LIHU‘E — High surf conditions that resulted in the rescue of five people off ‘Anini Beach on Kaua‘i’s North Shore Monday will continue through Thursday for north and west-facing beaches, the Ocean Safety Bureau reported Tuesday.
The bureau announced a pilot program, which begins today, that will create essentially a roving lifeguard tower assigned to unpatrolled beaches such as ‘Anini.
The program will send two to three lifeguards equipped with a four-wheel drive truck, a Jet Ski and trailer to beaches along the island’s North Shore.
“The goal of this project is to reduce response times for ocean rescues and expand our resources to other beaches,” bureau supervisor Kalani Vierra said. “They will basically be roving from beach to beach.”
On Monday afternoon, firefighters were called to ‘Anini Beach and reported that five people had been swept out to the far end of the channel, where Vierra said waves were at least 8 feet to 12 feet high.
They were holding on to a “good Samaritan’s” stand-up paddle board that bystanders provided after paddling out to assist the five, a county news release stated. Lifeguards Chad Listman and Chris Pico arrived at the scene aboard a Jet Ski and shuttled all five of the swimmers to shore.
Medics transported a 50-year-old female from Arlington, Va., to Wilcox Memorial Hospital in Lihu‘e for treatment of non-life threatening injuries, the county news release stated. The other visitors — two females and two males — refused medical treatment and were released at the scene.
A high surf warning for north and west-facing shores is in effect until Thursday night.
Meanwhile, the Ocean Safety Bureau will be collecting information during the roving lifeguard project to help determine the need for additional lifeguard resources, warning signs or potential locations for a permanent lifeguard tower.
“For now, it will be only on Wednesdays. That’s the only day that we can afford to do it. Most of our manpower works on Wednesday, so we won’t be getting into overtime and extra money,” Vierra said.
“Ideally, as we grow our team, we hope to expand this program to include more beaches on more days, and possibly continue the program indefinitely.”
The project will continue every Wednesday at the following North Shore beaches until further notice: ‘Anini, Kalihiwai, Ke‘e, Larsen’s, Lumaha‘i and Kahili. As hazardous ocean conditions change, the crew will move to other beaches.
“It is important that the public understands that our team will only be out on Wednesdays for the time being and will be moving between beaches,” Vierra said. “We don’t want people to expect to see lifeguards at the same beach every week, at least not until a set schedule is in place.”
Go to www.kauaiexplorer.com or call the bureau at 241-4984 for more information or updates on ocean conditions.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.