NAWILIWILI — Fifty keiki Junior Lifeguards, ages 8 to 12 years old, are working through water lifesaving skills and drills at Kalapaki Beach.
The keiki division is in addition to the contingent of youth aged 13 to 17 years old in the program.
“Kudos to our brothers who work the towers,” said Dave Duncan, normally stationed at the Salt Pond tower. “We are running short-handed, and it is only because our tower guards can double up and keep the beaches open that we are able to come and work with the young people.”
The free program teaches ocean safety as well as first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, teamwork, problem solving and beach hazards.
The final week’s session will be in Hanalei from July 13-17, with the Kauai Island Championships at Hanalei Bay at 9 a.m. July 18. The finals will be Aug. 1 in Hilo.
“This year marks the 12th year we’ll be defending our state championship,” said Randy Ortiz, a Junior Lifeguard instructor.
Wailana Gandeza, a Kauai High School graduate, is the current island, state, and national beach flags champion. She is unable to participate because of her age, but spent time working with the participating Junior Lifeguards.
“I did this since I was 13 years old,” Gandeza said. “I wish they had the keiki when I was younger. I would have done it then as well.”
Kai Norman is 11 years old, but has been participating with the Junior Lifeguards for three years.
“He’s really fast,” said Eugene Ancheta, a program instructor who earned a medal during the 2014 nationals. “He was with the keiki, but he’s so fast he was beating everyone so we moved him up.”
Norman said he’s been to previous sessions this summer at Kalapaki 1 and Poipu and the current Kalapaki 2 site. He plans on being in Hanalei and competing in the island finals.
“The best part is meeting the different people,” he said.