KOLOA — Alohi Costa is looking forward to starting his new assignment: driving along the south and Westside of the island, keeping an eye on the unguarded beaches.
“It’s really exciting to see the bureau grow,” he said. “We want to help people and expand our services.”
Starting today, Costa, a seven-year veteran with the Ocean Safety Bureau, will be driving one of three 2016 Ram Quad Cab four-wheel-drive trucks that will patrol along Kauai’s unguarded beaches.
The trucks, which come with trailers, Jet Skis and rescue equipment, were donated to OSB by the Kauai Lifeguard Association for the roving patrol program.
The donation was made possible in part by 250 donors who attended the Fourth Wave Campaign concert and celebration in October.
As part of the program, each of the trucks and its equipment will be stationed at three different areas of the island — the North Shore, the Eastside and the South/Westside — keeping an eye on the beaches.
On Wednesday, the equipment was blessed by Kahu Jade Battad.
“You’ve been called to a very specific and blessed calling, and that is one of saving lives,” she said.
Costa, who is stationed at the Koloa Fire Station and works as a Jet Ski operator in Poipu, will be keeping an eye the South and Westside.
“We’re going to be driving around, checking out the hot spots like Lawai, Salt Pond, Kekaha and Mahaulepu beaches,” he said.
Another popular tourist destination on that side of the island is Koloa Landing, he said.
“A lot of people go there to snorkel, and we get calls because the water gets deep faster than they expect,” he said.
Dr. Monty Downs, president of KLA, said the trucks will spend a couple hours on each beach, making sure the area is calm, before moving on to another location.
While the Jet Skis helped lifeguards become mobile when they arrived on the Garden Isle 20 years ago, Downs said the trucks will make the mobile unit more efficient.
“On the North Shore, there’s greater distances between the beaches, like between Anini, Larsen’s and Lumahai,” he said.
Ideally, there will be a tower at every beach, and the roving patrol program is a good first step in the right direction, Downs said.
“Bottom line, we’re here to save lives. We do have a high percentage of drownings on the islands, but being mobile, hopefully we can reduce some of the drownings and accidents that happen on the unguarded beaches,” said Kalani Vierra, OSB director.
As a driver, Costa said he had to undergo some extra training, including taking the truck on a driving course and brushing up on how to park and maneuver the truck when it’s connected to the Jet Ski trailer.
“It can be hard to back up with a trailer if you haven’t done it before,” he said.
Roy Yamagata, who retired from OSB Wednesday, said the roving patrol unit shows how much the bureau has evolved.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth in the last 25 years. We used to only guard county beaches and used basic lifeguarding gear like rescue boards and fins,” he said. “When we got the Jet Skis, it freed firemen up to do land responses.”