John Hanohano Pa’s heroic rescue

On Sunday, April 24, 1927, John Hanohano Pa (1888-1971) of Haena saved the lives of Philip L. Rice and Dr. A. W. Boyden by swimming through dangerous surf at Haena to rescue the two men adrift outside the reef aboard a waterlogged outrigger canoe in the midst of giant breakers.

Rice, Boyden and John Mortimer Lydgate Jr. had been trolling aboard their outrigger inside the reef off Haena, when their motor went dead and they were swamped by a large wave.

While enormous waves crashed upon reef beside them and an exceptionally swift current ran beneath them and out to sea through an nearby channel, Lydgate volunteered to swim to shore to fetch a board on which to carry the others in.

As Lydgate struggled toward the beach, the racing current swiftly carried the canoe with Rice and Boyden on board through the channel into the raging sea beyond the reef.

On either side of the channel huge waves smashed upon the reef, and by the time Lydgate reached observers standing on shore, it was evident that a board would be of no use and no boat could possibly reach them.

Only an exceptionally strong swimmer with a line could possible save Rice and Boyden, yet the Hawaiians standing by — all of them powerful, experienced swimmers — said no one could make it through the hazardous surf breaking off the reef.

Despite the peril, one Hawaiian — John Honohano Pa — decided to attempt a rescue.

He tied a long 1-inch line about his waist and worked his way out to the edge of the reef, got through channel and reached Rice and Boyden in their canoe, where he made fast his line and signaled the people on shore to pull the canoe in.

Five months later, in September 1927, Gov. Wallace R. Farrington presented Hanohano with a small square gold wristwatch engraved with the words “For Heroism” in honor of his courage, skill and strength in saving the lives of Rice and Boyden.

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