A day’s labor

KEALIA — For some folks, a holiday doesn’t mean the day off from work. In fact, it might even mean more work than usual.

“This is our regularly scheduled day,” said Garrett Stevens, one of three Kauai Ocean Safety Bureau water safety officers manning the Kealia Beach lifeguard tower on Labor Day. “We do get holiday pay, though. I like it. Because of the holiday and the nice weather, we have a good crowd today.”

Stevens, Eugene Ancheta and Chesston Omo joined the ranks of other essential workers including police, fire, resort, airport and health care personnel who spent their Labor Day holiday on duty.

And it was busy. For example, the lifeguards worked with a gentleman who was timid about entering the water Monday.

“I spoke with him about the rip currents and suggested he move to a different part of the beach,” Stevens said. “He’s much more confident in enjoying the beach.”

But there wasn’t as much drama as there could have been for the lifeguards.

“We thought Hurricane Lester would provide us excitement for at least a week,” Ancheta said. “But the county opened up the Keapana Stream mouth, and Lester never came. We didn’t even get the heavy rain.”

Ancheta, a 25-year veteran with the Kauai Ocean Safety Bureau, recently finished in first place in the 40+ division at the Duke’s Watermen Festival in the 14 Stand Up Paddle 10-mile downwind competition.

“Kelta O’Rourke, one of our Junior Lifeguards, is in Europe right now for the International Junior Lifeguards competition,” Ancheta said. “She trained here at Kealia. Kalani Vierra, the Kauai Ocean Safety Bureau supervisor, teamed with Krystl Apeles to win first in the tandem surfing event at the Duke’s.”

The conversation on athletic accomplishments was interrupted as Omo hopped aboard the Mule in response to another beach-goer’s concerns.

Stevens pointed out that the crew worked on preventive measures rather than waiting for things to happen.

“A dry lifeguard is a good lifeguard,” he said.

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

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