PO‘IPU — The Australians are coming next week, said Randy Ortiz, a Kaua‘i Junior Lifeguard instructor, Monday during the opening day of the week-long junior lifeguard program at Po‘ipu Beach Park.
“They get here on July 4, and on July 9 and 10 they’ll be working with the Kaua‘i Junior Lifeguards coinciding with the start of the program at Hanalei,” Ortiz said. “Following that, they’ll head to O‘ahu for a couple of days to work with the junior lifeguard program there.”
The Australian junior lifeguards secured permission from the County of Kaua‘i to camp at Hanalei Pavilion, where they’ll be based at, Ortiz said.
The episode started last year when a lady and her son saw the junior lifeguards working at Po‘ipu, Ortiz said. He invited the boy to join the program, not knowing the boy’s mother was involved with the Australian Junior program.
“A couple of weeks ago, I got this phone call from the lady who said she will bring in 17 Australian Junior Lifeguards and six chaperones,” Ortiz said. “This should be exciting.”
The junior lifeguard program at Po‘ipu marks the midpoint of the free summer program for Kaua‘i youth between the ages 13 and 17 years old.
Following Po‘ipu, the program moves to Hanalei from July 9 through 13, coinciding with the arrival of the Australians. On July 16, the inaugural Keiki Junior Lifeguard program starts with the regular Junior Lifeguard program at Kalapaki Beach, from July 16 through 20, with the Island Championships taking place July 21 at Kalapaki, said Bruce Stine, a Junior Lifeguard instructor.
“We are sold out on the Keiki Junior Lifeguard program at 50 youngsters registered,” Ortiz said. “But there is a wait list for those who want to place their child on it.”
The Kaua‘i Keiki Junior Lifeguard program shadows the regular program and is geared for Kaua‘i youngsters between 8 and 12 years old, teaching ocean safety and valuable lifesaving skills between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
During the free week-long program, youngsters learn ocean safety awareness, ocean hazards and basic personal safety techniques, learn to paddle board, canoe, Stand Up Paddle, one-man outrigger canoe and more in addition to learning how to perform simple rescues, scene safety and activating an emergency plan.
An overview of the program exposes youth to hands-on learning, drug awareness, rescue skills, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, first aid, teamwork, problem solving, ocean awareness and beach hazards.
“This is a really good program,” said Kalani Walther of Kilauea who brought his son, Jack, to Po‘ipu for the program.
“He really likes the program and it gives him confidence to face bigger challenges like bigger waves and bigger water based on knowledge.”
Ortiz said Kaua‘i is the eight-time defending state champion in the Junior Lifeguard competition and following the July 21 Kaua‘i Championships, a traveling team will be put together to compete in Waikiki Beach for the state championships July 28.
The program is sponsored in part by the County of Kaua‘i, the Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association, the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association and numerous other community sponsors who are concerned about Kaua‘i’s youth.
Call the Kaua‘i Ocean Safety Bureau at 241-4984, or 241-4168 for more information, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.