Ocean is powerful, beautiful — but also dangerous

Our guests come here for many reasons. A few of those are the beauty of the beaches and the majesty of the ocean.

But that can be a dangerous combination.

A 22-year-old Maryland woman is missing after being swept away after venturing out in the waters off Anini Beach Monday evening. Despite heroic efforts by a friend to rescue her, and despite a fast response by firefighters, she has not been found. The friend who went out to help the woman was himself brought to safety by a firefighter on a rescue board.

Sadly, this incident occurred despite Ocean Safety officials advising no swimming Monday at all North Shore beaches west of Hanalei Pavilion to Ke‘e Beach, due to high surf and dangerous ocean conditions. The National Weather Service had posted a high-surf warning for all north- and west-facing shores of Kauai and Ni‘ihau until Tuesday morning.

This was the third drowning in waters off Kauai already this year.

A man drowned while swimming at Moloa‘a Beach on Jan. 19.

On Jan. 11 a 66-year-old male visitor died of an apparent drowning in waters off Waiohai Beach in Poipu.

Our condolences go the families and friends of the people who died in waters off Kauai. These are heart-breaking and devastating losses.

We realize that out of Kauai’s more than one million annual visitors, accidents will happen. Out of its 65 beaches, Kauai has 10 lifeguarded ones. Many people prefer the remote beaches for their beauty and secluded settings. It is those beaches where trouble is more likely to happen.

The only thing we can do is our very best to keep everyone safe.

The Kauai Lifeguard Association is doing all it can. It raised money to help fund a roving-patrol program that is new this year. It funds Kauai Beach Guide brochures with safety tips and warning people of beach and surf patterns. It was a player, along with the Kapaa Rotary Club and our friend Dickie Chang at Wala‘au, to install an ocean-safety video at airport baggage-claim areas. With Dr. Monty Downs as president and Andy Melamed as marketing director, we know KLA is a leader in encouraging ocean safety.

The Rescue Tube Foundation has installed about 250 rescue tubes around Kauai. It’s estimated that more than 20 drownings may have been prevented thanks to these rescue tubes.

Kauai’s lifeguards are among the best in the world. If a person can be saved, they will get the job done. They will go beyond what most would expect.

And yet, despite the very best efforts of our leaders on Kauai, accidents can and will happen. Every year, people drown. Sixty-nine ocean drownings occurred on Kauai from 2006-15, according to the state’s Water Safety and Drownings in Hawaii report.

We do not point out that the ocean is dangerous and powerful because we want to scare tourists away. We are not trying to spoil any vacation plans.

We point this out because we want to do all we can to make people aware they need to be alert and careful. We want to do our best to be sure everyone enjoys their time on Kauai but, also, that they return home happy and safe. We can’t assume everyone is aware of the dangers, particularly at this time of the year, of the ocean.

So please use lifeguarded beaches. Heed ocean conditions and know they can change quickly. Be aware of rogue waves that can sweep you off rocks and out to sea. Be prepared and know what to do if caught in a rip current.

Kauai is indeed a place of aloha. It is also a small island in a big ocean. Please listen to our friends at KLA when they say don’t underestimate the power of the ocean.

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