Kauai Jr. Lifeguards test waters at nationals

LIHUE — The Junior Lifeguards are making a difference, said Julie Herr Monday at the Lihue Airport.

Julie was dropping off her son Andrew, a sophomore at Kauai High School, who is part of the 20-member Kauai Junior Lifeguard contingent heading for the national competition at Manhattan Beach, Calif.

“Just today, Andrew helped a couple off the Waiohai beach,” Julie said. “A few days ago, Jack Machorek, another of the Kauai Junior Lifeguards, and his friend Sam Pratt helped some people off Shipwreck’s. This Junior Lifeguard program definitely makes a difference.”

Andrew said he was cruising on his surfboard when he saw a couple of people stuck on the reef outside Waiohai.

“They were pretty beat up,” the budding distance runner said. “They must’ve been cut up from the coral, so I used my surfboard to help them get back to shore.”

There have been 14 drownings on Kauai so far this year.

“The kids were spot-on,” said Kalani Vierra, the Kauai Ocean Safety Bureau head supervisor. “They did everything they were taught to do, including activating the 9-1-1 call and staying with the people until the lifeguards could respond. When you hear about these deeds the juniors do, everything is paying off.”

After winning its 10th consecutive state title, Vierra, Eugene Ancheta, Randy Ortiz, Kaimi Kaneholani, Sanoe Hookano and Bruce Stine are accompanying the 20 students to the first national competition since the 1980s.

“We have some very good kids,” Vierra said. “They should be able to bring back some individual medals. But this is a learning experience for everyone.”

Vierra said the Junior Lifeguards will be competing on the national stage against a field which can exceed a thousand individuals in conditions that are not like Hawaii.

“For the coaches, we’ll be looking for ways we can bring the level up for our program,” Vierra said. “We can always try to be creative so our training gets better.”

Maliana Kaui, a junior at Kapaa High School, is excited about being able to participate at the national level.

“I’ve been in the Kauai Junior Lifeguard program for three years,” Kaui said. “I’ve been to states for three years, but this is the first time I’ll be on the

Mainland for nationals.”

Kaui said she’ll be participating in beach flags, the run, swim, run and the 200 swim.

Bryson Baligad, another Kapaa junior, said he’ll be doing the same event for the boys after being in the program for three years.

Andrew is also a 3-year veteran of the Junior Lifeguard program.

“His sister Heidi is totally bummed,” Julie said. “This year, she got a job and couldn’t be part of the program.”

Ortiz said some of the differences the kids will be facing include longer course lengths than the Hawaii events, a bigger field of about a 1,000 entrants and water, which is 10 to 15 degrees colder than Hawaii.

“My friend just called to say the water temperature is in the 60s,” Stine said. “Water temperature differences of even five degrees is a lot. They’re still using wet suits.”

Ortiz said in addition to the students competing, Stine and Ancheta will be competing in the Open Division, which takes place Friday.

“Competing against other lifeguards is something I might not have another opportunity to do,” Stine said. “I still got gas in the tank, so hopefully, we can do something.”

Julie said when you think about all the things these youngsters do from all parts of the island, the Junior Lifeguard program is all worthwhile.

The competition runs Aug. 6 through 9 in California.

• Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

We have some very good kids. They should be able to bring back some individual medals. But this is a learning experience for everyone.

-Kalani Vierra, Kauai Ocean Safety Bureau


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