The “strong current” and “no swimming” signs posted at Kealia Beach are supposed to deter non-experienced swimmers from entering the water.
But two visitors from Colorado apparently thought they could handle the strong rip current and waves with 3-6-foot faces. Their dip in the ocean turned into a panic when they had to be rescued by surfers and lifeguards, fire department officials said.
The men, ages 53 and 63, were not seriously injured but they did swallow some water and were transported to the emergency room of Wilcox Memorial Hospital, said Battalion Chief Greg Morishige.
Personnel from the Kapa’a Fire Station, led by Capt. Alan Saiki, responded at 11:31 a.m. at Kealia Rivermouth, on the Kapa’a end of Kealia Beach, and assisted in medical assessment of the patients before they were brought to the ER by American Medical Response.
A beachgoer who witnessed the incident said surfers swam over to help the men after hearing their calls for help, letting them hang onto their boards until lifeguards could get to them.
Lifeguard Eugene Ancheta drove down with the truck and jumped into the water with his fins and tube, said lifeguard supervisor Kalani Vierra, who arrived on scene after the swimmers were rescued.
If it weren’t for the surfers and lifeguards then these two people might not be here,” Vierra said.
The rip current was pretty strong in the area, and Vierra noted that the swimmers went out right in front of where the signs were posted, Vierra said.
The surfers know the area, rip currents and waves; they are experienced water people, Vierra said. “Even if you’re a pretty strong swimmer, it doesn’t take too much because the rip currents are pretty strong. If you’re not familiar with the area and swimming against the current then you could get in trouble,” Vierra added.
In case of getting caught in a current, swim diagonally with the currents and try to make way back to the beach from a different angle. Vierra said the bottom line is “do not panic.”
A point of common sense would be to obey water condition signs and follow this ocean safety motto: “When in doubt, don’t go out.”