POIPU — Just several weeks ago, Kauai escaped when a swimmer was pulled from the waters on the South Shore, said Dr. Monty Downs, president of the Kauai Lifeguard Association, a strong partner organization with the Kauai Ocean Safety Bureau that operates under the Kauai Fire Department.
“For the past five years, we’ve been averaging one death a year from drowning on the south shore,” Downs said. “Just a couple of weeks ago, we had an incident out here. We were lucky, this time.”
Downs was among the small crowd of dignitaries, including Kauai Ocean Safety Bureau chief Kalani Vierra, Kauai Fire Chief Robert Westerman, former mayor Maryanne Kusaka, several Kauai County Council members, and curious beach goers who watched the county bless and dedicate the newest lifeguard tower at Nukumoi Point at the Poipu Beach Park.
“This is the 11th tower to help protect Kauai’s shorelines,” Vierra said. “We were lucky the tower arrived earlier than we expected. Due to the recent rain-related events, the beaches on the North Shore and the eastside became inaccessible. That put a strain on this popular beach, and we were able to put this tower in service, April 20.”
The newest tower is a mobile version of the lifeguard towers familiar at the more-frequented beaches on the island to be able to meet the state criteria for towers, Vierra said.
“The tower is mounted on a trailer with the wheels being shielded to protect the beach goers,” Vierra said. “If needed, all we need to do is put in the tongue and hitch it to one of our pickups for hauling to an area where it is needed.”
The original Poipu Beach lifeguard tower was relocated to a point about a hundred yards eastward where it provides a sweeping view of the adjacent Brenneke’s Beach and points eastward to the west down to Salt Pond. The second tower at Nukumoi Point allows greater visibility of the beach fronting the Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club, the Sheraton Kauai Resort, and the shorelines down to Palama Pond in Numila.
Vierra said the readjustment of tower placement was done due to changes in the coastline created by natural events.
“Originally, when the first tower was placed, there was no tumbolo,” Vierra said. “There was a sandbar that created a strong rip current just outside of the channel leading into the bay. However, several natural events later, including hurricanes, the ocean bottom changed to create the tumbolo. The rip current moved from the entrance of the channel to a point westward, and the Nukumoi Point tower sits right there.”
Kusaka, who was in office when the change was made where lifeguards became part of the Kauai Fire Dept., marveled at the progress made in water safety technology.
“When I first started working with the lifeguards, you couldn’t tell they were lifeguards,” Kusaka said. “When I asked them what they needed, they simply said, ‘We need jackets — it gets cold out here.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.