Keiki lifeguard program gears up

LIHUE — Ocean Safety officials are looking for the next generation of champion lifeguards.

Registration for the 2016 Keiki and Junior Lifeguard Free Program will be Monday at the Kauai Fire Department Headquarters.

“We teach them about ocean safety,” said Fire Chief Robert Westerman. “They are able to impart that in the community.”

About 500 kids will get opportunities throughout the summer to learn to perform simple water rescues.

“We’re surrounded by water,” said Sanoe Hookano, ocean safety lifeguard and the bureau’s employee of the year. “That’s why this is so important.”

Keiki ages 8 to 11 that can swim and run 50 yards nonstop can join the Kauai Keiki Junior Lifeguard program, a week-long event that will teach them ocean safety and lifesaving skills.

“It’s all about safety awareness and building an ocean-minded community,” said Andy Melamed, spokesman for the Kauai Lifeguard Association. “To do that at a very young age is very important.”

Keiki ages 12 through 17 who are able to swim and run 100 yards nonstop with no assistance can sign up for the Junior Lifeguard program. They can then compete for the state championship on Maui on Aug. 6.

Space is limited for both programs. Only 50 kids per week can join each program at six sites across the island.

The training classes are scheduled for: Salt Pond, June 6-10; Kalapaki, June 20-24; Poipu, June 27-July 1; Hanalei, July 11-15; and Kalapaki again, July 18-22.

“It’s the same cycle at each beach,” Westerman said. “It’s about speed and endurance. We teach them about safety. We teach them CPR and first aid. We’ll have positive talks about being drug free. Every day they are exercising and running.”

About 10 adult lifeguards will be monitoring the kids.

The plan, Melamed said, is to get a team to compete for the 13th state crown and then travel to the Hermosa Beach in California for the national championship.

Kauai has won the state championship 12 years in a row, Westerman added.

The Kauai championships are July 23 at Kalapaki Beach.

Application forms can be downloaded from the county’s website, www.kauai.gov/Announcements, or picked up at the Fire Department headquarters located at the Lihue Civic Center Piikoi Building, 4444 Rice St., Suite 315. Completed forms must be turned in to headquarters with a copy of the applicant’s birth certificate. Registration is limited to 50 participants per site and the spots fill quickly.

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