China Walls in the Portlock neighborhood of Hawaii Kai was the focus of two rescues that happened within an hour of each other Sunday.
Thankfully, luck and quick thinking by residents saved the two sets of swimmers.
The first rescue happened around noon when a Kailua resident noticed two swimmers struggling to get back onto the rocks.
Chase Hites quickly jumped into the water with fins and a board to help. He said one of the swimmers “was definitely grateful, on the verge of drowning. He was yelling ‘help.’ His head started dipping down below the water. Definitely pretty scary for them.”
Ocean Safety personnel arrived soon after, but they weren’t around for the second rescue.
Within an hour of the previous rescue, Ryan Wasson from Ohio and Marcus Hutchinson from Washington were standing on the cliff when Wasson was swept off the rocks into the ocean.
Wasson tried climbing back on to the rocks, but the current took him out.
Luckily for him, a boat carrying a group of certified divers was nearby and saw what had happened. Hutchinson took off his jersey and waved it to get the divers’ attention.
“That let me know something was wrong at that point,” said boat captain Kendal Vercoe. “We spun the boat around and backed in as close as we could get into the wall.”
A diver jumped into the water to save Wasson and he’s happy he’s alive to tell the tale. “I was completely powerless and accepted like I was going to die for sure.”
Wasson says he realized he needed to “calm down” in order to make it out alive.
“I was using a lot of energy. I could see the coast was way too far away to swim to, so I was like, I need some sort of energy to possibly survive,” he explained.
“Swimming outwards towards the boat was easier, and I now know is something you should absolutely do in that situation, and not toward the rocks.”
Island Divers Hawaii says Wasson did the right thing. The dive shop says too often they see swimmers try to climb back onto the rocks, which is not the right thing to do.
Wasson said he got some scrapes and cuts from getting washed up against the rocks, but otherwise, he and Hutchinson are happy to walk away.
“I’m completely humbled to be alive and by the power of the water out here,” he said.
Hutchinson said they did notice the warning signs and will obey them from now on.
“We probably will stick to the beaches,” he joked.