needed

We did suffer a tragic drowning last Friday at Kealia Beach: A fine man, a husband and a father of two.

But in this letter, I want to thank our fleet of Kealia Beach surfers. I walk my dog there regularly, and in the last two weeks I’ve seen two surfers—one a young man and one a young woman—save two other would-be drowning victims from tragedy.

It’s impossible to estimate how many lives have been saved by our surfers over the years. Their usual mode of operation is to get the person to the beach, accept a handshake and a thank you, and then quite unceremoniously start making their way back out to their beloved waves. But they deserve the greatest ceremony and thanksgiving.

So you rescuers/surfers, young and old, male and female, local and haole, please accept and enjoy this heartfelt thank you for all you have done for so many families. You are angels. And please be careful.

Our professional services are steadily improving, as fast as our political system can muster itself to bring about the improvements (growth, equipment, organization). Our skilled lifeguards, with their state-of-the-art technologies, are making an ever-increasing number of rescues, some of them of the most daring and spectacular variety (such as the recent Hanakapi’ai rescue). I am very proud of them. We just need more, to cover more beaches. (And, of course, we also need better prevention/education strategies. These can and should come from the private sector every bit as much as from government services).

This letter is a respectful tip of the hat to all of our rescuers, even as we shed tears for the families we haven’t yet been able to figure out how to protect.

MONTY DOWNS, co-chairman Kaua’i Water Safety Task Force

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